By Shivani Gosai | Opinions Editor
Move over Chipotle, Indian barbecue is coming to take your place. Choolaah opened its doors Friday, Jan. 26 in East Liberty, near Oakland.
Co-founders Raji Sankar and Randhir Sethi debuted an Indian eatery that prides itself on fresh, healthy food. Choolaah focuses on bringing a casual, fast approach to traditional Indian dishes, and that is exactly what they’ve done.
When you first enter Choolaah, the atmosphere is bright and energetic. It’s a very large, hip space with modern decor. Colorful graffiti-esque walls are paired with clean white fixtures. The restaurant is two floors, complete with multiple types of seating such as communal or traditional wooden tables. The kitchen is surrounded by a glass wall to allow customers to watch their food be made right in front of them. The star of the restaurants design has to be their giant, orange tandoor ovens at the front of their kitchen.
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful during the ordering process. You order your food at one station and are given a buzzer to notify you when your food is ready.
The menu has something for everyone. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, there is an option for you. Choolaah doesn’t skimp on showcasing traditional Indian food such as biryani, samosa chaat or chai tea. The rest of the menu allows you to build your own plate with options such as bowls, salads and wraps. Desserts such as mango kulfi, and children’s plates such as naan pizza, are also featured.
The chicken, lamb and salmon served is humanely raised and antibiotic-free. The paneer is made by the Ohio Amish using Choolaah’s classic recipe. The mangoes and spices are imported from India.
I decided to order the Choolaah bowl, which had a choice of white or brown rice, protein and masala. Masala is a term that can best be described here as the type of sauce, such as lentil deals. I chose brown rice, chicken and tikka masala. My food was prepared quickly, in less than five minutes.
The bowl was with tikka masala was made perfectly, with a flavorful and traditional taste. It paired wonderfully with the barbecue chicken. It was not spicy, but still maintained the flavor of the many spices used. I had ordered a mango lassi to drink, a classic Indian yogurt drink, which was exactly as I hoped. The lassi was tangy and light, and balanced out the tikka masala bowl. The only disappointing part of my meal was the naan I ordered on the side. It was dry and thin, unlike the way traditional naan is made. This was the opposite of any naan I’ve ever had, it lacked the fluffy, buttery quality naan is loved for.
The menu is fairly priced. The bowls run from about $3 to $5, and the naan is $1.79 each. Each protein added to your dish is an additional $5 to $7. The most expensive item is the biryani, priced at $9.99. My entire meal was about $14. Choolaah is an inexpensive option for students that want food that is way more flavorful than Hogan.
Choolaah is undoubtedly the most exciting new restaurant in Pittsburgh. It is making Indian food approachable to those who may not be accustomed and gives a fun twist for those who are.
The interior of the restaurant may be modern, but the food is prepared with traditional taste. Beside the naan mishap, Choolaah did not disappoint and I will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu.