Restaurant Review: Little India: Try a little spice and sizzle off the beaten path

Posted by Tegan O'Neill

Although Little India is certainly not the most magical Indian restaurant I've ever been to, it does have its charms. In order to reach its door, you have to walk off the beaten path and into a dreamy part of Saratoga. It looks exactly how you would picture a restaurant called "Little India" to look. The small building nestled on Court Street is emblazoned with the unimaginative yet certainly informative name.

The interior decor is cozy in its gloominess. The dining room's ceiling is spangled with random decorations hanging from the light sockets that make no real sense. The sound level is so quiet that it is practically mute. At the table two away from ours, I could hear the chicken tandoori sizzling on its bed of foil..

As soon as I sit down I think of all the things I would do for a bottomless glass of mango lassi. This yogurt-based drink is mostly dominated by the sweet taste of dairy. It is splashed (not drowned) with the flavor of mango. Little India served their version over ice which was a somewhat unusual approach. It was certainly effective in keeping the drink cold, but the ice made the drink thinner and waterier than one might enjoy.

Placing my order turned into a drawn-out ordeal because I had to ensure a range of ingredients that exhibited a swath of flavors. Our waitress didn't raise an eyebrow as we probed her for advice about what to order from the menu. Upon her recommendation, we decided upon one chicken, one lamb, and one vegetable dish plus two orders of naan. (Obviously, we would have to get naan.) We also ordered a specialty naan just to spice things up a bit.

Our three entrees were served in three little silver pots that did not appear to hold very much. With Indian food, though, looks can be deceiving. The spread looked small, but what was in those pots went a long way when portioned over rice. Looks are also deceiving when it comes to presentation. The entrees all looked fairly similar; they were all portioned into bowls of the same size and their colors were all variations on a theme. The glory of Indian cuisine, however, lies in the spice and the sauce not in the way it has been propped and positioned on the plate.

The naan was so warm that it sizzled in my fingers as I pulled it apart. Its finest attribute certainly was its chewiness. It was fantastic on its own, but it also worked quite well to mop up any remnants of sauce. The Peshawari Naan (leavened bread stuffed with nuts, raisins, and coconut) was deliciously sweet but slightly disappointing because I couldn't spot any of the advertised nuts or raisins. I did enjoy the generous covering of coconut, though as it paired well with the spices in the rest of the meal. I usually rely heavily on tamarind sauce to offset the spiciness of an Indian meal but sadly, Little India didn't supply our table with any.

Hands down, my favorite of the three entrees was the Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless roasted chicken in a creamed tomato sauce). It boasts a creamy, rich tomato-based sauce that explodes with magnificent flavors. What's not to love? Little India's masala hit the spot.

Granted, the sauce of the Lamb Jalfrezi (lamb cooked with vegetables and Indian spices) was pretty unappealing to the eye. Again, don't be fooled. The taste was actually quite delicate. The dish offered a medley of flavors that I found vaguely reminiscent of Korean food. It was mildly sweet and felt as though it was laced with chili. All things considered, it was unlike most other Indian dishes I have tried.

The Mutter Paneer (flavorful blend of homemade cheese and green peas lightly seasoned with fresh herbs) was neither rich nor spectacularly flavorful like the masala but it was satisfyingly hearty. The eating experience was dominated by the sensation of popping peas. The peas dominated the dish but being frozen peas, their domination was not all too tasty. As for the paneer cheese, it can only be described as looking like and tasting like tofu. Essentially, it lacks its own flavor and thus soaks up the other flavors in the dish.

Dessert at Little India was a laughable proposition. After the meal, I was positively filled to the brim. Then again, I didn't stop eating until I had literally polished every last speck of food off my plate.

Read more of Tegan O'Neill's outings at her blog.

Healthful Hints: College romance: Navigating the highs and lows of the campus dating scene

Harvest Dinner features the best of locally grown food: The Skidmore student garden hosts dinner to promote local eating