"Sauce makes it tasty" is this restaurant's motto. But Sauce's food is so tasty that its condiments are merely the icing on the cake.
"Sauce makes it tasty" is this restaurant's motto. But Sauce's food is so tasty that its condiments are merely the icing on the cake. The restaurant in the Ashland Street Cinema complex has occupied the former home of Three Rivers Cuisine of India for a scant three months. But the fare tastes like years of recipe perfection are behind it. With a menu best described as eclectic, Sauce aspires to serve healthful meals based on vegetables and whole grains. The scent of curry that permeated the erstwhile Indian restaurant still is evident and fitting, given Sauce's selection of curries and dahl, the classic Indian lentil soup. But there's also Asian-inspired teriyaki, tofu and house-made kimchi, as well as more familiar beef stew. And just to mix things up even more, desserts include crepes and beignets. Sauce's prices are a welcome, middle-of-the-road option for Ashland. The atmosphere is casual and slightly quirky with two communal tables straddling the dining room's center and single-party tables along the walls. Scrap paper and colored pencils on the tables peg this eatery as family-friendly. The most expensive dish, lamb curry, is $13.50, but most entrees fall between $6 and $9. "Bowls" heap main items — about half vegetarian or vegan — atop white or brown rice or quinoa. "Plates" add garlic-braised kale. Kale and quinoa have become food darlings over the past year, as more Americans try to improve their diets. If you've tried neither, Sauce is the place to do it. And if you cook both, you likely don't make them as good as Sauce. The kale "chips" would convert any skeptic with their addictive crunch and savor. Sauce serves them as a side dish for $3.25 or atop roasted veggies in the Tuscan bowl ($6.50), which I ordered on my most recent visit. My friend asked if I would spring for the lamb-curry plate if he let me have a bite. We also ordered the Colstine naan, dressed up with goat cheese and fresh basil ($6.25), along with kimchi ($2.50) and chai teas ($2.25 each). I couldn't pass up chai after tasting it on my previous visit. Fortunately, Sauce put out a fresh pot right after we ordered. It's self-serve, so customers don't have to wait and can grab their own refills ($1). Perfectly sweetened and redolent of Indian spices, the milky chai warmed the chilly, drizzly day. The kimchi arrived next, bearing the characteristically sour flavor of authentic fermented vegetables, only without the heat of most Korean kimchis. Although the chunks were almost too large to chew in one bite, I loved the crunch of daikon and cabbage hearts. If the kimchi didn't exactly complement the chai, the naan provided the perfect comfort-food pairing. I didn't think the plain flatbread I'd tried on my first foray could get much better, but a liberal topping of creamy goat cheese and fresh herbs put it over the top. Sauce's menu boasts that this is like no naan you've ever tasted. Because it's pan-fried, not baked, it is a tad greasy, albeit with healthful olive oil. The Tuscan bowl went down without a twinge of guilt — or pauses between most bites. It's almost mind-boggling that roasted kale, cauliflower, carrots and sweet potatoes could be so delicious, but they are. Likewise, the quinoa was perfectly cooked and so flavorful that I didn't add the sesame sauce until the last few scoops. My friend — perhaps the pickiest diner I've ever encountered — had nothing but praise for his lamb curry: superior to "generic Indian-restaurant curry," yet "lighter." I opined that it tasted like the tender chunks of lamb had been stewed in the sauce for hours rather than prepared separately and added to a curry base made to accommodate several proteins. The deep-green, zippy, herbaceous sauce was a nice counterpoint to the meat's richness but, again, hardly necessary. We were too stuffed for dessert, but if I can resist the naan, my next visit will conclude with a coconut-custard crepe. If you're feeling too virtuous, Sauce will make yours with Nutella. Bottled beers and sake and tap-dispensed wines from Wooldridge Creek also are available. — Sarah Lemon