From June 2006 Cheap Eats
Seeing chicken wings on the menu of an Indian restaurant inspires anything but confidence in the quality of the kitchen. What it inspires are thoughts of toned-down food that panders to Western sensibilities. That is, until you taste the ones at this tiny storefront place that condo-dwelling locals seem intent on keeping all to themselves.
Fired in the tandoor, these red-hued, peppery wings are so hot and spicy that they turn doubters into believers–and prompt you to dig deep into the roster of northern-Indian dishes.
This is assertive cooking, intended for a knowledgeable audience, though it will be rewarding for diners innocent of the flavors of the subcontinent. The tandoor-baked breads arrive hot and crispy–one variety, stuffed with house-made cottage cheese, offers a nice textural contrast–as do the marvelous spinach-and-potato fritters. Crab cakes are brought to life with a shot of ginger and a pinch of diced green chilies. Five-spice Bengali shrimp offers the pleasures of a slow burn, the warmth building in your mouth with each bite. Curries are more pungent and sharply defined than most and sometimes boast wonderful distinguishing touches–ground pistachio in the chicken curry, long-smoked eggplant in the tomato-rich bhuna bhartha.
Sometimes the centerpiece of a dish, the meat, will turn up dry, and you'll find yourself spooning the terrific, black cardamom-scented rice into the various gravies, so fascinatingly complex that you might not even miss the meat.