Ghazal

Pictured is the Lamb Vindaloo from Ghazal Indian Cafe in Stafford. (Photo by Stefan Modrich)

By STEFAN MODRICH

smodrich@fortbendstar.com

My dad has had — and maintains to this day — the somewhat idiosyncratic tendency, in my view, to insist upon our family using dishes and silverware for any takeout order or pizza delivery, no matter how fast or casual the food order.

Perhaps it was a way of reminding my siblings and I that mealtimes were something sacred and to be treated with a baseline level of decorum and respect, even for more laid-back dinners paired with a movie in the living room. Part of me still considers it a clever way to create more chores for us to do, but I digress.

All of this is to say that I believe these things are not mere niceties. If you think this is a stretch, I’d invite you to recall your last trip to the H-E-B wine aisle and tell me how much time you spent looking at the label art on each bottle.

So this brings me to Ghazal India Café in Stafford. I’ll stipulate up front that I enjoyed my to-go meal immensely on the merits.

But gourmet Indian food, especially Lamb Vindaloo ($11.99), is not meant to be enjoyed in a plastic bowl, and its accompanying rice and vegetable samosas ($3.50) were not intended for Styrofoam packaging.

Vindaloo is one of my favorite Indian dishes. The tender lamb shoulder is seasoned with an armada of spices like cumin, coriander and paprika, marinated in wine vinegar and slow-cooked with onions and garlic.

I have been to Indian restaurants around the world that run the gamut of Zagat reviews, from hole-in-the-wall to swanky spots fit for special occasions we used to celebrate in person.

I know it’s not the fault of Ghazal, which is open only for pickup or delivery, that they feel their ornate dining rooms aren’t large enough spaces to safely socially distance. They’ve pivoted with a utilitarian approach that they likely feel is the safest bet for their customers. But it’s yet another shame of this pandemic and a clear economic hit to a business that would normally rent out a banquet hall capable of accommodating 300 people.

But I hope that people who are browsing through their delivery apps and taking home Tandoori Chicken ($10.99) and Goat Biryani ($8.99) don’t get the wrong idea about this place. I’m not saying you need to dust off your finest china set for every to-go order, but by making a little bit of extra effort, you can apply some of the same principles you would to plate and present your own cooking, and you might find it tastes a little bit better.

Even if you agree, don’t just take my word for it. I’m curious to know how many other people take pride in food presentation, even when it’s showing off something you didn’t make yourself. If you think I’m being a snob, follow me on Twitter @StefanJModrich and let me know, or email me smodrich@fortbendstar.com.

Ghazal India Cafe 

Address: 435 FM 1092, Stafford

Dining Options: Curbside pickup, Delivery via Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats

Hours: 11 a.m.-8:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Entrée prices: $6.99-$15.99

Kid-friendly: Yes

Senior discount: No

Healthy options: Mushroom Onion Theeyal ($7.99)

Star of the show: Lamb Vindaloo

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