Chicken 65 pizza is the star at Farmington’s Gift of India

Chicken 65 pizza.
Chicken 65 pizza. Tom Perkins

Gift Of India

34425 Grand River Ave., Farmington
Handicap accessible
Mon-Th 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

No two cuisines in the culinary mashup era seem to work out as surprisingly well as Indian food and pizza. Though a few metro Detroit eateries trade in the concept, one of its finest examples is the chicken 65 pie made by Gift of India, a Farmington fast casual spot.

Several components of GOI's pizzas make it worth a bite, but what really sets them apart is the addition of two what appear to be mayo-based cilantro and chili sauces that impart a richness not found in most pies. It's applied liberally in a spiral pattern that not only adds depth but, with a coating of diced fresh cilantro, gives it an A+ presentation.

For those unfamiliar, chicken 65 is typically a dish of bird that's marinated in a blend of chilis and spices before being fried with onions and peppers, then served over a bed of rice with a deep red chili sauce. Its origins are disputed, but some claim it was invented in 1965 by a chef who ran a famous kitchen in an Indian hotel. It's popular on the Indian subcontinent, and it turns out it's a fantastic pizza topping.

A thin layer of tomato sauce covers the dough, and that's blanketed by a healthy coating of mozzarella cheese. The thin crust holds a cracker-like quality, and though it's distinct, it really lets the toppings to their thing while adding the right textural component.

The 65 is spicy, so the heat averse could consider the chicken tikka pizza. Its bird is marinated in spiced yogurt and cooked in a tandoor grill, and is similar in flavor profile to the 65, but sans the hot bite from the chili. The menu also holds topping options like chicken masala, paneer schezwan, and gobi Manchurian, among many more.

While GOI's pizza should be a go-to, the rolls are equally flavorful. The restaurant wraps the filling in a paratha, a thin, flakey, Indian flatbread. The chicken tikka masala roll offers the yogurt-marinated bird in a rich, bright sauce built off of ghee, yogurt, cream, ginger, and much more. The package receives a quick, light char in the sandwich press, and is perfect with the chewy flatbread. GOI packs the chili paneer roll with cubes of paneer, sometimes billed as "Indian cottage cheese," though in texture it's more similar to firm tofu, and the filling is rolled with peppers, onion and a spicy chili sauce.

The menu also features a lengthy roster of chat, a dish that is popular with the Indian subcontinent's street vendors and is usually composed of a a jumble of fillings and competing and contrasting flavors and textures — sweet, salty, spicy, savory, and acidic elements work together to make it bright and flavorful, and it's usually served atop some kind of starchy base. The samosa chaat and kachori chaat both arrived with chickpeas, chutneys, and much more in what's a hefty plate for $5.

Many of the same toppings available for the pizza and rolls are served atop rice. Among those is the Punjabi-style rajma, a dish of kidney beans, garlic, onion, super thinly sliced green peppers for crunch, chiles, ginger, cilantro, and more, and that's all coated with the cilantro and chili sauces. Another busy and delicious dish, though it made my Midwestern palette immediately register it as "chili."

Drinks include mango lassi and an awesome chikoo shake made from the Indian fruit, milk and sugar, as well as pops and water. The restaurant is one of a crop of fast casual Indian restaurants that are aiming to franchise, though it appears the Farmington location is the only one for now.

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