After weeks of cooking Italian food and consuming it at restaurants, I was ready for a nice change of pace: anything but Italian food to be more specific. A friend who spent last summer at Colgate suggested the Indian Café (8 College Street, Clinton). So I grabbed my partner-in-crime for a worldly dining experience and headed down 12B for approximately 25 minutes. The restaurant is located before the traffic light leading to the village green. Although the green is beautiful, inviting and enticing, don’t get distracted. Follow the aromatic waves of Indian spices into the Indian Café on your left.
To be honest, I have never eaten Indian cuisine before, so I relied heavily on my friend’s suggestions. The waiter offered up some advice as well. To start off, my friend ordered us some vegetable samosas from the list of appetizers, soups and salads ranging in price from $2.95 to $6.95. The menu describes the vegetable samosas as “crispy turnovers filled with mildly spicy potatoes and peas, deep-fried.” The hard shell of the turnover was dusted with a salty mixture of spices that vaguely reminded me of McDonald’s french fries, a familiar taste that did not disappoint. However, the inside of the fried turnovers was nothing like the “food” found at a fast food chain restaurant. The overall flavor was unique and enjoyable, while the texture of the peas within the potato mixture was tougher than I had ever eaten. As we waited for our entrees to arrive, my friend and I experimented with the variety of sauces and relishes that accompanied the complementary “bread” that closely resembled gigantic multigrain chips. These sauces provided a window into the variety of flavors of Indian cuisine.
When choosing an entrée, I turned to the waiter for advice on selecting a meal that successfully embodies the heart of Indian cuisine. He recommended the Murg Tikka Masala, a famous traditional meal consisting of chunks of chicken tikka swimming in a bowl of spiced creamy tomato sauce. Warned of the hot and spicy nature of the dish, I had a medium version prepared (which I later regretted as there was no heat to speak of). The meal was served family style and was accompanied by a more-than-generous portion of rice, which my friend and I failed to put a dent in despite our valiant efforts. On top of the rice, the Murg Tikka Masala was a creamy yet light dish that was a pleasant introduction to the Indian cuisine. To further enhance my experience and truly get an accurate feel for the genre of food, I also tried a Mango Lassi. This classic Indian beverage is a yogurt based drink blended with milk, water and mango pulp. The smoothie-like drink was a little too sweet for my liking and did not go well with the meal. However, my fellow dinner attendee advised me that the other Mango Lassies she had been exposed to had been thicker, more smoothie-like and had not been served with ice as mine was.
My friend ordered the Lamb Seekh Kabab for her entrée as she consciously avoided the spicier options that she admits are too overwhelming for her. The dish included seasoned lamb meat mixed with herbs in a presentation that resembled sausage. Ironically, this sauce-less meal proved to be spicier than my traditionally spicy Murg Tikka Masala, despite my affinity and desire for a spicier meal. Based on this experience, I will probably avoid taking heat related advice from my friend in the future. The Lamb Seekh Kabab, which misleadingly was not on a Kabab, was perfectly spiced and flavored, while slightly dry when paired with rice.
I enjoyed my first Indian cuisine experience at the Indian Café in Clinton. The prices were reasonable as entrees ranged from $9.95 to $14.95. My friend who is more knowledgeable in this genre of food commented that she was pleasantly surprised by the quality and freshness of the meal, admitting that she had low expectations based on its non-traditional location in upstate New York. She said that the dinner was good and that she would return if she had a strong craving for Indian food. However, my fellow attendee said she would not be upset if she did not get the chance to return. As a newcomer, I was left unimpressed by the meal as it lacked a “wow factor,” something to make the food more memorable. This may be attributed to the fact that I have yet to acquire a taste for Indian cuisine. If you are looking for a traditional Indian meal make your way over to the Indian Café. Be sure to let me know if your experience is similar to mine or if this is actually the best of India and I am not knowledgeable enough to know!