From June 2006 Cheap Eats
A raft of new Indian restaurants has opened in the last several years, each hot new arrival in a race to outstrip its predecessors in stylishness and trendiness. This simple storefront restaurant lacks the boldness of those newcomers, not to mention the backing capital. It speaks quietly but distinctively–from the antique ceiling fans that set off the olive-colored walls and give the tiny room an air of languor to the pepper shakers (filled with red, not black, pepper) to the black-marker-scrawled menu.
Just two pages, it contains a surprising number of seldom-seen dishes: Chicken kadai, a northern-Indian dish, brims with tomatoes, garlic, and ginger, and pathar kebab does a neat trick in turning the expected sausage inside out–the result is a scallopine of sorts, a pounded filet of lamb tossed on the grill and given a quick charring, then plated alongside a round of naan still hot from the tandoor.
More familiar dishes are not ignored. As often as not, they're more pungent, vivid, and interesting than their counterparts elsewhere; the kitchen's rendition of Butter Chicken is more tomatoey than most, and it's impossible to miss the presence of the toasted clove and cardamom. And its Goan fish curry is made by stirring a handful of coconut shreds into the coconut milk–a textural chewiness that plays against the silken flakes of halibut.
If there's a weakness, it's that the meats are occasionally not as tender as they could be, failing to match the intensity or interest of their complexly rendered gravies.
Dessert is an unexpected strength, from a delicate, saffron-infused rice pudding to a superb version of gulab jamun, those light, sweet fried dumplings bathed in a thin honey sauce.