Vasanta Bhavan

The vibrancy of Central Jersey’s Indian population is one reason this vegetarian chain, which has more than 25 locations in India, opened its first and still-only American franchise here in 2004.

The vibrancy of Central Jersey’s Indian population is one reason this vegetarian chain, which has more than 25 locations in India, opened its first and still-only American franchise here in 2004.

South Indian cooking, despite the absence of meat and fish, is rich, satisfying, and varied. Dishes range from fun pull-apart foods such as dosas (thin, buttery, pizza-sized rice or lentil crepes) and oothapams (a slightly thicker rice pancake) to vegetable curries, creamy stews, and fluffy rice pilafs.

As prepared at Vasanta Bhavan, the food is delicious, not at all greasy, generous in portion, and very inexpensive. Much of the extensive menu is available as takeout.

Dosas ($5.49 to $9.99) arrive beautifully browned, folded, and hanging off the plate. They are served with a trio of sauces, including a coconut chutney with mustard seed that is so creamy you’ll swear it’s fortified with dairy (it’s not). Fried samosas (sort of an Indian empanada) are packed with spiced peas and potatoes. Paneer tikka masala loses nothing by substituting homemade paneer cheese for Northern Indian tandoori-baked chicken. It comes in a creamy, spiced tomato sauce just begging to be mopped up with freshly-baked Indian breads such as the buttery naan. You can bring your own beer or wine. Even with dessert, dinner for two comes in around $25.—S.P.

Quakerbridge Shoppes, 3800 Quakerbridge Rd (609-586-7899), vasantabhavan.com.

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