Once again, my readers and eaters voted and sent me on another wild ride worthy of Mr. Toad himself. Today in my finest motorcar and driving goggles, the entourage and I were off to Monsoon Indian restaurant in downtown Casper.

At a rather non-descript intersection, we entered a nearly empty building and descended into the basement. Once well below the level of the street, we passed though a large security gate and found ourselves standing in a desolate waiting area. Expecting the need to know a secret knock to enter a prohibition era speakeasy, a kind gentleman appeared from the shadows and whisked us away. As if part of some subversive underground smuggling ring, we passed though dark passageways and empty rooms.

Arriving at the rear of the labyrinth, we reached a windowless room with a few groups of diners casually conversing and enjoying. Menus were opened and items perused. As a diner who has not eaten much Indian food, I am not ashamed to admit that I recognized absolutely nothing on the menu. There was indeed a section for burgers and other American fare, but what’s the point? When it India, do as the Indians do. So we opened the menus and began to learn.

Wait staff seemed very polite and willing to educate us, but there was a distinct communications barrier. A sure sign of authentic grub, but it forced us into a certain level of experimentation. No problem for a crew or world travelers. A few mispronounced words and some exchanges in the universal language of laughter and our order was in.

With the magic happening in the kitchen, I initiated my customary snooping. The main dining room was large and open. Without windows however, it had an oddly claustrophobic feeling. Every corner seemed to conceal a dark passageway, through which employees would come and go almost magically. The restroom sign was hovering over one of these portals, so I decided to tempt fate and take a walk. The trip took me through several more dark hallways and past many darkened rooms. Approaching a corner, I was half expecting some 20’s era gangster and his Chicago typewriter to appear before me.

The restroom was generic, but the walk back was more interesting. From the new perspective, I could see into several of these off limits rooms. One view showed me a pile of discard waiting for the trip upstairs in a freight elevator. While this was far from the kitchen, it wasn’t an appetizing sight. Further walking found the environment clean, but cluttered. Tables stacked in one corner, chairs and electronics in the next. The excess made me want to put up a garage sale sign and hope for some windfall income. The trip walked me past the kitchen which I stuck my head in and looked around for a fleeting moment. Everything appeared clean and in order, exactly as I would expect for a productive and safe work environment.

Once back at the table, our food arrived. The server provided plenty of rice with a hint of cinnamon and a basket of flat bread called chapatti (several spelling variations available). Both proved to be an extremely appetizing pre-meal snack. The main dishes arrived and I was very impressed by the presentation. Colors from all facets of the rainbow graced our table. While the meats were familiar to American eaters, I can assure you the spices are not. They provided a bizarre taste that was almost sweet, but with a mild bite of heat at the end. It is hard to equate it to any customary dish normally eaten in this country. Probably most shocking to this eater was the portion size. I was quite disappointed to see a small plate of food set before me. However, an odd thing happened. Near half way through the entrée, I was approaching fullness. While I was easily able to polish off the remainder of the calories, I came to understand this food as extremely filling.

One of my compatriots who does not have an ethnic appetite decided to order a standard burger off of the American menu. Clearly this is not the specialty of the preparation staff. He lambasted it as “bland and ordinary”. Beware if you bring picky young eaters or spouses, there isn’t much to appease them that isn’t Indian.

Once bloated and ready to explode, we were presented with a gratis desert. Initially we all thought we were busted and this was an attempt at a favorable review. Watching other tables, we noticed the same free treat being offered. Clear conscience at hand, we happily jumped in. It was a small rolled ball of dough that had been baked and covered in a sweet syrup and was flanked by a rice pudding. Being that I am not a huge sugar fan, my curiosity was slaked in several bites. It didn’t help matters that we all felt the urge to un-buckle our jeans in a futile attempt to breath.

The palatable bill was paid and we were off. There were some large menu options that would have broken open the piggy bank, but carefully pouring over the menu found us some wallet friendly fare.

While leaving, we caught wind of future expansion as well as live entertainment on the weekends. Seeing upgrades in action, we were excited. Looking at the freight elevator longingly, we traipsed up the stairs, cursing our own mobility. Passing through the security gate again, I felt more comfortable knowing my criminal record remained spotless and that this fine eatery felt much more legitimate.

After careful consideration and meditation, I finally found a number which accurately describes our meal. I give Monsoon Indian food a 6.25/10 garage sale signs. This was a difficult review in that I feel the restaurant isn’t complete. I removed points based upon the plethora of clutter and the lack of attention to environmental detail. Simple acts such as hiding wiring behind TVs or closing un-appealing doors would help tremendously. A little more time spent on décor would bring the rating number up to a 7+.

I added points because of the deliciously authentic food that filled this eater up and didn’t cause a wallet meltdown.

This eater plans on returning.

The Casper Food Critic is an independent author and is not employed by K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC. The views expressed by the Casper Food Critic do not reflect those of K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC.

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