It seems that South Orlando, especially along South Orange Blossom Trail, is becoming a mecca for Indian restaurants. Mecca’s probably not the right word, but you know what I mean.
In fact, when I visited Sankalp, a new restaurant at the corner of Sand Lake Road and S.O.B.T., I thought I was dining in another Indian restaurant that had simply changed hands and name. It wasn’t until I had finished with my lunch that I discovered the restaurant I thought I was in, Lahore Grill, was just across the drive in the same shopping center, visible from my table at Sankalp.
In my defense, restaurants can change fairly quickly. In fact, it was just recently that the space now occupied by Sankalp was a restaurant called Saffran that was ostensibly an Icelandic restaurant. It had good intentions but unfortunately not the food to match them.
Sankalp features food from the North and South regions of India, and based on what I tasted at the lunchtime buffet, the kitchen does not pull back on spiciness. So foods that should be hot are fiery hot, but the heat does not come at the expense of layered and nuanced flavors.
The line had a variety of foods, starting with a cold salad of kandhari aloo chat, a sort of Indian potato salad, and a dish labeled simply “pickle” with little nibbles of fire in each fermented vegetable.
There were, of course, the pappadum with chutneys, including a delicious coconut variation.
The hot dishes included an interesting fritter called a corn stick ball, a hush-puppylike device with, indeed, a stick poked through it, and a delicious blend of lentils and herbs called moong dal fry.
Bhindi nayantara was a dish of okra, of all things (must have been a southern Indian dish) and there was a biryani of goat. I loved the flavors and spicing of the goat, but I prefer my rice dishes to be boneless. (Beware.)
The chicken curry dish was also good, and not a threat to the teeth. And it was delicious over the tomato rice, one of three rice options that also included the more familiar basmati.
Besides the lunch buffet, Sankalp’s regular menu is also available during lunch, and it contains many wonderfully exotic dishes to explore.
The staff were all friendly, and I liked that some fresh naan was delivered to the table without my asking for it. The interior doesn’t appear to have changed much from its days as an Icelandic eatery. It has a sort of fast foody feel, almost cafeterialike, but it’s bright and very clean.
Sankalp claims to be the “India’s largest restaurant chain” (yep, it’s come to that), but this Sankalp is an individually owned franchise — the website shows only the Orlando location, so it has a feel of independence. The name, by the way, means to make a pledge. I’m not sure what they’re pledging, but I think they’re good for it.
Sankalp is at 1700 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Most prices are in the low to mid teens. The phone number is 407-251-0707.