Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Restaurant Review: Aravind

I once had a girlfriend who introduced me to Indian cooking via 50 Great Curries of India.  I made a few dishes and my love of Indian food grew even as ours fizzled.  Often, I am disappointed with eating restaurant Indian food that has neither the subtle flavours nor the well thought out balance of ingredients.  Instead, I am left with sweet butter chicken and a plethora of meat dishes with the same gravy served with basmati rice of indeterminate spicing.

On the menu of Aravind, (nothing on the website yet), there is nary a meat dish or "India -- The Greatest Hits" dishes available.  Rather there are dishes made from local ingredients coupled with eastern ingredients mainly in the vegetarian realm including fish dishes.  All dishes were beautifully composed and well thought out.  The presentation of the dishes by the servers reminded me of the early eighties when Indian food was still fairly new to Canadians and would be described in familiar terms that would underline their exoticness.

This is a new type of Indian restaurant food that I have tasted.  Aravind makes no bones about this being a restaurant that celebrates the Kerala area of India.  While I still suspect that there is much more to the great continent of India, I now feel as if there is a little more joy and understanding of this old culture and cuisine.

But is it authentic?  In a previous post on a family run Italian restaurant, I begged off on answering questions of authenticity.  Authentic can be broken down in various ways such as; 1. Made by someone from that culture (e.g. if an Indian makes it, it is Indian food), or  2. Made the "traditional" way (This argument generally falls down when looking at older cultures such as Italian.  Does traditional Italian food include tomatoes?), or 3. Evoking the techniques and flavours while using the best available ingredients.  I can safely say that Aravind fulfills these criteria while being modern and exciting.

Little revelatory touches such as the table water with cumin or cucumber and ginger water with mint leaf or a  bourbon sour with tamarind... These were eye opening.  If the water can be like this, then imagine the food. We had a bread and dip plate that had four breads, all different variations on rice bread, chickpea flour and  three dips; eggplant, kale/spinach and lentil.  The breads largely tasted different and it made sense to have these to contrast and compare with the dips.  We also enjoyed a crab curry with coconut and a dosa with three relishes/sauces and served with a sambal.  With the menu rotating depending on availability, not all of these will be available.  There is very little justice in this world as everyone should be able to taste these foods.

The only false note was the palate cleanser of watermelon, ginger and honey.  It was not as  harmonious compared to the other dishes.  If the ginger was stronger or the watermelon had been infused with the flavours ... it was good but the tastes jarred against each other.  What a quibble!

Listen, at the end of this longer than normal review, I say... Go!...Now!  I really enjoyed a meal here and I would recommend it without reservation.

Aravind on Urbanspoon

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