Aromas of freshly ground cumin and turmeric permeate the air in one of South Jeffco’s newest Indian eateries, and the smell of chewy naan wanders through as it sizzles on the wall of a searing-hot tandoori oven.
Owner Amrik Singh, a 20-year veteran of the restaurant business, saw the opportunity to fill a niche near Southwest Plaza and opened a traditional Indian restaurant, India’s Clay Oven.
“This area doesn’t have any other Indian restaurant,” said Singh, who also owns a nearly identical restaurant near Park Meadows Mall and soon will be opening another in Boulder.
What sets his restaurant apart from other businesses is his dedication to fresh ingredients, he said.
“I make the spices myself,” Singh said.
The restaurateur visits each location at least twice a week to hand-mix blends of coriander, garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric and other spices.
Singh gleaned his broad knowledge of spicing, cooking and customer service from working in traditional Indian restaurants around the county. After moving to the U.S. from India in 1985, he traveled around big cities, working as a cook, a server and in other restaurant positions.
Though moving from his native country to the states to learn traditional Indian cooking may seem a bit out of order, the experience worked well for Singh.
“I like to learn everything,” he said. “I was living in New York, San Francisco … all over.
“I used to work in Beverly Hills serving actors. … Stars came in a lot.”
But the pace of metropolitan madness was not for him, and Singh moved to Colorado, where a cousin lives.
“I didn’t like it. It’s too crowded,” he said of New York City.
Fans of Singh’s cuisine may recall Delhi Darbar, a restaurant he operated from 1995 to 2000 near West Hampden Avenue and South Wadsworth Boulevard.
His new establishment features traditional Indian paintings on the walls, deep-red tablecloths and napkins, a large buffet and a full bar. The bright flat-screen TV, however, is a unique touch.
“We sell a lot of beer, like Taj Mahal, Kingfisher,” he said. “We have some good Indian wine, too.”
Singh employs a lot of family members at the restaurants, with his wife often taking phone orders and two of his brothers managing the South Jeffco and Boulder eateries.
Business has been a little slow at the new location, which opened about six months ago, he said. Despite being in the middle of a business hub, the restaurant currently sees more customers for dinner than lunch. Weekends are the busiest times, especially at night, making India’s Clay Oven more of a casual destination than a place to quickly grab food during lunch hours.
“We are still doing good” despite the slow start in the lagging economy, Singh said.
And if customers show the loyalty they often do to a first-class Indian restaurant, India’s Clay Oven will be in South Jeffco to stay. Customers come back for favorite dishes such as the tandoori mixed grill, Singh said. And the personal touch he gives the business will hopefully earn regular customers.
“I do different spices than (other restaurants). I do almost all the spicing myself for all the kitchens. And I try to make everything fresh, every day.”
Contact Emile Hallez Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.
India’s Clay Oven 9126 W. Bowles Ave. 303-933-2829
The lunch buffet is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. The restaurant is open for dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m.