The Peacock quickly generates 'restaurant buzz'
By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent
I have to admit: When I heard that the owners of Gainesville's Reggae Shack and Southern Charm Kitchen restaurants were looking to open another restaurant, my ears perked up quickly. Holding Southern Charm Kitche nin a dear place in my heart, cracking my top 5 favorite restaurants in Gainesville, I had high expectations for any sibling restaurant. The Indian fusion restaurant that had been in the works for some time, now dubbed the Twisted Peacock, finally opened its doors.
Despite lacking any advertisement or promotion of the newly-opened, niche restaurant, the youngest restaurant sibling was already creating some buzz. Other than a few Instagram photos tagged at the Twisted Peacock, a menu was nowhere in sight either. I was diving — or I guess, dining—in blind. At least I had seven other blind, yet willing, participants to accompany me on the restaurant's first Saturday open. In fact, everyone at the table was pretty unfamiliar with Indian cuisine. I believe some Googling was involved.
While eight glasses of water were promptly brought to the table upon our arrival, our server became somewhat sparse throughout the duration of our meal. I'm not sure if the restaurant wasn't anticipating a solid 40 percent of the dining area full of hungry patrons and they were slightly short-staffed, or if the opening week just came with a few challenges, but our slightly scatter-brained server was a good indication of the slower service. The meal, from the first glass of water to the last check returned, took about 2.5 hours, which is a bit lengthy for a restaurant visit, especially considering we did not delay ordering.
That brings us to the food. I was pleased with the menu, probably because of the association I made to it and that of Southern Charm's menu. It was laid out very similarly, but it certainly had very different menu items. Curry was not a main theme of the menu, which surprised me some, but the other menu items, including Tandoori, Tikka Masala, and Vindaloo all were representative of popular Indian cuisine. However, this was Indian fusion, which I tried to keep in mind.
The first menu section, Street Food, had a handful of appetizer-sized dishes. Samosa was the one item on that list that I was familiar with, so of course a couple orders of those hit the table first (and by first, I meant a solid 30 minutes after ordering). I had heard the naan bread wasn't made in-house, so I avoided that, although I hope that changes. Nonetheless, the samosas, $5.95, which I described to the uninformed as being akin to empanadas, were adequately-sized and very full of vegetables and potatoes. I appreciated that, as many flaky pastry-type items are too airy inside.
There was a decent mix of entrees present on the table about an hour after initial ordering, which seemed a little too long considering the restaurant did not meet even half-full capacity. Nonetheless, everyone dove into the decent-sized portions of proteins over a silver dish full of a couple of cups of basmati rice per person.
Three hungry members of our party ordered the Pig Vindaloo, $11.95. Originally a Portuguese dish, "carne de vinhad'alhos," it is now typically served in India with lamb, which apparently was the protein in front of us despite "pig" in the name. The sauce was not as spicy as the server suggested it might be — a somewhat disappointing discovery — but it was flavorful nonetheless. Another person at the table got the Duck Korma, $17.95, and she certainly received her money's worth of duck with a few thighs, a breast, and drumsticks filling the silver bowl. It was cooked well, but the curry gravy lining the bottom of the bowl certainly made it shine.
Two friends ordered the Tandoori Chicken, $10.95, with a sizeable number of pieces stuffed in their respective bowls. However, both agreed it was the least satisfactory entrée at the table, commenting on its "blandness." The green-colored sauce brushed over a few pieces didn't lend much to the red chili powder marinade the menu claimed it to be cooked in.
One of my two favorite entrees of the night was my friend's surprising order (he typically sticks to what he knows) of the goat dish, comically named the "Rogan Josh," $11.95. The goat was submerged in a deep red-orange sauce of Indian spices, and the meat fell apart so tenderly with the swipe of a fork. My dish, the Chicken Tikka Masala, $11.95, was my second favorite. The waitress considered it one of the more popular dishes at the restaurant, and I have experience eating it at an Indian restaurant in London, so I was familiar with the flavors.
The masala gravy should have been doubled in quantity: The strong spice-filled sauce was soaked up by the tender white meat chicken, which I wished didn't run out as soon cause it was so tasty, despite it being a dinner-size portion. It was clear that the sauces of the night were what helped make or break the experience. The one thing I also had hoped was an option to include cooked veggies in the dish, as those would have been a great addition to round out my tikka masala.
Of course there is always a second stomach for dessert. The GulabJamun, $5.95, peaked multiple interests, so three servings of that came next. Each hot bowl of two, larger than donut hole-sized Indian donuts floated over a "rosewater and cardamom-scented syrup." After one bite, one person thought the donut was doughy and undercooked, but it actually appeared to just not have a cake-type filling as an American donut hold would. The outside was so crispy and evenly-cooked that I thought it played well into the somewhat doughy insides, and I loved it. The syrup really stole the show, sugary and rich with some noticeable punches of flavor from the cardamom and rosewater.
After getting through the menu, I noticed the little description of why the Twisted Peacock got its name, and I learned the musical symbolism behind the animal. That certainly explained the décor: Two large walls toward the back were covered with Indian music posters; the very back wall was splattered with Indian musical instruments, such as the Sarod and Sitar, which resemble a thinner guitar/violin/banjo combination. Indian musicals were playing on the overhead TVs; two children at an adjacent table were enamored by the screens all night. It certainly had a cozy feel, although seemed a bit above just a casual jeans and tee experience.
No one ordered a vegetarian entrée, and I think if I came back I would try one of those and another "Street Food" item to expand my Indian taste palette. I do not have an extensive knowledge of Indian cuisine, only having had it a handful of times and never having been to India. I do not claim myself to be an expert of the cuisine, but I do know what works well. With that being said, it is not a dining spot I will be rushing back to, as it was overall somewhat subpar considering the collective dining experience of myself and the other seven at the table. However, I could have drank the syrup those donuts were in, so I will say it left some memorable moments with me.
The Pluses and Minuses of the Twisted Peacock
Twisted Peacock + indicators: Unique food entrees, good quality food items, good value for price, open for lunch and dinner
Twisted Peacock - indicators: Not quite cohesive service, long waits for food (don't go if in a rush)
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