Not much lovin’ for Miamisburg’s India Oven

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Chicken Vindaloo at India Oven in Miamisburg; photos: Paula Johnson


Yes, it was Monday at 5 p.m., the appointed time PIP (Palate In Progress) and I were to meet dining chum Jurgen Durstler at India Oven in the international plaza near the Dayton Mall. We checked the restaurant’s website and found that they open every day from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. for lunch, and then reopen at 5 for dinner. Hmmm. Things looked dark and the closed sign marked the door. What to do? I tried calling (twice) to see if perhaps we read the information wrong, but I got what sounded like a personal non-business answering machine. We were puzzled. We went to the neighboring business, a butcher shop, to see if they knew anything. “They were here this afternoon” was the intel we received. It was after 5:15 as we huddled in the parking lot, discussing an alternate plan, when a couple drove up and headed toward the door, key in hand. It looked like Plan A was still in effect.

We followed behind as they hastily turned on lights, noticing a few tables with lunch dishes still not cleared. The overall message was this place wasn’t quite ready for prime time. But we were ready to try some Indian food, so we were going to give India Oven a go.

We ordered up the standard Vegetable Samosas ($3.99), deep fried crisp pastries with mildly spiced tomatoes, potatoes, and green peas. They were delivered hot, and were quite acceptable, except the condiments. We were served two, with tamarind sauce and bright red pickled onion. I was missing the mint chutney usually served as well, which was delivered when we requested it. The tamarind sauce was sadly inferior—thin, watery, and tasting of corn syrup, in the way that fake “maple” syrup does.

The next appetizer we tried was a chilled chickpea salad called Chane Ki Chat ($4.99), something I haven’t tried before, and something I would order again. Described as a tangy sweet blend of fruit, vegetables, and chickpeas sprinkled with black Indian salt, this dish was fresh tasting and generous in serving. The tart apples were a terrific touch with the light, lemony dressing.

The breads, a Garlic Nan ($2.99) and Aloo Bhatura ($3.99), a crispy potato-stuffed layered fried bread, arrived and were also fine, but we hit another stumble when Jurgen and I decided to order some wine by the glass. Neither of us got what we ordered, but decided to drink up anyway and hope for better things with the entrées we’d chosen. We went with the renowned classic Chicken Vindaloo ($11.99) and Lamb Dopiaza ($13.99). Dopiaza is a preparation with Muslim roots, legendarily created in the 16th century. Dopiaza means “onions twice,” referring to a Moghul’s cook accidentally adding more onions at the end of cooking after already adding them in the beginning. This dish is redolent with onion, tomatoes, and peppers in a rich sauce. India Oven’s was not nearly as robust as expected, but the lamb chunks were quite tender and fresh tasting, perhaps owing to the neighboring halal butcher shop.

Vindaloo is another Indian standard with an interesting history, actually coming from Portugal. The name is a derivation of carne de vinha d’alhos (literally “meat in garlic wine marinade”). It began as a pork dish, marinated in wine and garlic, and eventually evolved into the easy-to-pronounce dish “vindaloo,” changing with the addition of Indian spicing and flavors and dropping the pork in favor of mostly lamb and chicken. Additionally, potatoes are now standard. The thing to look for in a vindaloo is a rich gravy with some heat—and a vinegary tang. Jurgen and I both requested a seven or eight on the spice scale, and found both dishes lacking in punch. I admittedly like a really high level of spice but usually start at a lower level if I am not familiar with a place. Ordering again, I would ask for the max here. If in fact I did order again. While there were things Jurgen and I enjoyed, we felt the sauces—which is what Indian food is all about—were, frankly, bland and lacking complexity.

Our desserts, Kulfi and Gulab Jamun (each $2.99), revealed further inconsistencies on India Oven’s part. They were out of my favorite dessert, Ras Malai, the soft sweet cheese scented with rosewater and pistachio, so I opted for Kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream. The Kulfi was so frozen solid it was impossible to eat, and what I could taste had an oddly chalky texture. However, Jurgen’s Gulab Jamun ($2.99), four fried, doughy cheese balls soaked in honey syrup, was warm and delicious, kind of like an Indian doughnut hole.

Our bill totaled $68.33 with tax, dinner for two people since the ever-dieting PIP was just along for the ride. Jurgen’s comment “That feels a little high considering the quality of food was a little low,” seemed right on the money to me. Not much lovin’ for India Oven.


India Oven is located at 39 Fiesta Lane in Miamisburg. For more information, please call 937.723.9014.


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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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