June 9, 2011

Back to the Spice Route: India

This week I spinned the globe to see what country's culinary adventure I'd be going on... my finger landed on India.  I was very excited because I haven't had Indian food in a very long time, I could easily say well over a couple of years. 

Indian food is one cuisine that is incredibly complex, every region has it's specialty.  The northern region is known for flat breads (ex. naan) and the tandoori dishes that most people recognize as symbolic of typical "Indian food".  In the southern region, rice is king; dishes in the south are also hotter and soupier than in the north. 

For this food adventure I decided I should go to Little India in Jackson Heights (Queens).  I started researching possible restaurants in Little India, but a friend of mine suggested I check out Mehfil; an Indian restaurant not quite in Little India but one that offers authentic Indian dishes.  Immediately when I opened the menu at Mehfil I was very impressed by the wide range of dishes.

The restaurant automatically serves Papad, a thin lentil cracker with three dipping sauces; a mint sauce, a tamarind sauce and tomato chutney .  The tomato chutney appears to be the "hottest", but it's actually the mint sauce that packs a mean punch.  My favorite of the three was the tamarind, it was an interesting combination of sweet and savory which I always enjoy.
Papad with dipping sauces
For the appetizer, I had to go with the vegetable samosa.  I haven't eaten one of these in a very long time, but this one was as delicious as I remember samosas being.  Samosas are pastries stuffed with a variety of fillings and deep fried; they're a popular street food in India.  The vegetable samosas at Mehfil are filled with potatoes and peas.  They have a subtle taste of curry, but it's not an overpowering flavor.
Vegetable Samosas
For the main course, I went for a traditional southern Indian dish; vindaloo.  The vindaloo is a dish from the Goa region in Indian; although it's origins lie in Portugal. I ordered the chicken vindaloo; the dish is supposed to be very hot, however considering the heat wave we've have this week (and my lack of desire to sweat while enjoying my food) I requested a milder version.  For those who don't like a lot of heat in their food, Mehfil offers the opportunity for dishes to be made mild, medium or hot.  This dish was beautifully presented, with vibrant red and green colors.  The flavors in this dish are quite complex, there's lots of spices in the dish but there wasn't a single one that really stood out.  This dish was mostly chicken, with a few pieces of potatoes.  Overall a really delicious dish and one I'll be having again.
Chicken Vindaloo
There were two other dishes that my friends ordered that were also beautifully presented.  I didn't really analyze them and their flavors (too busy chatting) but I thought I would share their pictures. 
Chicken Mango
Bhindi Masala
The Chicken Mango is a chicken and shallots dish served in a mango gravy. The Bhindi Masala is okra sauteed with onions and herbs.

My food adventure this week, was truly an adventure.  It was full of wonderful spices, packed with flavors and definitely a memorable experience.  I was reminded this week how delightful and diverse this cuisine is, I will definitely be eating Indian food a lot more frequently.  If you haven't already done so, I hope you get to enjoy wonderful Indian dishes very soon. Buen Provecho!

Mehfil (This place has closed since I last visited)
76-05 37th Avenue (between 76th St & 77th St)
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Phone: 718.429.3297
Closest Subway Stop: 74th St-Broadway (7), Jackson Hghts-Roosevelt (E, F, M, R)