On the street

Informal Indian dishes delight at Zyggyz in Southfield

Jun 2, 2010 at 12:00 am

When I created the category "Best Indian Street Food" for the MT's Best of Detroit issue back in April, it was a half-joke — as if there would be competition? But here comes Zyggyz, pronounced "Ziggy's" and opened April 8, marketing itself as "Indo-American fast food." It's not as authentic as Neehee's Indian Vegetarian Street Food in Canton and Farmington, and it doesn't pretend to be: bacon and eggs, falafel, and a Zyggy roll that looks like a burrito share the menu with your samosa chaat and your paneer pakora. But it's a fun place with a friendly staff and prices to match.

It's not exactly fast food, either. It's a sit-down place, quite informal, where you order from a menu and a server brings your food.

I didn't venture into the all-day breakfast menu — omelets $3.99, egg and cheese croissant $1.79 — nor the Mediterranean offerings: falafel served three ways plus hummus. Nor did I take a chance on the "vegetarian sloppy Joe served on a hamburger bun," aka pav bjaji, a real Indian fast food popular in Mumbai.

The best deal is the $5.95 combo plate: two items from a list of four vegetarian and three meat dishes, plus rice; add naan or paratha for $1.25. 

Most delicious, though, is samosa chaat: cut-up samosas covered in chana masala (chickpeas cooked with tomatoes, red onion and cilantro, in this case), onions and yogurt sauce. It sounds like a muddle, but it's very fresh, so each flavor stands out to great effect.

The seven dishes available for the combo are mostly not as outstanding; they're more one-note, though the one taste is always fine. They are chana masala (see above — excellent), saag paneer, aloo mutter, dal makhani, chicken tikka masala, chicken curry and beef rogan josh. The saag (spinach), served with shards of ginger, has a sharp, bright flavor; the dal (lentils) are both mild and rich; the aloo mutter is more boring, the mutter (peas) too soft.

The chicken dishes were satisfying, if not stellar; they were out of beef for the rogan josh when I asked. It's advertised as served in Zyggyz sauce, which makes me wonder.  "Zyggy Zing Sauce," based on red hot peppers and ginger, was the dominant flavor in the "Zyggy Roll" I tried, and it overpowered the lamb, the onion, the carrots, the tomatoes, the cucumbers and the lettuce, not to mention the paratha they were rolled up in.

Other Zyggy Rolls contain paneer (a version of cottage cheese), aloo (potatoes), paneer and aloo, beef or chicken. The rolls are handy if you really are fast-fooding it — grabbing one to eat in the car — but I'd ask for less sauce next time.

No fast-food restaurant would be complete without fries, and Zyggyz's are fabulous. They're called masala fries and bear no resemblance to McDonald's limp, puny slices. The big $2.95 helping is good and crisp, with cuts from very long potatoes, subtly spiced with cloves, cardamom, pepper and more. Even non-fans of Indian food would find it worth a stop for these. Cheese fries, though, are topped with bright-orange American cheese from a can.

In a section regrettably called "Tiki Bites," meaning appetizers, you can order paneer pakora, essentially fried cottage cheese, but don't. Get the samosas instead, which are stuffed very full.

Drinks: You can't leave without a mango lassi, of course, and Zyggyz's is as vibrant in taste and color as any I've had. Also completely wonderful is a strawberry smoothie made with real strawberries and yogurt. It tastes more like strawberries and cream, another reason for anyone at all to visit. Our server said the other smoothies were made with syrups, and the shakes are non-dairy, made with a mix. If you like that kind of thing you could go for a Mocha Madness, Blue Raspberry or Orange Creamsicle shake. 

I loved both desserts I tried, rice pudding and carrot halwa, a simple dish of grated carrots, sugar and milk, cooked to a sweet paste. Gulab jamun, the fried balls in sticky syrup, are also available.

Zyggyz is attracting a mix of Indian and non-Indian customers. Spice levels are pretty low, but requests for adjustments will be honored.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].