Chai Pani, Asheville, NC., 11/17/22

exterior – 22 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC., 28801

Chai Pani translates to “tea and water” and is slang for going out for a quick bite.  The restaurant features the street food of India as well as some comfort food you might be served in a home.  Opening 13 years ago Chef/Owner Meherwan Irani and his wife wanted to offer an under-represented type of Indian cuisine in an affordable place.  In 2022  they were named an Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation and in 2021 The New York Times included Chai Pani in their ‘America’s Favorite Restaurants’ list.  Chef Irani now has restaurants in numerous cities.  In Asheville, it’s a long one-room place with a half dozen seats at the bar and the rest at the booths that line the walls and tables in the center. One end of the room opens to the kitchen.  The windows to the street let in additional light, Indian music is in the background and the staff was friendly but not the most directive.  The food varied but for the most part, was full of flavor and texture.

Set up

Frankie shared restaurant details
ready for a crowd
looking toward kitchen
bar area



We started with 2 of their snack options – Bhel Puri and Matchstick Okra Fries.  The first was a tangy, crunchy, mildly spicy Indian street food classic.  It contained puffed rice, flour crisps (puris that were made in-house), crunchy chickpea noodles, roasted chana daal, cilantro, onions, tamarind, and green & spicy garlic chutneys.  It was delicious but you needed to eat it with a spoon, not your fingers.  It was not especially hot-spicy but the spice did creep up on you however, the flavor was outstanding.  Slightly sweet, it was fun to eat.

Matchstick Okra Fries and Bhel Puri
closer bhel puri

Matchstick Okra Fries were made from julienned okra fries that were tossed with salt and seasoning and served with a lime wedge.  The guy who brought it to the table suggested squeezing the lime over it all to really enhance the flavor and he was right.  It did bring out the flavors but you couldn’t get away from some of the woody okras that were used and a bit on the tough side.  Otherwise, there was no slime but also little okra flavor, mostly crispy crunchy sticks.  Both snacks were good but I preferred the puri.

closer okra matchsticks


The Sloppy Jai (Kheema Pav) were sandwiches on 2 toasted buns filled with spiced lamb hash simmered with tomatoes, ginger, and aromatic spices garnished with onions, cilantro, green chutney, and sweet yogurt.  The plate also had a serving of masala slaw.  The buns were particularly nice – soft with good flavor.  The filling was finely chopped and well seasoned.  It was easy to split or could be a tasty meal for one.

Sloppy Jai (Kheema Pav) and masala slaw
Frankie posed on bathroom pictures


The Butter Chicken Thali was made with marinated and seared Joyce Farms chicken presented in an aromatic tomato-cream sauce with butter and jaggery. This was said to be a North Indian favorite and one our their signature dishes.  It came with basmati rice, daal, raita, masala slaw, and papadums.  The server suggested adding naan to it and we did.  The chicken was mostly well-cooked chunks of white meat in a great sauce.  I liked eating the sauce on the naan, and pushing the chicken aside.  The naan bread was hot, soft, and good.  The raita was mild and fine and I enjoyed mixing it with the lamb sandwich.  The daal or chickpeas were nice with the crispy papadums.  The slaw was good but unremarkable as was the rice.  A large plate and overall good but their smaller options packed more flavor punch.

Butter chicken Thali and naan
naan closer
Frankie enjoyed the aromas

2 thoughts on “Chai Pani, Asheville, NC., 11/17/22

Leave a Reply