Flavors of India

When my friend and I walked into Tandoori Time with a craving for a rich and piquant Indian dinner, the slouching waiter greeted us with much anticipation. Without a doubt, we were the only customers in the entire restaurant. The dazed bartender stared at the empty seats, wiping off areas that he had already cleaned.

We were seated immediately and were given two of the cleanest water glasses that I have ever seen – probably the bartender’s doing.

While perusing the menu, I looked past the kabobs, the lentil soups and the seafood, spotting the true test of an Indian restaurant – chicken tikka masala. A dish so otherworldly that the restaurant’s description said only: “Charcoal cooked pieces of chicken in a special sauce.” Of course, it was not the elegant language that enticed me. “Charcoal” and “cooked” are hardly words that make me salivate.

The chicken tikka masala was flavorful, and, I will admit, special without being overly rich, while the onions and peppers gave texture to the sauce. However, I prefer the chicken to be cooked in the sauce, so that the sauce not only flavors the meat, but tenderizes it too.

We also tried lamb karahi, mildly spiced and cooked with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It had a sweeter taste with spice that hit your palate at the end. The flavor of the rice was fortified with fennel seeds and each granule doubled as a tiny vehicle for the sauce to cling to on its way to my mouth. The lightly flavored naan had great air pockets and was slightly chewy.

I am almost certain that waiters at Indian restaurants have an unspoken rule to constantly fill someone’s glass with water. Maybe they were afraid the spices were too much for us. Or maybe they were so eager to have customers that they wanted to pamper us. Either way, our glasses were never more than half empty.

We truly had a relaxing and enjoyable meal, chasing the subtle sauce on our plates with pieces of naan. Then the waiter mentioned the dessert menu.

Besides the fact that Indian desserts are notoriously nasty, the names are also unappetizing: “gulab,” “burfi” and “badam.”

“Excuse me waiter, I’ll have the Glob, the Barf and the Bottom.” I don’t think so! I will stick to my chicken tikka masala and just skip dessert.

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