Atlanta Orders In: Royal Spice Indian strives ‘to meet everyone’s needs’

Royal Spice Indian focuses primarily on northern Indian cooking, but it also offers a few Bangladeshi dishes, including mughlai paratha. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Royal Spice Indian focuses primarily on northern Indian cooking, but it also offers a few Bangladeshi dishes, including mughlai paratha. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Affordable lunch, customizable spice levels, Bangladeshi specialties draw diners to new Dunwoody restaurant

In the fall of 2019, Junayed Ahmed snatched up the spot vacated by Da Vinci’s Donuts in the Dunwoody Village shopping complex, with plans to turn it into an Indian restaurant.

While the kitchen was being retrofitted, the pandemic hit, delaying Royal Spice Indian’s debut until June 1.

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Royal Spice Indian Restaurant is located in the Dunwoody Village shopping complex. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Royal Spice Indian Restaurant is located in the Dunwoody Village shopping complex. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Despite opening during the COVID-19 outbreak, business has been better than Ahmed anticipated. He appreciates the support that community leaders have shown him. “Even the mayor reached out to me the second week to see how it was going,” he recounted.

But, the key for Ahmed and business partner-chef Taj Ahmed (no relation) has been turning first-timers into regulars.

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Saag paneer (foreground) and garlic naan are among the offerings at Royal Spice. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Saag paneer (foreground) and garlic naan are among the offerings at Royal Spice. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

That starts with the food itself. The pair, who grew up in the same village in Bangladesh, and migrated with their respective families to Georgia in the 1990s, have a menu that focuses primarily on northern Indian cooking, but it also includes a few Bangladeshi items. Mughlai paratha, for example, is a Bangladeshi counterpart to an Indian samosa. Rather than a triangular-shaped fried pastry pocket stuffed with savory fillings, it looks more like a super-sized empanada: a mix of chicken, eggs, onion and cilantro sandwiched between pastry dough, fried, cut into squares and showered with raw red onion slivers.

There’s also a traditional Bangladeshi-style chicken roast that sees the leg quarters marinated in yogurt with ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric and other spices. The result is full-flavored, fall-off-the-bone chicken in a mild, creamy gravy.

Chicken tikka masala remains a top seller, but the partners also want to appeal to noncarnivorous diners. To that end, they offer items like a mixed vegetable masala. Gobi ’65, a recent addition to the menu, is a vegan rendition of the famed Chicken ’65. While the latter sees marinated chicken fried with green chiles, curry leaves and cilantro, the Gobi offers deep-fried cauliflower and bell peppers in a thick, aromatic tomato gravy.

Royal Spice Indian Restaurant is owned by Junayed Ahmed (pictured) and chef Taj Ahmed. Although unrelated, they grew up in the same village in Bangladesh. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Royal Spice Indian Restaurant is owned by Junayed Ahmed (pictured) and chef Taj Ahmed. Although unrelated, they grew up in the same village in Bangladesh. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Royal Spice also lets the customer decide the spice level of most dishes. Six heat levels range from mild to extra hot, and Ahmed encourages guests to get adventurous. “Spices add more flavor,” he said. “I’m trying to convert people who say they don’t like spicy to try.”

The restaurant offers on-premises dining, but with COVID-19 still a concern, carryout is the order of the day. And it’s one reason Ahmed eschewed a traditional Indian buffet in lieu of a weekday lunch deal available for takeout and on-site dining.

“I’m not a fan of the buffet,” he said. “The times I had buffets, I end up being sick because I overeat.”

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A software quality assurance analyst by day, with a background in operations management, Ahmed also considers buffet food that languishes for hours on the steam table insufferable. “I am promoting quality food. You won’t get the same quality at 1 p.m. (as) at 11 a.m.,” he said.

For $9.99, customers get a bowl of mulligatawny soup, an onion pakora or vegetarian samosa, two curries, basmati rice and naan. “I have never seen anybody finish the whole meal, because it’s too much,” Ahmed said.

That doesn’t mean leftovers go to waste. “With a buffet, you can’t take it home. With the lunch menu, people can take the rest home.”

Demand caused by the pandemic has thwarted any chances of purchasing patio heaters for the winter, but Ahmed takes the challenges in stride. After all, operating during a pandemic is all he has known as a newcomer to the restaurant industry. “I don’t know what it would have been (like) before COVID anyway,” he said.

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The tandoori roti is a hefty sampler of tandoori-grilled meats, plus onion pakoras and a vegetable or chicken samosa. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
The tandoori roti is a hefty sampler of tandoori-grilled meats, plus onion pakoras and a vegetable or chicken samosa. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

ROYAL SPICE INDIAN RESTAURANT

Menu: Indian, with some Bangladeshi specialty dishes

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: mulligatawny soup, mughlai paratha, chicken roast, vegetable tikka masala, saag paneer, garlic naan, tandoori roti, kala jamun (a dessert of deep-fried balls made from milk and cheese solids and soaked in a sweet syrup). The tandoori roti is a hefty sampler of grilled meats with onion pakoras and a samosa. The vegetarian mulligatawny was notably bright with fresh lemon. For a taste of Bangladesh, order the amply portioned muglai paratha and the chicken roast.

Service options: dine-in; takeout (order by phone, online or in person); delivery within 5-mile radius available evenings, Wednesdays-Sundays

Outdoor dining: patio

Mask policy: required for all employees; required for guests, except when seated

Address, phone: 5537 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody; 470-448-3126

Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 2-10 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Website: royalspicedunwoody.com

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