Naan and Brew: Chana Family Bistro Spices up Bellingham

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Naan and Brew is livening up downtown with flavor-packed, authentic Indian dishes and a menu balanced by a solid selection of refreshing local brews. They are situated on the corner of Maple across from the Depot Market Square, and offer a daily lunch buffet in addition to the delectable dishes on the menu.

Opening in December 2016, the restaurant was buzzing with customers when the Dine Drink Bellingham team recently paid a visit. We quickly dove into the enticing menu, and definitely overindulged.

We started with a couple of appetizers. The Paneer Pakora, deep fried cubes of paneer cheese, was crispy on the outside, had a thin layer of herbs in the middle, and was served with a sweet brown sauce.

We also ordered Chicken Kabobs, clay oven-baked pieces of chicken served with seasoned peppers and onions, balanced with a side of cooling raita, a yogurt sauce that had a hint of fresh herb flavor. I could have easily filled up on appetizers, but I managed some self-control and waited for my entrée.

While waiting for the main event, I perused the tap list. Co-owners Harbhajan Singh Chana and Mike Chana wanted to feature a broad selection local craft beer in addition to their authentic cuisine. They are spot-on with offerings from breweries ranging from Kulshan to Boundary Bay.

Marc, DDBham’s chief editor, tried the Dawn Patrol, a Pacific Ale from Aslan for the first time and found it light and refreshing. With notes of pineapple and mango, this medium body ale has an ABV of 5.2% and an IBU of 18. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Shoe Toss Rye IPA, my go-to at Wander Brewing. The Shoe Toss boasts a 6.8% ABV and a powerful 100 IBUs.

When my Lamb Masala, arrived, I dove into fragrant chunks of tender lamb cooked in a savory tomato and pepper base, served with Basmati rice. Meanwhile, Marc ate the Chicken Curry. I got a few warm whiffs of the rich, sweet fragrance of the curry from across the table.

While I was enjoying my meal, I noticed someone enthusiastically greeting customers at every table, genuinely asking how their food tasted and about their experience. He approached our table and asked us how everything was going. We told him we loved the food and beer selection, and our that meals were fresh and flavorful.

He asked “did you try the naan?” We awkwardly looked around, embarrassed that we had forgotten to order the namesake dish.

The next order of business was clear. When the flatbread arrived moment later, hot from the oven, we used it to sop up our the rich sauces in our dishes. I went for garlic, while Marc stuck with the traditional naan.

A bit later we got the chance to introduce ourselves. He turned out to be Mike Chana, co-owner and also the son of founder, Harbhajan Singh Chana. It turns out that Mike was just the person I needed to talk to. We arranged to chat after we wrapped up our meals so I could get the scoop on the restaurant.

After Marc and I finished up, bellies full of spiced meat and sauces, I went to talk to Mike. He was born in India, moved to California, and after a stint in Reno for school, ended up in Washington with his family and a collective dream to open an Indian restaurant that served the kind of food the family is accustomed to—food made with the freshest available ingredients and cooked with a major focus on quality. His father, Harbhajan, made it happen.

During our conversation, Mike mentioned their daily lunch buffet. I would have made any excuse to go back, but a sunny Oysterdome hike the following week was the justification I needed. A friend and I came in from the outdoors, ready to take advantage of another flavor-packed Indian meal.

The buffet included Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken, daal (Indian lentils), meatballs in a savory tomato-based sauce, garlicky green beans and a coriander chutney (sauce) that I used as a dip for my naan.  We were hungry—we tried it all. The pleasant diversity of flavors brought us both back to the buffet for seconds. To top the meal off, they served masala tea, a gently sweet, milky beverage, tanned with the fragrant spice blend.

With all the excellent dishes I had tasted, I had to know which one was Mike’s favorite. He described the Murgh Bahar, chicken breast stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, and topped with a cashew and pistachio gravy. I know what my order will be next time I visit.

If you’re looking to try them out for the first time, the buffet is a great deal at $9.99 (plus $1.00 for the must-have naan), and the perfect way to sample several of the dishes. Whether you head over for the buffet or for a meal, stop by to balance out a hearty, flavorful meal with some cool local brews—and don’t forget the naan.

Location: 200 East Maple St Ste 101, Bellingham, WA 98225

Menu Link: http://www.naanandbrew.com/menu/

Hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 11:00am-9:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00am-11:00pm

Phone: (360)389-5493

To view the listing on our site: http://dinedrinkbellingham.com/places/united-states/washington/bellingham/indian-cuisine-1/naan-and-brew-indian-cuisine/