A restaurant doesn’t need to have fancy plates or plush surroundings to make make us sit up and take notice.
Our experience at the India Chaat House this week did that very well, and more — it gave us the sniffles. They were enjoyable ones though, instigated by the variety of spice, some hot, some not, that we found in the dishes we tried.
While there was a menu of various types of chaat, this small restaurant also serves lunch box specials (stay in or take out) or just dishes up a la carte servings of such things as chicken curry and biriyani.
Chaat is a word for snack, and Indian chaat is often found along the streets and byways of that country. Like all street food, it is there to allure one’s sense of smell, tempt you with color and crunch, and ultimately make you turn around and reach for your pocketbook.
Not having been to India yet, I turned to Wikipedia for more about chaat: “With its origins in Uttar Pradesh, chaat has become immensely popular in rest of India and the Indian sub-continent. Chaat variants are all based on fried dough, with various other ingredients. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried breadgram or chickpeas and tangy-salty spices.”
On the menu board at Indian Chaat House is nice little list, with tasty items to get you started. Our chaat samples were sev puri and a samosa.
The samosa was giant-sized, compared to others I’ve eaten, and filled with a spicy, aromatic potato mixture and deep fried. One savory sauce and a sweetish one were served alongside.
Unfamiliar to us was the sev puri, which looked like a plate of little nachos, and in fact there were chips on the bottom (not corn – our guess would be dahl or lentils) topped with a savory sauce. The sev puri, which is salty little fried noodles, was then sprinkled thickly on top.
We also delved into the restaurant’s entrees when we ordered a lunch box. Curry is synonymous with spicy — and this one was no exception. The curry wasn’t thick, as some are, but it was rich, with a generous, glistening layer of ghee (clarified butter) floating on top. This was the dish that brought the most tears and sniffles, but nobody was complaining as we kept spooning up that complex and satisfying sauce.
The lunch box can be taken out, as its name suggests, but we had ours inside at a table, all of it served in Styrofoam.
A brothy version of dahl, or lentils, brought its warm comfort to the meal, and fresh roti, or flatbread, was warm and indispensable for soaking up some of the broth in the servings. A cool creamy raita, yogurt with cucumber, a little onion and cilantro, was also wonderful for the same purpose.
The menu board promises bakery items, but they aren’t offered, so we finished off our meal with the gulab jamun, those balls of dough soaked in honey that are standard in Indian restaurants. (The board says they are sold by the pound, but we were able to get them individually.)
India Chaat House was uncrowded when we were there, the tables were clean and people working behind the counter and serving the food were friendly.
On our next visit, I’m going to sample some of the biriyani — and do some more exploration of that tempting list of chaat. If you like Indian food, you’ll find a wonderful difference at India Chaat House.