Red Fort expands its Indian cuisine to Ogden
Red Fort Cuisine of India is expanding to Ogden — in the former El Matador restaurant building.
Ali Noori, a manager of the Red Fort location in Layton, said his father, Wahid Noori, and partner Harpal Singh Toor will be moving into the building at 2564 Ogden Ave.
An opening date hasn’t been set yet, said Ali Noori.
This will be the fifth Red Fort restaurant, on the heels of opening one in Layton (in the former Marie Callender’s location) in February 2022. The original Red Fort is in St. George, and there are also sites in LaVerkin and Meridian, Idaho.
The iconic El Matador Mexican restaurant closed in September 2022 after over 60 years in business. Owners Tony and Paula Hasratian sold the building to the Red Fort group, according to Ali Noori.
Red Fort partner Wahid Noori is an Afghani refugee who has made a living cooking Indian cuisine for over 30 years.
“When the Taliban first took over Afghanistan in the 1990s, our family had to flee to Pakistan because my father was in the Afghani army,” Ali Noori said. “We spent four years in Pakistan.”
They stayed with a relative, with the whole family all sharing one room, Ali Noori said. As a means of support, Wahid Noori cooked Indian cuisine and sold it from a food cart.
In 2001, the family was granted refugee status and immigrated to America. Ending up in Utah, Wahid Noori soon got a job cooking at Bombay House, one of Utah’s well-known Indian restaurants. After over 20 years at Bombay House, he wanted to own his own restaurant. Harpal Singh Toor, one of the Bombay House’s founding partners, helped him get started, said Ali Noori. Harpal’s brother, Shamsher Singh Toor, had opened the Red Fort restaurant in St. George in 2018, and Wahid Noori became a partner in the brand.
Red Fort opened its Layton location on Valentine’s Day 2022, and has been busy ever since.
The name Red Fort comes from the historic Red Fort in India that served as the residence of the Mughai emperors, dating from the 1600s. The elephant, featured prominently in the restaurant’s logo and décor, stands for good luck, said Ali Noori, if the trunk is raised up.
Wahid Noori’s family members are involved in running the Layton restaurant, although in the beginning, he was the only one with much cooking experience. Sons Ahmed Siar Noori and Ali Noori both had jobs in the financial industry, although Ali had worked at Bombay House during high school. Son-in-law Mujtaba Faiz — a professional soccer player in Afghanistan — learned culinary skills and is now the kitchen manager at the Layton location.
“Everything is cooked in-house, cooked to order,” said Faiz.
Red Fort’s large menu has chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian dishes. There are three tandoori dishes — chicken tikka (breast meat), chicken tandoori (thigh meat) and shrimp tandoori. A tandoor is a large, cylindrical clay oven heated from burning coal at the bottom, at around 500 degrees. The dishes are marinated in yogurt, garlic and spices and then grilled on a skewer without touching the oven’s surface. Soft, pillowy naan breads are cooked by “slapping” the dough on the hot inner wall of the tandoor.
Butter chicken is a signature dish on the menu. “When some of my regular customers come in, I don’t have to take them menus, because I already know they are getting butter chicken,” said Ali Noori. “We make it different from other restaurants. We cook the chicken kebab-style, and the sauce is a butter base rather than a tomato base.”
The chicken is cooked in a tandoor and added to the sauce with butter, cream, onions, garlic, ginger, cashews, golden raisins and spices. The result is tender morsels of chicken swimming in a spicy pool of sauce that can be soaked up with fragrant jasmine rice. How spicy? Well, you can choose your heat level, so that depends on the customer.
The popular chicken tikka masala is tandoori chicken breast meat cooked with bell pepper, onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cream and spices.
Ali Noori said some of their sauces include saag, a spinach-based curry; kurma, made with coconut milk; onion-based curry; as well as the tomato-based masala.
He said the restaurant makes its own garam masala, a spice mixture that gives the cuisine its distinctive flavor.
“That’s a recipe that we don’t share,” he said.
The assorted snacks appetizer offers a sampling of vegetable samosas (stuffed with mashed potato and green peas); fried vegetable balls with potato, spinach and bell peppers; and chicken pakora, which are battered and fried boneless chicken tenders.
“The kids love the chicken pakora because it’s similar to chicken tenders,” Ali Noori said.
These appetizers come with flavorful mint and tamarind chutneys for dipping.
Red Fort serves specialty drinks, such as lassi, made with yogurt. Noori said the mango and strawberry lassi drinks use real chunks of mango and strawberries.
The Fort Lime drink has you guessing as to what herbs and spices are in the lime juice/club soda concoction. Basil? Cilantro?
“That’s our secret,” said Ali Noori. “You are either going to love it, or not.”
IF YOU GO
Red Fort Cuisine of India
Location: 1600 Woodland Park Drive, Layton. Other locations in St. George, LaVerkin, and Meridian, Idaho. Ogden location opening pending.
Contact: https://redfortcuisine.com or 801-820-6646
Prices: Entrees, $13-$23
Hours for Layton location: (Lunch) 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. (Dinner) 4-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.