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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 3.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Spicing up fare on Square with Spice Yatra
New stand delivers good Indian -- but is it too pricey for cartville?
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Combo plate with Kadai chicken (12 o'clock), yellow daal (8 o'clock) and vegetable curry (4 o'clock).
Combo plate with Kadai chicken (12 o'clock), yellow daal (8 o'clock) and vegetable curry (4 o'clock).
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

The warm weather season has ushered in a trio of new food carts to the Capitol Square. This is a good thing for people who work and lunch on the Square, because the current cart population -- Bluefin Sushi, El Burrito Loco, Wei's Food to Go, A Taste of Mexico, and the popcorn cart -- has been around for some time without much change. Other stands have faded (Lombardino's), moved on to full restaurant status (Mango Man became Café Costa Rica) or moved to the Library Mall (China Cottage).

It's nice to see some new faces. So far, a vegan sandwich cart called Dandelion has set up shop on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at Doty Street, Mad Dog's has set up a hot dog outlet directly across MLK in front of the Risser Justice Center, and Spice Yatra has claimed the corner at MLK and Main, in front of Starbucks.

This Indian cart has a small menu of one meat dish (kadai chicken, $7) and three vegetarian dishes (vegetarian kadai, yellow daal, and vegetable curry, $6). Or you can opt for three of the above in the combo plate ($10). I figured that hitting three out of the four entrees in one fell swoop would be a pretty good deal, so I ordered the combo plate with the kadai chicken, yellow daal, and vegetable curry.

Spice Yatra lives up to its name. Yatra means "journey" or "pilgrimage" and its dishes are complexly spiced. The yellow daal was the most subtle, and the split yellow lentil taste really came through. The vegetable curry was a slightly sweet but bold curry with a hint of ginger, with cauliflower, peas, potato and carrots. The kadai chicken had a sharp, hot, tomato-chili spiciness, not at all sweet. In fact the kadai chicken was hot enough to induce some eye-tearing (and that's a good thing). However, there's no naan or roti on the menu for cutting the heat, although extra rice can be ordered for $2.

The dishes come on a scoop of basmati rice and are served in a sturdy cardboard, not styrofoam, takeout box. There was only really one problem with the combo plate: There just wasn't enough of it. It was a lunch-sized portion, and, I suppose, not that much smaller in size than the dinner entrees served at local brick-and-mortar Indian restaurants, although here there was not very much rice included. Given that the price of rice has skyrocketed, that's somewhat understandable. Maybe the days of free rice refills at Indian restaurants are numbered, too.

The ubiquity of the all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet, though, priced under the $10 that the modest-sized combo plate costs, could be the comparison that makes Spice Yatra come up short.

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