by Barbara Sherf
Springfield Township resident Devinder Singh Taheem, who owned and operated Palace of Asia in Fort Washington from 1999 to 2006 before selling the eatery, is back in the area with the BYOB, Aman’s Authentic Indian Cuisine, in East Norriton, about 10 minutes from Chestnut Hill.
Located in the North Towne Plaza at DeKalb and Germantown Pikes (2680 DeKalb Pike), the 80-seat restaurant opened in March and has expanded this month into space next door, offering a full-service banquet facility to host private parties of up to 100 diners.
While my husband and I enjoyed a meal in a comfortable booth, owner Devinder, 65, was joined by his son, Amandeep Singh Taheem, 31, who serves as general manager, waiter, phone attendant and marketing guru for the family-run establishment. Devinder’s wife, Usha Rani Taheem, and son-in-law, Satwant Singh, round out the core team. While the couple also have three daughters, none is involved in the day-to-day operations. (Interestingly, all Indian men in the Sikh religion take the last name Singh, which means “lion.” Sikhism is a religion founded about 1500 in the Punjab region of India which is characterized by its worship of one deity and its allegiance to sacred scriptures, among other beliefs.)
While the father and son team had been looking at opening a restaurant in Chestnut Hill, they could not find a location that worked. When an Indian restaurant named Aman’s became available in Montgomery County, they jumped at the opportunity.
“It is ironic that the name is a shortened version of my name, so perhaps it was meant to be,” said Aman, as he delivered a fried eggplant appetizer with zesty tamarind sauce, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, basmati rice, garlic Naan and Indian-style ice cream on a recent visit.
Aman, who studied filmmaking at Montgomery County Community College, plans to have Bollywood movie nights in the new facility next door. Devinder (or Dev) is looking more toward small weddings and special occasions to sustain the catering arm of the business.
Dev served as an Italian foods chef in Toronto after migrating from Punjab in 1992. After selling Palace of Asia, he continued catering with his family until 2008, when he opened Sultan Indian Cuisine in North Wales, which he sold in 2011.
Aman’s executive chef, Nirmal Toora, a former chef at Palace of Asia, also hails from Punjab, a province in northwestern India noted for its fertile land and spices.
“Some Americans are fearful of the spiciness of some Indian food,” said Satwant, “but my experience has been that once Americans try it, they love it and can’t wait to have it again. And, of course, we can adjust the spiciness in any dish according to a customer’s taste.”
The restaurant hosts a lunch buffet of more than three dozen items for $12 and a Sunday brunch from noon to 3. There is no dinner buffet, but there is a vast array of items to choose from off the menu. “This is the food that we ourselves eat and that we are proud to serve our guests,” Aman said while noting that there are plenty of vegetarian selections.
Since every region of India brings its own distinctive dishes and subtle variations of popular dishes, fragrant, pungent spices must be delicately blended in specific proportions to create the dishes. The blending and preparation of spices is a centuries-old craft that is indispensable to fine Indian cuisine.
And there are not many finer things under heaven than fresh Indian breads baked in a clay oven. They are as velvety and flavorful as the law allows, and they are not merely a palate cleanser but also canvases on which to paint a palette of condiments such as the sweet tamarind sauce or the mint sauce. This is like hosting a party in your mouth.
Diner Peter Clark traveled from Bala Cynwyd upon a recommendation from a former student of his at St. Joseph’s University. “It was excellent,” he said. “Very tasty, and the waiter (Aman) was able to recommend dishes with just the right spice.” His dining companion, Ken Thomas, of Blue Bell, spoke of the “lovely colors and light touch to the dishes.”
The restaurant received a favorable Zagat’s review for 2013 that sums up the experience succinctly: “Addictive naan and a bargain buffet that never disappoints make this suburban Indian in Norristown popular among locals; welcoming staffers keep things friendly without being overbearing … P.S. no alcohol served.”
If you go on yelp.com, the most frequently used restaurant rating website, you will find 73 reviews of Aman as of last Friday. The average of all 73 is four stars out of five. A typical recent review — from Sunkite S., of Norristown — said: “Amazing food and super tasty. I went there to have lunch not expecting anything out of the norm. However, I was impressed with their service (Happy was our server) and dish selection. For a buffet I must say that it is top notch. Price is decent, and the atmosphere is very casual.”
To get to Aman, go up Germantown Pike to Route 202. Make a left, and then at the second traffic light make another left. The restaurant is in a strip of shops between a Sears outlet and Big Lots (closer to Sears). For more information, call 610-277-5565 or go to www.amansauthentic.com.