Bay Bites
India's -- Back After the Fire, It's Still Fiery
by Gabby Crabcakes

The fire that devastated Annapolis' Main Street in December 1997 left a void for those who enjoy ethnic cuisine.

Now India Palace co-owner Suraj Kumar has opened India's on West Street, where you used to find Papazee's Thai Restaurant. The new India's has retained the Palace's crowd-pleasing menu (including the lunch buffet: $6.95; 11:30-2:30) while adding some new dishes and a new chef.

One large dining room is warmed by mustard-colored walls and dark blue carpeting. On a recent Saturday evening, the room, which seats 100, was filled to capacity. The wait was brief but somewhat awkward. Since there is no partition or hostess stand, you find yourself pathetically leering at the near tables. So many people in one space with high ceilings and virtually nothing to absorb sound can make it difficult to hear the soothing Indian background music.

Following a drink order of house chardonnay ($4.25) and a very large bottle of Indian Taj Mahal beer ($6.50), we were greeted with a courtesy snack of large round pepper cracker bread and a selection of three dips. I encourage you to sample them all. There is a zingy mint spread, a spicy tamarind sauce and a dangerously salty pickled mango relish (I recommend a delicate first bite). Use them to snack and for accenting future courses.

The all-male staff, uniformed in tuxedo shirts and bowties, are friendly if somewhat aloof (chalk it up to a respectful culture). I recommend asking as many questions as possible. If you are not familiar with Indian cuisine, there's a lot to be learned - either by trial and error or by educated guesstimates. If you're temperature sensitive, be sure to inquire as to firepower. A medium heat requested on one visit had my dining companion tearing profusely.

The menu offers a wonderful variety of vegetarian dishes. There are also several dishes centered on the very flavorful and finely textured basmati rice. Lamb and chicken, as well as some seafood, are presented in several traditional recipes. Of course, the Tandoori Dasterkhawan - specialties from the charcoal clay oven - are always a favorite.

For our most recent meal we started with lukme, an assorted vegetable snack ($7.95). This was a nice way to sample several unfamiliar morsels including a tempura-like eggplant, pakoras (aka vegetable fritters) and anguri samosa (aka crispy pastry filled with spiced vegetables). Easily shared by two or three.

For dinner, I was torn between the chicken shahi korma ($13.95) - tender chicken pieces flavored with coconut and simmered in yogurt with almonds and raisins - and the lamb biryani ($14.95) - a basmati rice dish cooked with lamb and yogurt and served with raisins and nuts. I opted for chicken. Waffling between the lobster malai khasa ($19.95), a lobster tail cooked in a coconut cream, and the crab malabar ($18.95), my guest chose crab.

Our dishes arrived in medium-sized chaffing dishes with a large platter of basmati rice to share. While the portions aren't huge, there's plenty to go around. The chicken was creamy and rich. The sauce was perfect for dipping some hot just-out-of-the-fryer poori ($2.95). Indian breads are an important part of the meal, the poori being the most popular. However there are seven others to choose from. My friend's crab dish was made with what I would guess is king crab, shredded and mixed with onions, tomatoes, fennel seed and coconut. It had great flavor with just a little kick.

Once again, there was no room for dessert.

It's fun to try something new and enjoy a good meal at the same time. Welcome back to India.


257 West Street Annapolis 410/263-7900

Proprietor: Suraj Kumar

Hours: Lunch 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun. Thurs. 5-10pm; Fri., Sat. 5-10:30pm

Reason to go: It ain't Irish!

Something to think about: It's Indian!

| Issue 16 |

Volume VII Number 16
April 22-26, 1999
New Bay Times

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