Tawa Modern Indo-Pak Cuisine

Written By Scott Joseph On March 7, 2023

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Usually, if I walk into a restaurant during peak lunchtime and find it mostly empty, alarm bells start going off in my head. True, the bells help drown out the voices, but generally it’s a negative thing.

But for some reason when I walked into Tawa Modern Indo-Pak Cuisine in the Dr. Phillips/Restaurant Row district just after noon and found only one other table occupied, I didn’t turn and run.

Maybe it was the pleasant interior, cool and quiet, or the warm smile and welcome from the young woman who bade me to sit wherever I wanted. Or maybe it was that I had limited time and no other options and just wanted to have lunch. The voices in my head told me to stay.

And they were right for a change. The food was delicious and plentiful – even the item ordered from the lunch-specials menu.


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Tabla Oviedo

Written By Scott Joseph On February 10, 2023

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I feel a certain connection with Tabla, the Indian restaurant, because it was the first restaurant I reviewed for this website after leaving the Orlando Sentinel in 2008. Back then, it called itself Tabla Bar & Grill and was located in a nondescript space in a motel or timeshare (I could never figure which one) near Universal Studios Orlando.

Fifteen years later, that first location still exists. But in the past few years owner Nora Jain and family have grown the business to four locations. The Winter Park Tabla opened in 2020 in the off-Park space that had been Paris Bistro. Then Lake Nona got a version in late 2021.

Now, Tabla has opened in Oviedo in Center Lake Park overlooking the quiet lake and fountain. To maintain bragging rights that I’ve visited all four Tablas, I headed to Oviedo recently. And I had to smile at how far Tabla has come.


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Urban Turban

Written By Scott Joseph On January 24, 2023

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Even though I rolled my eyes when I heard the name, I was excited at the news that Urban Turban would bring Indian cuisine back to downtown Orlando. By my recollection, there hasn’t been an Indian restaurant in the Central Business District since the mid nineteen nineties when Uday Kadam owned Bombay Bistro.

Why Indian cuisine been missing from downtown for so long is a mystery, given that most other cuisines are there. (No Vietnamese either, I believe, though at least it’s well represented nearby at Mills 50).

That said, I was hoping more from Urban Turban. Or maybe my expectations should have been tempered based on the name.


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Naan Stopp

Written By Scott Joseph On November 17, 2022

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As an ardent aficionado of the art of restaurant naming, I appreciate the multi entendre’d Naan Stopp, the extraneous extra p notwithstanding.

It’s whimsical, pun-ish, and instantly communicates that this is an Indian restaurant. It could only be more appropriate if it were a 24-hour cafe. And while the name might convey whimsy, the food is seriously good.

Naan Stopp occupies the small space in the shops of Windermere Village that was originally home to Humbl, the plant-based fast food concept that didn’t quite, um, take root. The structure of the brightly lit room is the same, though it sports new wall coverings and art. The long counter that was part of the fast food concept is still there, even though NS is a full-service restaurant, with, not incidentally, a very attentive staff. And three televisions on the wall behind the counter that were once menu displays now show loops of Bollywood dance extravaganzas.


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Friends Indian Cuisine

Written By Scott Joseph On July 7, 2022

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That little freestanding building at 1375 S. Semoran Blvd. in Orlando has been home to a wide array of international cuisines since it started life as a Captain D’s seafood joint.

Let’s see – it was Thai Chili in the late 1990s; a Scandinavian restaurant called Two Fat Chefs (at the time, there was a popular BBC cooking program called “Two Fat Ladies”; three successive Mexican restaurants – Las Carretas, Casa Rene and Casa Mexico; a Church’s Chicken franchise (the long-abandoned drive-thru order stand, still bearing the chain’s brand, still sits out back); then back to Mexican with A Taste of Yucatan; Coba Coffee & Bakery; and Amor, Amor Latin American cuisine.

So why not give Indian a try?


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Daana Pani

Written By Scott Joseph On March 15, 2022

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For me, a hallmark of a good meatless menu, whether it’s merely vegetarian or fully vegan, is the absence of meat. What I mean is, the menu doesn’t try to replace actual meat with fake meat, processed products that emulate the tastes and textures of chicken, beef and seafood. I’m more impressed with restaurants that achieve vegetarian results organically (whether or not the ingredients are actually organic; don’t get me started on that).

Consider the food at Daana Pani, an Indian restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Gujarat in the west. Nearly 90 percent of Gujaratis follow a form of Hinduism that adheres to a vegetarian diet, even despite its seacoast location. Perhaps that is why you’ll find the word Gujarati on Daana Pani’s menu but not the word vegetarian – it’s assumed.


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Tabla Lake Nona

Written By Scott Joseph On December 23, 2021

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Tabla, the independently-owned Indian restaurant with locations in Orlando and Winter Park, has opened a third location in Lake Nona with a modern decor and a show kitchen design that allows you to see the exceptionally good food being prepared.

The open kitchen is a change from the original Tabla, which opened near Universal Orlando in 2008 and in Winter Park in the Shops on Park arcade last year.

But all three offer the same menu of Indian specialties as well as some Thai and Chinese dishes.


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Bombay Street Kitchen

Written By Scott Joseph On July 29, 2021

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I guess we’re still not over this obsession with street food. For some reason, there’s a strong attraction to any foodstuff billed as something that you might purchase from a vendor’s cart stationed on a curb in a large urban area someplace in the world. Of course, most of the restaurants that tout street fare are safely ensconced behind brick and mortar facades with the benefit of a fully outfitted professional kitchen. Frankly, I’m looking forward to when the trend is to tout “We specialize in foods commonly presented in full-service restaurants.”

The latest to jump on the street food bandwagon, wagonless as it is, is Bombay Street Kitchen, a rebranding of sorts from a business that used to be called Bombay Cafe and was located about a half a block away.

The menu may indeed have items associated with street vendors – as I recall, so did Bombay Cafe. But the menu here is more extensive than things you’d associate with eating on a curb (good thing, too, since the curb outside if Orange Blossom Trail).


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Tabla Winter Park

Written By Scott Joseph On May 4, 2021

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Now that vaccines are making it possible to return to indoor dining, I have a list of restaurants I’ve been aching to visit in person. Tabla’s Winter Park location has been at the top of that list.

Tabla, in its original location, was one of the very first restaurants I reviewed on this website – actually even before this website, in its earlier iteration, back in 2008. I was an immediate fan of the food, but the atmosphere – a rather soulless room off the lobby of an even soullesser hotel near Universal Orlando – left something to be desired. Improvements were made over the years, but when it was announced that Tabla’s owners would open a second location in the former Paris Bistro space in the Shops on Park arcade, I thought, “Finally, they’ve found the perfect home.”


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Written By Scott Joseph On April 20, 2021

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Almost inevitably, Honest, a vegetarian Indian restaurant, describes its cuisine as street food. How did we ever find things to eat that weren’t from the streets? But Honest comes to the term, um, honestly, having originated as a family-run food cart in 1975 in the city of Ahmedabad in the Gujarat state of western India. The street cart became a restaurant that expanded to Thailand and now is opening locations in the United States. The Orlando location joins one in Coral Springs.

It’s a quick-serve operation with orders taken at the counter. You may select from the menu board behind the counter with categories that include Bombay chaat, South Indian dishes, Indo Chinese foods and, almost as inevitable as street food, pizza.

You may find, however, a dearth of descriptions, so unless you’re well versed in the various Indian cuisines you may feel a bit at sea. But throw a dart, as it were, and you’re bound to find something enjoyable.


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