Spices are paramount for Indian cuisine.
A mix of saffron, cardamom and cinnamon result in a unique experience involving all of the senses.
At Aroma, you can engage your senses of taste, smell, sight and touch for an authentic experience.
Located at 1919 I St., NW, Aroma is conveniently located near campus and also takes GWorld. The restaurant features a downstairs dining room with a large window that looks onto I Street. Compared to other Indian restaurants I have visited, Aroma is relatively well lit with low lighting on the walls creating a romantic ambiance. The white walls are rimmed with gold paint and decorated with pictures of Indian dancers, and jazz music complements the atmosphere.
The waiter was very pleasant and helpful in advising me on what to order. The man refilling water was attentive and came around quite often – convenient for those who are sensitive to even mildly spicy flavors.
The feast began with vegetable samosas – pastries filled with spiced potatoes and peas, as an appetizer (two for $4.25). The shell was a pleasant mix of crispiness and softness, but the filling was neither spicy nor mild – enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary.
Next came tomato soup ($3.25) served in a very small bowl. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of flavors. The tomato taste was the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. Although the menu lists tomatoes, cumin, black peppers and green coriander as the ingredients, there were coconut flakes sprinkled throughout the soup, giving it a special twist that left me wanting more.
For my entrée, I ordered chicken tikka masala ($13.25), a popular dish made with a mild tomato sauce that gets progressively spicier with each bite. The entrée was served in a small, silver dish and seemed to not be enough food, but I soon realized that the creamy sauce was filling, and I had plenty of leftovers. Chunks of chicken were served in deep red sauce and garnished with almond flakes. Caramelized onions added to the already powerful flavor.
The chunks of boneless chicken were packed with a smoky, grilled flavor that is typical to tandoori cooking, an Indian method of preparing food in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven.
The entrées do not come with rice or naan, so I definitely recommend ordering some as a side to balance the piquant flavors, especially if you are sensitive to spiciness.
Basmati pulao rice ($3.25 for one serving large enough for two) is sprinkled with saffron, cumin and other spices. The naan ($2.95 for four slices) was exceptionally delicious, with a chewy texture perfect for scooping up the curry.
Dessert proved the best course of the meal, although after all the food I consumed, I don’t know how I was able to make it that far. The mango kulfi ($4.95) was ice cream sliced like a cake and garnished with dollops of whipped cream, dripping with strawberry sauce. The mango flavor was amazing, neither too sweet nor too bland. Although the ice cream was a bit too frozen, once it melted, the mango taste mixed with strawberry sauce was irresistible. If anything, dessert alone would be worth taking another trip.
My impression of Aroma was mixed. The food was very good, but it didn’t stand out compared to a favorite Indian restaurant of mine. Comparable dishes cost less at some other restaurants (and include rice), and I’ve had mango kulfi elsewhere with a nicer, chewy texture. The service was very good, and Aroma’s proximity to campus is unbeatable. I would recommend Aroma for an outing with friends or an intimate date; just make sure you can handle the heat.
Address: 1919 I St., NW
Hours: Monday through Saturday, lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m., closed Sunday