2351 Millersport Hwy., Amherst, NY 14226
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Amherst Getzville Indian
"We always look for big or little hints as to a restaurant's capacity for greatness, and there are indeed signs that Rocky's kitchen is capable of some impressive feats."
Earlier this month, we spotlighted a bustling Kenmore plaza full of Asian food destinations, and this week, a strip mall in Getzville added the brand new Rocky's Indian Restaurant to its existing collection of Chinese, Mexican, and American options. Located on Millersport Highway right next to Elmo's, the venue that houses Rocky's has been under renovation since at least December of last year, offering little clue as to its scale until its covered front windows announced a "grand opening" this Monday. Since Rocky's is literally only three days old as of today, we're posting only an opinionated preview; like all new restaurants, it deserves some time to settle in before receiving a rating and full review.
A Little Different. Though no Indian restaurant in Western New York aspires to the semi-formal standards of truly fancy places such as Chicago's India House, several - including Kabab & Curry and Tandoori's - use a combination of nice decor and smart service to differentiate themselves from lower-end and lower-class local options. On appearance, Rocky's Indian Restaurant is somewhere in the middle of the pack: its walls are plainly painted with two earthy tones, modestly covered with sari-like fabrics and Indian hangings, while the floor is a taut gray carpet - nothing fancy. There's even a small fridge up front for bottled soft drinks. On the other hand, the tables are covered in red cotton, the silverware is nice, and the menu offers numerous choices - roughly equivalent to the aforementioned restaurants, and far beyond the scope of the area's typical Indian takeout or buffet. At least for now, plates are delivered to tables by two people at once, a touch generally reserved for higher-end Indian places, and the prices are roughly on par with Kabab & Curry's, perhaps a little lower when adjusted for portion sizes. Entrees range from $9 to $16, most in the $11-$12 range, with appetizers, breads, and desserts running from $1.25 to $6 each, averaging $3.
Some Early Promising Signs. We always look for big or little hints as to a restaurant's capacity for greatness, and there are indeed signs that Rocky's kitchen is capable of some impressive feats. Take, for instance, the Samosas ($2.50), large fried triangular dumplings served here solely in vegetarian form, with potatoes and green peas inside. Their deep-fried pastry shells were crispy and light, served dry rather than greasy in a demonstration of proper frying, while the tamarind and mint chutneys tasted as if they were freshly made. We prefer our samosas with meat, but were impressed by the delicacy of everything on the plate, and would order these again.
Similarly, we were pleased by both the Lamb Vindaloo entree ($12) and the generous included portion of steamed Basmati Rice, each of which arrived with a modest green garnish - cilantro on the Vindaloo, peas on the rice. Though the Vindaloo wasn't a remarkable rendition in any way, the lamb was tender and moist, reasonable rather than generous in quantity, and accompanied by small pieces of potato in the sauce; plenty was left over to add punch to the mild, fragrant rice. Notably, we ordered this dish at a spice level of medium and found it to be relatively tame; spice fiends may want to tell the kitchen to use less restraint.
Stuck In The Middle. Another couple of items we ordered, the Garlic Naan bread ($3) and the Mango Lassi milkshake ($3.50), were somewhere in the average to above average range. For whatever reason, truly outstanding Garlic Naan is really hard to find around here, so we always go out of our way to sample it at new places in hopes that we'll discover a version as exceptionally garlicky or massively oversized as we've experienced elsewhere. Rocky's version was fairly typical: unquestionably made with real garlic, its predominant flavors were butter and the hot, thin layer of soft, pita-like bread. A bowl of Hot Pickles ($1.50), otherwise known as achar, offered too little vegetable variety but a strong spicy and sour flavor nonetheless, increasing the potency of the Naan; the Mango Lassi was just a little heavy on yogurt flavor and light on sweet mango, but otherwise nice.
Mixed Impressions. Two other dishes left us with mixed and not entirely favorable feelings. One was the Shrimp Karahi ($15), which arrived looking absolutely beautiful - shredded cilantro and ginger on top, plus a generous number of medium-sized shrimp in a vegetable-laden chili, yogurt, tomato, and onion sauce. For the first time we can recall in an Indian dish, the shrimp in this dish arrived almost lifelessly white, lightly colored solely by the brown karahi sauce, and tasted a little undercooked. This was a shame given how texturally interesting and deliberately uneven the sauce was, alternating between bites of soft veggies and firm, strong slices of ginger - if the shrimp had been better, this would have been an outstanding entree.
A similar issue affected the Chilli Chicken ($13), which we ordered based on previous positive experiences outside of this area. Though it's most certainly Chinese-inspired and thus different from the better-known Indian preparations of chicken, it's a popular dish with Indians, and we've had a number of slightly different but great renditions over the years. This wasn't among them: the "fried" chicken was barely coated or crispy, evincing little of the batter and cornstarch coating the dish normally includes; Rocky's instead loaded the bowl with numerous beautiful green pepper, onion, and tomato slices, and made up for the improper prep with a reasonably generous portion of quality breast meat. This dish wasn't what it was supposed to be, but it wasn't bad, either.
For the time being, our view of Rocky's Indian Restaurant is positive with caveats: the prices are about right, and the flavors are pretty good - more than enough to impress those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine - but apart from the larger portion sizes, we have yet to find anything here as impressive as at Kabab & Curry or even Tandoori's. Moreover, some of the items fell a little short of expectations, though this could be attributable to the restaurant's youth. We'll dig deeper on our follow-up visit, including desserts such as Rasmalai and Gulab Jamun, and share our findings soon thereafter; until then, we wouldn't hesitate to call this one worthy of your near-term attention.