For years, a baffling question has wracked the greatest culinary minds: Is there actually a difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala at Santa Rosa Indian restaurants?
To date, the answer has been elusive. They’re both tomato and cream-based sauces that no one can resist. They’re both on nearly every Indian restaurant menu without a clear explanation. They look and taste almost identical, and therein lies the garam masala rub.
Dhiraj Kafle, co-founder of Santa Rosa’s Cumin Indian Restaurant, has the answer.
The remarkably similar dishes differ in just one way — butter chicken (murgh makani) is a creamy blend of tomato sauce and spices while tikka masala has a creamy tomato gravy and onion sauce.
“They almost look the same but there is a subtle difference in taste and flavor,” says Kafle.
At Kafle’s restaurant, you can take the challenge for yourself. Both are equally delicious and they are, in fact, just a little different.
Plus, you can also have the best momos in Sonoma County.
Cumin is the dream of Kafle, who visited Santa Rosa several years ago and found something lacking in the North Indian/Nepalese restaurants here.
“After visiting several local ethnic restaurants, we were yet to find one that left us wanting more. I knew I could do better,” he says.
Joining with former Kafal owner Rak Thapa, the restaurant opened in July 2019and so far reviews have been positive. Like, okay, stop bugging me with all your emails telling me how good it is.
It’s not that the menu at Cumin is especially unique, but Kafle says that’s the point — serving Nepalese and North Indian dishes that people like.
It’s extensive with familiar flavors of palak paneer, aloo gobi, naan and tandoor. There are also some outliers such as goat biriyani, lamb curry and slow-cooked carrot pudding.
“We believe in simplicity and consistency. Our objective is to bring smiles to our customers by focusing on the quality of food and service,” said Kafle.
Chicken Momo ($8.99): Nepalese dumplings stuffed with minced chicken and mild spices. “I can’t stop eating these,” says my dad, eating most of the plate. Delicately flavored and even better with a dip of achar (a sassy ketchup sauce). Kick it up a notch with Kothay, which are fried momos.
Saag Paneer ($13.99): Chopped, cooked spinach with creamy tomato and onion sauce, studded with cubes of delicate Indian cheese.
Aloo Gobi ($13.99): A vegetarian dish made with cauliflower and potatoes with plenty of turmeric.
Butter Chicken ($14.99): Shredded dark meat chicken in a mild tomato cream sauce. My personal favorite.
Tikka Masala ($14.99): A slightly more complex tomato cream sauce. Available with chicken, tofu, veggies, or lamb.
Rice Pudding ($5.99): Warm cardamom spices in a puddle of creamy jasmine rice in cream.
Details: Cumin Restaurant is at 170 Farmers Lane, Ste. 8, near the Flamingo Hotel. Phone: 707-771-8336. Lunch: 11 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 5 p.m.- 9:30 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.