Z. At first it was really difficult to concentrate on the menu because the walls and ceiling were practically vibrating with such fascinating décor. Finally, with the help of Kannan, the owner, and Samy, our serving person, we made our selections. We quickly discovered they were vegan savvy and willing to please.
R. While we waited for our first course of samosas, we noticed the old photographs of Swamis, family photos, and cloth covers over the lights that gave a soft lantern glow. On the ceiling in the middle of the room was a canopy of colorfully appliquéd fabric surrounding lights and plants. Another of these decorated canopies hung over the bar. There was hardly an undecorated inch in the room.
Z. There was even a brightly appliqued banner that went all around the room forming a border at the ceiling. The tablecloth, too, was colorfully patterned. The background music with the warbling sitar and rhythmic tabla transported us to Kannan's India homeland.
R. Our samosas, which are crisply fried turnovers stuffed with seasoned potatoes and peas, arrived with tiny bowls of coconut and lightly spiced tamarind chutney for dipping. On the dish was a generous portion of chana dal, a very tasty stew of lightly spiced garbanzo beans. Since we invited a friend to join us, we shared the three entrees that arrived at the table. What a selection of aromas and flavors!
Z. Now that you mention aromas, those alluring spices Indian chefs use with such skill seemed to permeate the room. I definitely experienced an enhanced sensation of comfort about the room.Bet it was the spices! The Tanjore Double Dinner consisted of a Mini Masala Dosa (a 12" crepe filled with seasoned potatoes), an Idli (lentil cake), Vadai (lentil donut), Uppuma (a mound of curried cream of wheat), Coconut Chutney, and Sambar (a seasoned soup for dipping). All of these tasty dishes are specialties from Southern India.
R. I enjoyed the spices too, but I think you're getting carried away. The paratha was one of the highlights of Delhi Durbar dinner. For those unfamiliar, it's a flatbread stuffed with an array of vegetables. Delicious! Also on that dinner was Chickpea Curry, a Spinach Curry with lentils, and Coconut and Tamarind Chutney. This entrée normally comes with Raitha, a yoghurt dish, but since we requested vegan dishes, they happily substituted the delicious Spinach Curry.
Z. The three of us could have been perfectly satisfied with two dinners, but since we didn't know that at the time, the third dinner, the Punjab Glory, arrived with a puffed bread called Poori, Vegetable curry, Basmati Rice with peas and spices, and a Spicy Eggplant in place of Raitha. Reuben and I attacked the eggplant dish with gusto, since our guest hates eggplant. Eggplant just happens to be one of our favorite vegetables, and this dish was exceptionally flavorful.
R. We finished with a steaming cup of Masala Chay, a spicy tea normally made with milk, but for us they prepared it without milk. By this time we were comfortably fortified. Truthfully, we were holding our sides but feeling very contented. Because we enjoyed our meal so much, we ate more than we usually eat at home.
Z. We noticed that Kannan, the owner, greeted all his guests at each table and there seemed to be lots of friendly conversation and laughter. One instantly recognizes that Kannan radiates with an inner happiness. When he came over to our table we kept him busy with questions about the restaurant's history which he was eager to share. He told us that twenty years ago his mother, Paru, and father, Natarajan, opened this restaurant. Now Kannan carries on the family tradition of lovingly prepared, exceptionally tasty Indian specialties, all vegetarian and very vegan friendly.
R. And we really got our money's worth. Each of the dinners was under $10. The very reasonable check came with a little bowl of anise seeds that are "good for the digestion."
Z. By this time we felt like family. They hugged us goodbye and encouraged us to return soon. We definitely will.
PARU'S Indian Vegetarian Restaurant
Reviewed March 1999
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