Naan other like it.

It is not often that I am truly and thoroughly surprised. A lovely gift from my brother and sister-in-law landed us a $25 gift certificate for Passage to India. We toured the ravaged pre-apocalyptic road of Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (or 192, or Vine Street) seeking the restaurant. The sign was cleverly hidden behind the biggest gaudiest yellow truck I’ve ever layed eyes upon. It talked a big game about timeshare sales or some bull$#!t. It was hideous. As a former timeshare employee, this truck held a special place in my heart- the kind with jagged edges and tiny demons with spears poking it in the genitals for all eternety.

All cynicsm aside, the place was hard to find. We pulled into the small parking lot and walked into the front door. At the sound of the door a man, small of stature and soft spoken, emerged from around the corner. He gently guided us to a table with kind words of welcome. We were all smiles from the beginning. The walls were gaudy with classic peices of Indian art blended with posters and printed giclees. The whole menagerie somehow made the restaurant feel more at home–like the long-accumulated knick-knacks of your immigrant grandmother. The atmosphere was pleasant with wind¬†instruments¬†on the stereo.

We were happy to discover that our host was also our waiter. He brought us water the moment our rears hit the benches. Since we were rolling in the proverbial dough, we decided to order specialty drinks. Kel ordered something mango, and I ordered something else mango – a mango juice. The juice was more like a smoothie than a drink. It was thick and sweet, but not too sweet. I was glad to have the water on hand.

We have a new rule here at Feed The Freaks. If a water/server/member of waitstaff mentions or suggests something, at least one of us has to order it. I’m not talking about a glassy-eyed server rattling off the names of the restaurant “specials”, I mean an enthusiastic endorsement of a specific dish.
I was the lucky one this time. Our waiter described many things that we asked about on the menu – Indian food requires some explanation, and he was fully prepared for this. When I asked of his favorite dish, without hesitation, he suggested the Lamb Palak. I took the bait, and ordered it “Medium”, which to us Americans is supposed to be pretty spicy.

Before we decided on an entree, we already ordered an appetizer. We unfortunately did not consult our menu assistant, as we were less than impressed. The core flavors were very good, earthy although a little lacking in salt. The dipping sauces were delicious, which made up for the Paneer Pakora (fried cheese to you and I.) But the Paneer itself was not very hot, and the fried portions were less than crisp. I can imagine that they were fried earlier and served too late. But don’t lose heart yet…it gets better.
The Lamb arrived at my table, and I inhaled a spicy, rich aroma that made my brain tingle in all the right places. The rice was flecked with jasmine and so aromatic I could taste the air. I dipped some Palak (or, spinach) with thick chunks of juicy lamb into the rice bowl and took a huge mouthful, breathing in slowly as my whole head filled with earthly delights. It was hot, moist and slow cooked (as evident by the buttery texture.) My various gods- it was incredible.

Something needs to be spoken of the Naan we ordered along with our dinner. Naan, for the uninformed, is a crispy flat bread, often smothered in spices or sauces that compliments most Indian Cuisine. We ordered the garlic, at our waiter’s suggstion. Again, it was the right move. It was smothered in freshly crushed garlic that nearly knocked me off my feet. Some people cannot handle a lot of garlic–I am not one of these people. It paired well with the Palak.

We ate as much as we possibly could, and then were persuaded to order dessert. As I said, we were rich today – thanks to our gift certificate, and indugled. Since our waiter had not yet steered us into disaster, we once again took his word and ordered the Galoob Jamin. He warned us of the rich sweetness of this dessert, and we accepted the challenge.

Dessert arrived in a small bowl. Two small balls of dough, soaked in honey and rose water. The scent was warm and alluring. I cut into the ball with my spoon and it gave away easily, not unlike a matzo ball. The bite was complex. The flowery aroma, sweetened with honey had the power of baklava but the gentleness of crembrulee. It was simply delightful.

Thank you, Mr. Waiter -I apologize for not getting your name. I hope that you continue to provide such excellent service to all patrons, including freaks like us.

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