Restaurant review: Neehee's Indian Vegetarian Street Food
Rocking a more-is-more, bigger-is-better aesthetic, Neehee's — a new eatery accurately subtitled “Indian Vegetarian Street Food” — impressed me with its ability to speedily serve high-quality fare to a large volume of customers.
When I first entered the immense fast-casual place located in a Dublin strip mall, my expectations for this branch of a Michigan-based chain were hardly through the roof. Then again, that roof is sky-high. And it's above a frequently loud-and-crowded scene where energetic Indian pop tunes play while multiple screens beam sports, news, Bollywood-style music videos and enticements to become a Neehee's franchisee. The flashing images and whirlwind pace of activities brought to mind a human-scale video game.
Add to this a menu with a dizzying number of selections — I stopped counting at 100 items — and it seemed like the recipe for a chaotic experience. Instead, Neehee's well-prepared vegetarian recipes and machine-like efficiency resulted in spicy, fun, non-cliche Indian food. Bonus: The bold-yet-nuanced dishes are often ready after just a few minutes.
Before queuing up to order at the counter, spend time with the most helpful element in this bright and tidy place with yellow-and-gray walls, sleek wooden tables and DIY plate, silverware and water stations: a touch-screen menu. Its photos and descriptions of every item make ordering less complicated.
I'll make it even easier: If you like spicy, no-holds-barred fare, you can't go wrong with anything here. At least I didn't, and I sampled plenty.
For a delightfully over-the-top chaat, target the colorful Special Bhel Puri ($7). It's a crispy, tangy, spicy, minty and heaving mound of black chickpeas, peanuts, puffed rice, fried chickpea-flour balls, diced tomatoes, chilies, onions and more.
The Mysore Masala Dosa ($11) is also attention grabbing — a two-and-a-half foot crepe that looks like the business end of a cannon. Served with good chutneys, veggie-laden and pleasantly sour sambar, plus an insert-it-yourself filling of curried mashed potatoes and onions with ginger and turmeric notes, it might be a comically large construction, but it's made right and tastes right.
Indochinese fans will find winners, as well. The Gobi 65 ($10) — battered and fried cauliflower — is spicier than the Paneer Chili ($11) — deeply satisfying fried cheese cubes in a soy-based sauce. Both are addictive, devil-red dishes strewn with fajita-style veggies. And both go great with Neehee's thick, tangy-sweet and first-rate Mango Lassi ($3.69).
Pair that drink with the Garlic Cheese Vada Pav ($5) and you have an entertaining take on a burger and shake. The “burger” is a patty resembling a nicely deep-fried mass of Neehee's potato-based dosa filling topped with shredded mozzarella and placed into a puffy toasted bun dusted with aromatic spices.
The massive Bombay Veggie Grill ($7), a triple-decker panini, is another irresistible sandwich. Served with chips, it consists of sliced cucumbers, beets, boiled potatoes, spicy chutney and tomatoes on good and crisp toasted bread decorated with shredded mozzarella and zippy ketchup. Like many items here, it's a busy-but-inspired combination whose whole is greater than the sum of its nice parts.
Among the 15 or so parts of the humongous, highly recommended Special Gujarati Thali ($16) are three distinct-tasting and alluring curries, three warm roti loaves glistening with ghee, a nifty heart-shaped veggie cutlet, thick-and-rich raita, a crispy papadum, semi-sweet Gujarati dal, a chaat-like “boondi-moong salad” and a pudding-like confection made with yogurt that tastes like the mango lassi.
Despite being large enough for two diners — and already including a fine dessert — you might want to tack on some house ice cream ($3.50 for a generous scoop). Yes, that's excessive, but the cold treat is well-made in delicious flavors such asanjeer (fig)and kesar pista (saffron-pistachio). Besides, this place isn't really about restraint.
6080 Sawmill Rd., Dublin