I have been thinking about Brij Mohan since the last time I was there, which was Thursday. And before that, I thought about it for a week after the first trip I made. I am absolutely obsessed.
Brij Mohan used to be only an Indian sweets (mithai) shop. Folks would come from all over– as far as Chicago– to get a taste of Indian sweets that were as close as possible to what they could get in India, or made in their grandmother’s kitchens. They’ve since expanded to casual, vegetarian fare as well, including chaat and various curries. One of my readers (and a coworker), Deepak, insisted that it was the best stuff in the city.
Deepak, I owe you a meal at Brij Mohan, since you are right. Brij Mohan is my favorite Indian in town right now. It’s inexpensive, delicious, and the menu is a little more unique than other Northern Indian restaurants in town.
Their specialty is chaat– Indian street food. It’s some sort of fried dough or lentils, and often potatoes or chick peas, topped with cilantro chutney, yogurt, tamarind, and chaat masala. Deepak likened them to Indian Nachos. They’re way better than that. Chaat is crispy, tangy, sweet, spicy, and creamy all at the same time. And using different ingredients– even though the dish looks similar– taste really different. When I returned with some coworkers, we had a papri chaat (fried crispy wafers, kind of like fried wontons) and one made with lentil patties. They were both really delicious– all of us went back for more– but I don’t recommend getting one for takeout, as I did the first time. Chaat are best if you eat them immediately. The two photos that look alike are actually different chaats– looks can be deceiving.
On my first trip, I got onion naan (amazingly fluffy and spongy, it didn’t quite make it home from Sharonville), a deliciously spicy and warming paneer makhani, and some saag paneer, equally spicy and warming. There was a depth of flavor I haven’t found elsewhere– even Dusmesh, which everyone lauds for its depth of flavor– and really enjoyed. It is all vegetarian, but I certainly didn’t miss the meat. Their spice level made sense, too– a 1-6, like Dusmesh, but this one was “medium” and not mild (like Dusmesh’s was)– spicy without being overwhelming.
The next trip, I got dal makhani, which was totally different than paneer makhani– thick with lentils and beans, and a spicy sauce that was not quite as creamy as the paneer makhani, it was excellent. Other hits at the table were my coworker’s aloo choley and dal korma. We all oohed and aahed the entire time, talking about what a great meal we had– and at lunch, we each had naan, rice, a cucumber salad, and our entree for $4.99. It’s a killer deal.
Then, the sweets. I’m in love with Indian sweets, as they’re not overly sweet. Your teeth don’t hurt– it’s subtle and a good pairing with the spicy food you’ve just eaten. Most places have kheer and, if you’re lucky, halwa, but the selection here takes up two bakery cases. My favorites included imarti, which is a fried dough soaked in sugar syrup and in a coiled design (like a funnel cake, sort of) and sohan papdi, which has the texture of the interior of a butterfinger, but a flavor that is similar to sesame. I also had a gulab jamun that surrounded a paneer-like cheesecake center (which the extremely friendly owner who also works the front counter, Anita Gaba, recommended to me). You just can’t leave without dessert, which is sold by the pound (about $6.99 a pound, depending on what you get). Be open-minded and try as much as you can.
So, favorite Indian in Cincinnati? North Indian is Brij Mohan. South Indian is Ammas. I’m not sure which one I crave more. They’re off the beaten path for me (Sharonville and Roselawn, respectively) but they’re worth the extra drive. Absolutely delicious.
(I’ll be adding some sweets photos later!)