Saturday, September 29, 2007

One Night in Mumbai

They say if you hang out in Argentina long enough, you'll start to think the ethnic food there is decent due to unconsciously lowered expectations. I scoffed at the theory when I arrived here 14 months ago, because dude--there seemed no way I was ever gonna warm up to the stuff. Chinese noodles here are made with spaghetti, fer christ's sake, and when I think of how in Monterey Park you could get hand-pulled noodles of every consistency and length, it is to weep. As if that ain't bad enough, sushi is basically a prepositional tryst involving two fixtures: Mr. Salmon and Miss Cream Cheese; i.e., you can have the salmon on top of the cream cheese or the cream cheese on top of the salmon or--if you're feeling super frisky--hide and seek the salmon inside the cream cheese! (Watch out for that sprig of parsley, kids!)

Anyway, I've been on a bit of an Indian food bender lately and miss the half-hour drive to Artesia, LA's Little India. So for the last couple weeks I managed to trek al centro 3 times(!) to Katmandu, Katmandu, and Mumbai. Sorry spawn. My dear mom used to lament that if I could only channel my obsessive foodieness toward something worthwhile, I would be someone really important by now, like maybe even a homeowner. Sorry, mac...

So Katmandu and Mumbai are owned by the same people and offer basically the same menu. Katmandu seemed to have a better Bollywood ambiance, mostly because both times we were there they played the soundtrack to Devdas, causing me to swoon to the images of Shah Rukh Khan in my head. Mumbai had a more intimate setting. Several times throughout the evening, we'd have English-speaking people nod and smile our way as if to say, yeah, we're travelers too.

Anyway, I must say that food wise, I was nicely surprised: The curries weren't too shabby. We ordered the chicken in buttery tomato-cardamon sauce (an odd description but I think they just wanted to differentiate it from their ordinary curry), the mushroom-pea (ordinary) curry, and biryani, which was a heaping bowl of basmati rice tossed with just the (ordinary) curry. The sauces were thick enough, spicy enough, pungent enough, passing my usual litmus test of "Can you spot the asafatida?" The naan was too chewy though and didn't have nearly enough garlic. Plus, I doubt they really had a tandoori in the kitchen. The one heartbreaking disappointment was that neither restaurant offered chai tea on their menu! I mean, (1) How fucking hard is it to make chai tea? You already have the spices! (2) How in clear conscience can you call yourself an Indian restaurant without the fucking chai tea? and (3) How fucking hard is it to make chai tea?!

Oh and I nearly forgot about the samosas--they were pretty tasty considering these are Indian restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina! Always with the qualifiers... I should tell you that I'm quite picky about samosas, and the best ones to me are those whose pastry crusts recall my older sister's fried coconut-banana fritters. And these suckers had just a touch of Sarah's batter. Mmm...

So was the food actually decent or have my expectations been lowered? I have to say, yes.

1 comment:

Michael Scott said...

Why such serious expressions on the severed heads?