I have a confession to make: I'm a reformed picky eater. My mother tells tales of battles of wills, plain hamburgers (with catsup only) and nightly tears when it came to finishing my vegetables.
When I went away to college, I opened not only my mind but also my palate and started trying foods that would have horrified my younger self. I had missed years of eating good food, but eventually I learned the joy that good food can bring. I tried Indian food for the first time in my late twenties, and it was love at first bite, so patronizing a new Indian restaurant in town was a no-brainer.
Brij Mohan started out as an Indian sweets shop in Sharonville and expanded in July to include a full dinner menu. Four of us walked in on a busy Friday night to see a massive sweets case dominating the room. We made a note of all the items we wanted to try after dinner.
The restaurant was already bustling as we took our seats. A server came by to give us menus and let us know we were to go back to the counter to order. I hadn’t realized it before we arrived, but Brij Mohan is strictly vegetarian (I did notice upon leaving that the sign outside says as much) and I was a bit concerned for my husband, an avowed and happy omnivore. We hemmed and hawed for a while over the menu and finally made our choices. By this time, the restaurant was in full swing with every table taken. I would have expected a level of noise I don’t normally appreciate, but even with the place packed we never had to raise our voices to hear each other.
We started our meal with a mixed vegetable pakora ($3.99), vegetable samosas ($2.99) and papri chaat ($4.99). The pakora and the samosas were quite good, spicy and familiar, but the papri chat was the big hit (and surprise) of the night. Cold, cubed potatoes and chickpeas were topped with what the menu calls “crispies” — fried wheat crackers — and the dish is smothered in mint chutney, tamarind chutney, yogurt and cilantro. It was completely addictive, and I wished I had ordered another. Our friend dubbed them “Indian nachos,” and I will be looking for them at every Indian restaurant from now on.
For my main dish, I ordered the paneer makhani ($9.99) and didn’t regret doing so. The paneer wasn’t too soft and offered a nice contrast from the heat of the makhani sauce, a butter/tomato/onion sauce. The heat range at Brij Mohan runs 1-6, and I fall firmly in the “2-3” camp. One of my dining companions likes things quite spicy, so he ordered his bhindi masala ($9.99) at a 4. It was almost too spicy for me, but the okra was cooked perfectly and not at all slimy (as okra can sometimes be).
We also sampled a dish of malai kofta ($8.99), little fried spheres of paneer and vegetables with spices in a creamy tomato masala sauce, and a vegetable biryani ($9.99). Both were very good, though the biryani fell slightly short of our expectations. Perhaps that can be blamed on the absolutely spectacular nature of the other dishes we tried.
Portions at Brij Mohan are generous, so much so that the four of us still had plenty of leftovers to take home. We rounded out our dinner with garlic naan ($2.99), an order of parantha ($2.89) and raita ($2.49). We realized too late that every single table, aside from ours, was getting deliveries of poori ($2.25), a whole wheat puffed bread. They must be delicious, so we made a note to try it the next time.
When it came time for dessert, we sent the men folk to the counter to choose something. They came back with a box filled with one of just about everything from the case, from the very traditional gulab jamun (fried milk balls soaked in cardamom syrup) to the lovely petha, a crystal-clear slice of pumpkin flesh soaked in sugar water for several days. The sweets were delightful and unexpected. I particularly liked the gaajar burfi, grated carrots and pistachios formed into a small rectangle reminiscent of carrot cake but so much better; lighter, sweeter and habit-forming. Desserts run $2.99-$4.99 with most coming in at $6.99 per pound (like the sampler we tried).
Brij Mohan opened for dinner in July of this year, and they still have a few bugs to work out, mostly in the form of swapping out the disposable dining ware for proper plates and utensils. The food, though, is top notch.
And I needn’t have worried about the satisfaction of my omnivorous husband. As it turned out, Brij Mohan doesn’t need to offer anything more.
Go: 11277 Reading Road, Sharonville
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Entrée Prices: $7.49-$9.99
Red Meat Alternatives: Fully vegetarian
Accessibility: Fully accessible