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June 2004: Aarathi

When a restaurant combines good food and low prices with attractive decor, there's reason to celebrate. The tables here are well spaced, the chairs are comfortable, and Indian paintings and artifacts are illuminated by beams of light. Except for seafood, no dish costs more than $10. The menu is not long, but there are many excellent choices.

Appetizers come from the south of India as well as the north, such as Tandoori chicken wings and chicken chat, a mixture of chicken strips and vegetables served cold.

Excellent main courses are prawns bhuna, large shrimp sautéed in butter with herbs, greens peppers, onions, and tomato; the tandoori chicken served on a sizzling platter; lamb biryani made with saffron-flavored basmati rice; and lamb saagwala—lamb and spinach in a mixture of exotic herbs and spices. Ten vegetarian dishes will satisfy diners who eschew meat or simply want a delicious meal. The breads are good and cheap. The four Indian desserts are also bargains.

Aarathi Indian Cuisine, 409 Maple Ave. E., Vienna; 703-938-0100.

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