This guest review was written by Kory Chester, who attended a foodie event at Imli Indian Kitchen that Philly Grub was invited to. Kory, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is a personal chef and food consultant who aspires to be a food critic.
As you walk inside Imli Indian Kitchen, you can’t help but notice three things: how gorgeous the restaurant is, the welcoming yet distinct aroma of Indian food (chilies, masala, etc.), and the lack of clientele. Even the best chefs say regardless of how beautiful the decor is or how delicious the food is, it doesn’t matter if no one is there to eat it. After doing my due diligence, the online reviews stated that the people who did venture to Imli Indian Kitchen, which is located in the Queen Village neighborhood of the city, thoroughly enjoyed it.
As we waited for the food, several very kind waitresses arrived, marking the beginning of the food coma that was about to commence. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, and were quite gracious while answering every question our party threw their way. They were even kind enough to bring the menus back when food arrived to describe each dish visually. The invited party was full of well-versed “foodies,” many who are not new to Indian cuisine. Just about everybody in our dining party remarked that, after the waitresses elaborately described the food, they had learned something new about the cuisine.
As modest as this place is, they don’t tell you the food comes quick, delicious, and in abundance – which is a sign of a well-operated restaurant logistically, that they take great pride in their establishment, and care about delivering an exceptional and efficient customer experience.
The samosas were the first course to be brought to our table and, for lack of better word, they are incredible. Very nice spice level with super crunchy exterior, yet fluffy inside. The sauces paired with the samosas were quite flavorful and palate-widening. Some of us chose to keep the sauces by our side even when that course was done. If I recall correctly, the accompanied sauces were a coriander verde and a mint tamarind sauce. Both deserved to be bottled and sold for home use!
After the samosas, the meal continued uphill from there. The wine was pouring, conversations ensued, and the dishes came out faster than Usain Bolt. We were lucky enough to try all of the tandoori specials, an eggplant dish, a shrimp dish, a lamb dish and all of the Naan bread flavors. I did not get a picture of all of the dishes we sampled, but among the ones I did:
Chicken Seekh Kabab — Minced chicken tempered with onions, ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs — Fantastic spice level. No salt or pepper needed ANYWHERE, it was perfectly seasoned. A good choice to people who are just getting into Indian food. My only “issue” with this, and all the dishes to follow, is I wish all of the dishes did not come heavily garnished with lettuce and raw red onion. I’d prefer just the kabob as it really is the star of the plate.
Rashmi Kabab — Tender chicken marinaded in mild spices — The chef brought this out with great intentions to please, as he described how he pulled the sugar to make a garnish. While the story was good, the pulled sugar was bitter and quite unnecessary. Not to be harsh, but that garnish could easily be mistaken for human hair. The chicken was extremely tender, however.
Began-Bhurta (Baingan bharta) — roasted eggplant, fresh cooked tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices — This dish was one of my favorites, not just because it tastes the best, but because it is so unique. Looks like a weird risotto dish, but it’s eggplant. This, to me, is a super palate cleanser, refreshingly light and creamy eggplant with a deep flavor profile. I could do without the garnish on exterior of the plate though.
Simply Naan. Some of the fluffiest and toothsome naan bread I’ve ever had.
Overall, I can see why the talk is so high on this not-so-hidden gem in Queen Village. The Chicken Tikka Masala is the best I’ve ever had hands down. You should definitely try it if you’re a fan; it will not disappoint.
Among the high-points for this experience are a very friendly staff, great ambiance, and simply amazing food. You really can’t ask for a better dining experience at an Indian restaurant in Philadelphia.
While at the table, the fellow food bloggers and I were thinking of ways to help Imli Indian Kitchen gain exposure and we came up with this list:
- No more garnish around plate edges.
- Open for LUNCH or DELIVERY. A lot of lazy people, people who can’t find parking, or just can’t make it to the restaurant could get great Indian cuisine.
- Expand the time restaurant is open. Dinner isn’t enough right now.
- The town has extreme misconception on what Indian cuisine is. I think people are scared of it because they think everything is an uncontrollably spicy pile of curry. Which is not the case. Kids and adults can enjoy this food. Imli should take free samples to the streets and small menus just to create awareness and to remove the negative stigma.
- Continue to do great food and great service.
We highly recommend Imli Indian Kitchen, wish them much success, and will definitely be back — especially for that Naan bread. If you’ve been there, or if you get a chance to go, let us know YOUR thoughts!
Imli Indian Kitchen
769 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Special thanks to everyone at Imli Indian Kitchen and Jeff Belonger of MyPhillyAlive for the hospitality.
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.