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Bindi

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BindiEver since a friend of mine had spent an evening enjoying the Indian-infused flavors at Bindi on 13th Street, she hasn't stopped talking about how delicious it was and begged for us to all come back with her. So we finally did. And we had more than one reason to: a good friend, George Sabatino, is also the chef de cuisine there. 

While Indian food usually conjures up thoughts of creamy heavy dishes and hearty, baked naan, Bindi instead tries to stay true to the Far East traditions but puts its own modern spin on it with locally-sourced ingredients to keep the menu tasting fresh. 

The restaurant, which was opened in 2008 by Marcie Turnie and Valerie Safran, has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on 13th Street, between Sansom and Chestnut. The inside is dark and decorative, with mostly black tables and a long bench on the far back wall. 

Since all but one in our group of five had never dined there, we were indulged with a tasting menu. Bindi, which is currently participating in Center City's Restaurant Week, normally offers entrees between $19 and $24. Their tasting menu is set to return in February. 

This evening, however, George decided to venture off the menu, combining some of the food that appears on the plates during a traditional night, with his own creations. 

Papadoms, or lentil crisps, served with a light tamarind chutney were placed on the table to snack on as we decided what beverages we'd get to mix with our rum. Bindi is a BYOB, so both wine or beer are acceptable to bring, but they also offer two different pitchers of homemade fruit mixes at $12 each. You just supply the liquor, whether its rum, vodka or tequila. 

We first opted for the mango puree with lime and green cardamom, served with fresh diced mangos inside. So refreshing. 

To get our tastebuds aroused, we were started off with a cold dish of a shaved winter vegetable salad with salt-roasted beets, a variety of chutneys like cilantro-mint and tamarind-date, as well as a creamy yogurt to top it off. The vegetables had just the right amount of crunch, while the beets added a bit of sweetness. 

Our second dish was a five-spice roasted duck pani puri, a two-bite sized warm pastry with ajwain sweet potato inside and an apple chutney with tamarind on top. The puri was warm and crispy and the duck just melted in your mouth. It was probably one of my favorite bites throughout the night, next to the final course. 

Next came a pan-seared scallop on top of a cauliflower puree, sprinkled with almonds and a pear chutney. The scallop was perfectly cooked and paired well with the puree underneath it, also topped with truffle oil. 

By this point, most of us were in heaven, our mouths watering over every bite. The timing of the dishes was perfect, giving us a few minutes in between each to digest, chat, and sip on our freshly-made cocktails. A second pitcher of the fruity concoction was ordered, this time a pomegranate-lemonade mix with tiny diced green apples. 

Our fourth plate was bright and colorful - a south Indian beef lettuce wrap. The skewered piece of prime rib was served on top a bright green crisp piece of bibb lettuce covered in a coconut chutney with mangos and crunchy peanuts. The dressing was cool and creamy, and the peanuts gave a great amount of saltiness and crunch. 

Next, we moved onto a small bowl of soup - a creamy celery root and cauliflower soup, with a hearty chunk of ghee-poached lobster in the middle of it, sprinkled with pepitas and flavored with garam masala. The buttery lobster, and the velvety soup disappeared within seconds from all of our bowls. I'm pretty sure someone licked his clean. 

We had no idea how many dishes would come so we all kept enjoying every bite. After this, the servers brought out a sizeable silver bowl for each of us, filled with a few little neck clams and a grilled jump shrimp, all soaked in a coconut broth and topped with shaved fennel, and sambar lentils. The shrimp was large and flavorful and every bite of the coconut broth and clams was delicious. 

Just when we thought we couldn't get another forkful down, out came the final course: a beef short rib vindaloo style, with deep fried, breaded egg served on top. We were given quick instructions to break the egg open immediately so the creamy yolk would come running out, on top of the beef to create an even thicker sauce. Chef's orders. The beef was so tender and full of flavor. It fell apart just with a touch of the fork. Underneath the beef were a few baby potatoes, bacon and truffles. The egg, which we were later told is a task that takes skill to master, was a site to see and an adventure to eat. 

Of course we couldn't leave without satisfying the sweet tooth, so after a few minutes to rest (and feed the parking meters), we were offered coffee or a variety of Indian-oriented tea. Then came the sampling of three desserts: a chai masala creme brulee with a toasted almond-assam cookie on top; kheemi, which is a toasted coconut rice pudding with ginger creme anglaise, caramelized mango and a crispy cinnamon phyllo shaped like a cone on top, and then finally a buttery panna cotta. 

We all left with our bellies full, and feet practically floating off the floor, wondering when we'd come back again. Our next visit, hopefully, will be across the street, where the Marcie Turnie and Valerie Safran (owners of of Bindi, as well as the Mexican BYOB Lolita on 13th), plan to open their new restaurant, Barbuzzo. George, who will be the chef there, said the restaurant will have a liquor license and bar and is on track to open in March. It will be Mediterranean-style restaurant with fresh breads, cured and dried meats -- including a lot of pig -- and a wood burning oven. 

Address: 

Bindi

 

105 S. 13th Street, between Sansom and Chestnut.

215-922-6061 

www.bindibyob.com  

 

Hours: 

 

Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday and Sunday, and 5 p.m. to 11

p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Closed Monday

Cash Only

BYOB