In four years, four restaurants (well, technically three) have occupied the same space on Hacks Cross, but they've had another thing in common besides the address.
They've all served Indian food.
There was Swagath Indian Cuisine, then Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, which after about a year lost the "vegetarian" in its name and served meat until it was purchased about two months ago by new owners who have named it Flavors Indian Cuisine.
There is a large and interesting menu, and even the lunch buffet offers unusual choices along with the standards you'll find on most Indian buffets. The minted rice and the Andhra chicken curry stand out, so if you find them on the buffet, by all means, indulge.
The rice is spicy, probably flavored with mint chutney, which is a paste of mint, cilantro, peppers and spices.
The curry is other-worldly. I've Googled recipes and don't see one that resembles this not-so-pretty but incredibly complex curry. The sauce is the color of a brown roux, and flavor upon flavor leaps in your mouth: Garlic, onion, cinnamon (there are even big pieces of cinnamon sticks in the curry), cumin, coriander, chili and so on. It's not listed on the menu, though a dish named kodi iguru says it's an "Andhra style spicy chicken fry," and will possibly have the same spices, sans the sauce.
Andrha refers to Andrha Pradesh, a state in southeastern India, and the region is known for its spicy food.
Take note that the cooks at Flavors will give you fiery food if you ask for it. Even if you don't, you'll might find yourself reaching for water glass (which will only make it worse; take a bite of bread or a spoonful of raita instead).
In short, there is flavor in this food, though it's a mixed bag, geographically. There are South Indian specialties such as dosas, Indo-Chinese selections, and street food typical of the cities, too.
We ordered a Mysore Masala dosa, and the server offered to make four small dosas instead of one large one, which was a thoughtful gesture.
A dosa is a very large, very thin pancake that is rolled with a mound of filling dead in the center. The ends -- and a dosa can be 18 or 24 inches long -- are hollow. You eat it by folding and by dipping pieces of the crisp dough in the center filling. It's not easy to share four ways.
This is a safe bet for those who don't like spicy food, as the filling is potato-based. Even our choice, which contained a hot chutney, was mild enough. Condiments can spice it up.
After tasting the dosa, we were surprised by the level of heat in the onion and hot chili uthappam, a pancake that's also from the South Indian menu. Order with caution, as the pancake (about the size of a large American breakfast pancake) contains fresh chilies. This means that one piece might be tame-ish and the next might have peppers and membranes that will set your mouth alight.
Did I mention the raita? Just go ahead and order a side of the yogurt sauce with your appetizers.
Much milder was the papri chaat, listed under house specials and part of a selection of street vendor food. It's a lovely little dish, a mix of crunchy wafers covered with a yogurt sauce, chopped tomatoes and herbs, topped with tiny crisp noodles.
A meal of appetizers could easily be made from the large selection (I consider the appetizers, the house specials and the South Indian specialties all "finger food," even if you might need a fork for some of it), and it would be a fun way to eat with a group.
The chicken saag was very good, a nice example of the spinach and cream dish. We weren't asked if we wanted it mild, medium or hot, and presumably it comes on the mild-to-medium side, though bursting with flavor, if you make no special request.
Indian restaurants are good for vegetarians, and Flavors has 17 items on the vegetarian menu and many other suitable choices spread throughout. One is a saag prepared with a choice of paneer (homemade cheese), aloo (potatoes) or channa (chickpeas). The base should be as good and rich as the chicken saag.
With more than 100 items on the menu, it could take some time to explore. But seeing -- and smelling -- a sizzling platter of chicken tandoori was all it took for us to order one for ourselves.
The chicken, six pieces, all small legs, came nestled in a medley of grilled yet crisp onions and peppers. It was tender and flavored to the bone.
Flavors is not big on ambience. It was very warm when we visited during lunch (and very crowded), and the interior has seen a bit of wear and tear. Still, it's nice to have another Indian choice in the market, particularly one that is so big on choices.
--Jennifer Biggs: (901) 529-5223
Flavors Indian Cuisine
Address: 4205 Hacks Cross.
Telephone: (901) 737-9914.
Hours: Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.
Reviewer's choices: Papri chaat ($5); onion and hot chilli uthappam ($7.50); chicken saag ($11); chicken tandoori ($10).
Alcohol: No alcohol.
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars