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East India Grill delivers curry and culture to Federal Way | Nandell Palmer
The open-pit tandoori oven is cooking up oodles of naan, barbecued chicken, and jumbo prawns just right.
Salivating patrons sipped away at tall glasses of mango lassi as meticulous chefs scuttle their way to perfect their classic dishes.
This is no ordinary place. It is the East India Grill, one of the hottest crazes going on now in Federal Way.
Federal Way has its share of ethnic restaurants; namely, Mexican, Thai, Japanese and Korean. And I have pretty much patronized eateries from each group.
Nevertheless, I was in seventh heaven when I discovered that an East Indian restaurant was opening in town last year.
Restaurateur Kabal Gill, with more than 30 years of experience in restaurant management, has a very holistic approach to food, coupled with his sunny personality.
Gill said that once upon a time in India, doctors only needed to know a particular family’s lineage, and they were able to treat maladies of all sorts in those families’ offspring.
Food was seen as medicine. And people strive for a balance in their diets. He is spearheading a drive to ensure that eating is not only a pleasure, but a healthy lifestyle for his customers.
Recently, he started a Saturday cooking class where students are taught to make yogurt and (masala) curry from scratch. Chicken Tandoori, chai tea and ginger shrimp, among other recipes, are also passed on to students.
He lectured the class on the medicinal properties of spices like turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and cardamom.
In an industry where it’s safer to hide what goes on inside the kitchen, Gill is doing the opposite.
The man is so passionate about what he does that he went as far as putting up a TV monitor in the restaurant — where diners can view how their meals are prepared inside the kitchen.
Customer service, he acknowledged, is a key component in operating a successful restaurant. Is it any wonder why customers are greeted with his megawatt smile on entering the family-style restaurant?
He’s known to sit down with some of his diners at their tables, chatting with them on sundry topics of the day.
Gill is hoping to convert people who are somewhat skittish about Indian food, making them into lifelong customers.
“There is a misconception about Indian cuisine that the food is hot and spicy,” he said.
“Rather, the spices are the ingredients that give the food their delicious flavor and taste, and can be adjusted to the individual palate.”
He points out that the term curry actually means sauce, and that it does not always have to be hot. There are different forms of Indian cuisine as well. East India Grill cooks primarily North India or Punjabi style food.
East India Grill is home to some of the most mouthwatering Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Vindaloo, Curried Potato and Cauliflower, and Gill’s creation, Mango Mousse.
A $9.95 lunch buffet is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. And on Sundays, the buffet is $13.95.
Opening his first Indian restaurant in Jackson, Miss., in the mid-1970s, Gill, an engineering student, didn’t know a lick about cooking.
The man who’s a few credits shy of his Ph.D. in psychology, and who once rubbed shoulders with some of Hollywood’s glitterati when he operated a restaurant there in the early 1990s, loves people to no end. People have fostered his love of cooking, he said.
Gill has given back to his communities — both here and in India — in many ways.
Before coming to Federal Way, he had opened five award-winning restaurants in the Puget Sound area over the past 15 years; among them, Sahib, in Redmond and Edmonds.
Gill, along with his son, Pamma Singh, have leveraged all their experiences to perfect East India Grill. Federal Way residents are the recipients of this good-food haven.
For more information, visit East India Grill at 31845 Gateway Blvd. S, Federal Way. Contact: (253) 529-9292 or www.eastindiagrillwa.com. It’s across from the $2 movie theater.