5 Rivers Indian Cuisine’s madras chili masala with paneer cheese, is cooked in a tomato sauce with chilies, browned garlic, cumin and other Indian spices. (Sharon Salyer/ The Herald)

5 Rivers Indian Cuisine’s madras chili masala with paneer cheese, is cooked in a tomato sauce with chilies, browned garlic, cumin and other Indian spices. (Sharon Salyer/ The Herald)

5 Rivers: Indian cuisine cooked to order by a master chef

This family-run restaurant tucked away in south Everett is well worth discovering.

The biggest surprise about 5 Rivers Indian Cuisine is that something so good could be tucked away in such an unassuming building.

And we’re talking truly tucked away, as in the corner of a small strip development along Evergreen Way.

It doesn’t look like the place where a chef who worked at two well-known Indian restaurants in Seattle might set up shop.

Just look for a red, white and blue sign peeking head and shoulders above the building. And who cares what the outside of the building looks like? What matters is what comes out of the kitchen. And here’s my take: Prepare for dining delight.

The restaurant opened two months ago, run by Baljit Singh and her husband and chef Swaran Singh.

Much of their business to date has come from word-of-mouth recommendations, Baljit Singh said.

Both she and her husband say they measure their success by the reactions from customers as they eat. “We are happy when we see the smiles,” she said.

Former Daily Herald reporter Kari Bray came with me to try out the restaurant. Even as we were puzzling over what to order, it was the aromas wafting out of the kitchen that caught our attention.

That same melody of pleasant aromas became even more fragrant as our orders were brought to the table.

Kari ordered the mango curry with lamb ($11) meat sauteed with Major Grey’s chutney and a bit of cream.

I ordered Madras chili masala with paneer cheese ($9), a dish cooked in a sauce of tomatoes roasted with chilies, browned garlic, cumin and other spices.

We also ordered aloo paratha ($3.50), unleavened layered whole wheat bread stuffed with potatoes, onions and spices and raita ($3.95), a yogurt type of sauce.

I’ve ordered Indian-styled bread at many restaurants, but I’ve never had a whole wheat bread stuffed with vegetables and spices.

We eagerly tore off sections of the bread. Kari immediately dipped it into her curry sauce. “I could dip the (paratha) bread in that mango curry and eat it like chips and dip.” she said. “It is delightful.”

I quickly added it as an accompaniment to my chili masala and rice. All I could do is ditto what Kari said. And yes, in our first few bites both of us were smiling.

As the name of the dish indicates, there were red chilies in my masala. I like spicy food. But my rule of thumb is: Every restaurant measures its spiciness, or heat, a little differently.

So I asked for the spice knob on my serving to be turned just to two. It gave a pleasant kick without being overpowering.

Baljit and Swaran Singh’s son, Bhupinder Singh, 28, said his father began his restaurant career as a dishwasher. Over the years, he worked to develop his culinary craft. “Now he’s a master,” Bhupinder said.

Swaram Singh previously worked at Saffron Grill in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood. He was head chef at Cedars restaurant, which opened in Seattle’s University District in 1974, for 12 years, Bhupinder Singh said.

“My dad said, ‘Someday we’ll have our own’” restaurant, he said.

The restaurant’s name — 5 Rivers — derives from the name of an Indian state, Punjab. It is translated as five rivers, Bhupinder Singh said.

The family passed by the space that would become their restaurant three times, but once inside were drawn to it by its space. They wanted to keep the interior by design “a low-key village vibe,” Bhupinder Singh said, a place that would remind some customers of their homeland.

The restaurant has non-Indian food, too: a variety of Mediterranean dishes including shish kabob and falafel. But with several pages of Indian cuisine choices, I’d stick with that. Swaran Singh takes obvious pride in his cooking.

“I don’t do buffets,” he said. “It takes time, but I make it fresh.”

The food comes with a choice of meats and some seafood.There’s one other interesting addition to the menu. Items also can be ordered as vegetarian, vegan or Halal following the Muslim dietary guidelines.

So, yes, your first journey to Five Rivers may take a little extra time to find if you’re not super-familiar with that stretch of Evergreen Way. But aren’t special dining experiences worth that little extra effort?

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

If you go

5 Rivers Indian Cuisine, 9629 Evergreen Way, No. 201, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more, call 425-212-9952 or go to 5riversindiancuisine.business.site.

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