The Copper Pot Indian Grill is that rare Twin Cities Indian restaurant that doesn’t adopt the same-old, same-old attitude embraced by the majority of its lookalike competitors.
For starters, someone in the kitchen devotes a fair amount of time to grinding and toasting enough spices to stock the bulk section at your friendly neighborhood natural foods co-op.
Ajowan, coriander, clove, cardamom, mustard, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and saffron are just a few of the intoxicating scents that tickled my nose as a half-dozen highly aromatic dishes arrived at the table.
Even better, an impressive array of peppers and chiles is very nearly matched by the prodigious volume of fresh, aromatic herbs.
Sure, the menu dips into familiar tikka and tandoori territory. But its strengths lie in less charted waters. Revel in charred, succulent lamb chops rubbed with cardamom. Or a pot pie-style biryani filled with slow-braised goat. Or a feisty stew of garlic- and chile-infused shrimp.
The vegetarian options stand up to their meat and poultry counterparts, particularly the skillfully perfumed rice dishes and rich, hearty lentil stews. Fresh-baked breads include a decent naan and spirited versions of kulcha and paratha.
Prices are reasonable — most dinner entrees hover in the mid-teens — and portions are more than generous.
The full bar (and its long list of specialty cocktails) is a rarity in the Indian restaurant world. The cheery, spotless setting does the historic Lumber Exchange Building proud. Service is polite and attentive.
Another highlight? The noon-hour buffet ($10.99 weekdays, $12.99 Saturday and Sunday) surprises for its variety and emphasis on fresh, generously seasoned fare. 10 S. 5th St. (at Hennepin Av. S.), Mpls., 612-331-5577, www.copperpotmn.com. Lunch buffet served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon to 3 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Dinner served 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun.