Where Indian food tilts Southern

Persis Biryani Indian Grill, a franchise based in New Jersey, has two locations in Charlotte, one of which you should check out.

That’s the south Charlotte location, near Ballantyne, where bountiful plates of fragrant and colorful food arrive hot, where staffers are eager to please and give you six levels of spiciness to choose from (and where 0 is dubbed “baby mild”!) and you can nestle among bright lanterns and silvery serving ware.

Here, the signature biryani is made Hyderabadi-style. Biryani (beer-ee-yon-ee) is one of those dishes claimed by more than one region; cuisines in both north and south India can make a good case for being first with it. And Persis alludes to the Persian/Iranian influence on Indian cooking, a well-known and wonderful thing. But Hyderabad is mid-south-India, so we’ll call this Southern.

The dish focuses on the rice, delicate and light basmati, and the seasonings: A proprietary blend outlined by the franchise agreement. Order it baby mild and you can focus on those, too, along with the tender chicken you’ll pick off the bone, and the more highly seasoned sauce and cooling raita (yogurt sauce) served with it. You can have goat, egg, shrimp or lamb biryani, too, or get it with the chicken boneless – and you can also get the similarly seasoned rice dish called pulao.

In fact, you can get all sorts of exciting regional things, from dosas – one of my favorites, a large crispy rice and lentil crepe with filling and dipping sauces, also southern – to Galuti kabab (lamb, here served in chops rather than minced, but with a melting quality to the seasonings, considered northern) to the more western Rajasthani flavors in lamb Maharaja and Goan vindaloos.

We had a marvelous okra concoction, with peanuts and coconut, in the Andhra style (south), with a couple long, beautiful dried red chiles tossed in with the slices of fresh okra. We had those Galuti chops, which proved tender and lovely. And we tried a few staples, from butter chicken and tikka masala (lovely, thick and creamy/tomatoey sauces with chunks of meat) to the fried, highly seasoned chunks of Chicken 65. (There’s another delightful series of origin stories and myths to disentangle: Created in 1965? Bird cut into 65 pieces? Marinade that takes 65 days to prepare?)

This Persis turned out everything with aplomb, presenting water for the table and keeping all topped off, clearing dishes when necessary and boxing quickly. Portions are generous, so plan to take some home.

And take care to look at the cocktails, mocktails, wine and beer lists, a welcome departure from usually-slim-and-none selections.

With both Persis and Blue Taj in the neighborhood, this part of south Charlotte should consider itself fortunate indeed. If you, like me, took far too long to get to see “The 100-Foot Journey” – by far the best food movie I’ve seen in years, demolishing “Chef,” if what you’re after is clear passion for food – do yourself a favor: Go see it this weekend (it’s playing at StoneCrest), and be sure to have reservations right afterward.