With so few Indian restaurants in the region, and so few restaurants at all in the Browns Point neighborhood in Northeast Tacoma, it took just a few days before readers began messaging.
“What’s that new Indian restaurant like?”
Its name is Hilltop Indian Restaurant and Pizza Corner. Yes, you read that correctly. An Indian restaurant that doubles as a pizzeria. The menu reflects the cooking background of its chef-owner, Tej Yogee, a culinary school graduate who started his cooking career in Nepal before moving to Boston where he was a chef at an Italian restaurant.
Indian cuisine became his specialty when he moved from Boston to Seattle. His résumé includes Seattle and Eastside Indian eateries Cedars Restaurant in Seattle, Kanishka in Redmond and Mayuri in Bellevue.
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He opened Hilltop Indian about six weeks ago with business partner and chef Bhupinder Singh, who formerly worked at Microsoft.
Pizza and Indian cuisine could appear disjointed on a single menu, but Yogee said in addition to his love of both cooking styles, he wanted to capture a wide clientele in a neighborhood short on restaurants. “For people dining with children, the child can get the pizza and the grownups can order from the Indian menu,” he said. Indeed, I saw plenty of families with kids dining during my solo visit during the restaurant’s first month.
“I want to give diners a lot of choices,” Yogee said. That philosophy extended to the list of 40-something beers offered on tap or in bottle, including an impressive half dozen Indian and Nepali bottles.
The Indian side of the menu also was extensive and covered the greatest hits of Northern Indian cuisine. Samosas and pakoras ($3.99-$4.50) plus a dozen breads ($2.95-$4.99) offered plenty of choices for starchy adventures. Vindaloo, tikka masala, korma, butter chicken and jalfrezi covered the gamut of Indian restaurant standards ($11.45-$14.99). The eight-item vegetable entree menu listed three dairy-free vegan dishes (a specialty throughout the menu, plus gluten-free items), including okra and chana masala and aloo gobi ($12.45-$14.99). A dozen tandoor oven dishes ranged from salmon to lamb and chicken ($13.95-$21.95).
The small pizza menu read like what one would find at a standard pizza house, including a margherita, a house special and meat lovers ($10-$20). The crust was of the chewy variety, with a puffy edge. The red sauce was made from crushed San Marzano tomatoes.
The dessert menu looked to be the best offered of the six Indian restaurants in Pierce County. All priced $3.95, the menu listed spiced doughnuts in a sweet syrup (gulab jamun). There also was kheer, the rice pudding heavily scented by cardamom. Almond-cardamom ice cream, kulfi, also was listed. Coconut and mango ice cream also was on the menu, as was rasmalai, the almond-sweetened dish with cheese balls.
The austerely outfitted restaurant featured a straightforward color scheme heavy on red and blue. Cushy booths invited lingering. Yogee said expect to see changes soon, including improved decor.
HILLTOP INDIAN RESTAURANT AND PIZZA
Where: 1000 Town Center NE, Tacoma (Browns Point).
Contact: 253- 952-7777; hilltoprestaurants.com.
Hours: Serving lunch and dinner daily.