May 19, 2023 | OPINION | By Sam Treat
As I sat down to write the final Treat’s Eats of the year, I reflected on my various nutritional quests. From King Buffett to Dainty’s, I felt it safe to say that I’ve covered as many food bases as possible this year. However, it was brought to my attention this week that I’d missed a key cuisine – Indian. At the behest of my dear friend Lucy Flanagan ’24, I ventured one last time to the fabled Garden of the Gods Road exit off I-25.
There, I found Zaika Indian Cuisine. Immediately upon entering, the ambiance and color palate put me at ease. With an almost turmeric-orange paint, low lights, and tables set with glinting glasses, the vibe felt just right. The restaurant, family-owned and operated, prides itself on high-quality ingredients, attentive service, and a complete dining experience.
The menu was varied, containing the staples that Americans know and love, but also some deeper cuts of traditional Indian dishes. To start, I ordered vegetable samosas and onion pakora. For those unfamiliar, both samosas and pakoras are popular street-food on the subcontinent. The pakora, essentially a deep-fried vegetable (in this case onion), came with a delicious dipping sauce which our table quickly demolished. The samosa, a fried pocket filled with a sort of vegetable paste, was equally delicious. Truly, these are the perfect starters for a hungry table.
For the main, (with the help of some esteemed eaters) I ordered Tandoori Oven Cooked Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and a rice dish called Biryani. Of course, I supplemented this with Garlic Naan and a Mango Lassi (these are must orders no matter what else you get). I cannot overemphasize how kind our server was. One of my companions struggles with spice, but the waiter assured us that if anything wasn’t spiced appropriately he would make sure to get us another dish.
The Tandoori Chicken’s exterior was a charred black crust, with white tender meat falling off the bone underneath. I tested my limits and chose a level of three out of Zaika’s five-tier spice selection, which was actually perfect. The house-made marinade that the chicken was braised in was immaculate, and the flavor was robust. The spice factor was definitely present, but between the lassi and naan I was able to make it through just fine.
The Tikka Masala, a good option for those looking for something comparable to the immensely popular butter chicken, was creamy, rich, and perfect for mixing with the rice it came with. I particularly liked folding the chunks of chicken, covered in sauce and rice, into a piece of garlic naan. That flavor combination is hard to beat. Unfortunately, the chicken was just a bit too mushy for my liking, but other than that, it was exactly what one would hope for.
Biryani, a naturally spicy mixture of vegetables, rice, spices, and, in this case, chicken, was probably the most sizably portioned dish ordered. Served piping hot, biryani is steam cooked, ensuring maximum flavor in each grain of rice. This dish is better for the more spice-enabled, but it’s truly delicious, and of course, it also pairs well with naan of any kind.
Zaika is somewhere where you can feel good about spending your money. The hard-working waitstaff makes the dining experience smooth and frictionless. The family-owned and operated status adds a wholesome element to the entire affair, and I couldn’t have been happier with the food.
I want to say that it has been an absolute pleasure writing these articles this year. I stepped into the biggest shoes possible to fill – those of the late, great Hank Bedingfield. Hank’s writing prowess and wordsmithing abilities are unmatched, but I hope that he would be proud of the job I’ve done with this column so far. I want to thank several of you (perhaps all of my readers) who have read this and reached out to me with feedback, suggestions, or complimentary words. It means the world to me – not to write this column – but that a few students take the time out of their busy Colorado College lives to join me on an exploration of food each week. Thank you all.