Restaurant >AROMA THERAPY
Indian food in Orlando hasn’t attained the levels of sophistication found in larger cities where chefs are challenged to test the boundaries of “ethnic” cuisine. So until that day comes, we’ll settle for the usual standards of Indo-Pak fare, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Having grown up on Indian cooking, I make it a point to seek a derivative of mom’s kitchen at least once a week. Seminole County isn’t the first place I’d look, but the area is home to a large number of South Asians, so selecting Lake Mary as the site for Memories of India, the Sequel, is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that I found the overall experience here to be as good, if not better, than at the venerable Memories of India in the Bay Hill Plaza. The fact that chef-owner Jackoswald Philip left to man the satellite kitchen in Lake Mary has something to do with it, but I was also impressed by the genuinely gracious wait staff, and their perceptive recognition of the line between obligingly attentive and unbearably obsequious.
There’s no shame, however, in fawning over a cup of masala tea ($3.75), a popular après-meal beverage that’ll rouse the appetite just the same. Crispy bites of pappadums prep palates for the spiced affair to come, as will lifting the lids off the containers in the relish tray. Chutneys and pickled condiments are necessary adjuncts to Indian cuisine and allow flavors to run wild – a mouthful of rice and curry without pickled carrots, mango or green chilies thrown in the mix is gastronomic suffocation, in my opinion. Hence, dipping liberally into the mint and tamarind chutneys augmented the essence of items presented in the nawabi lukme appetizer plate ($12.50): insipid green-pepper pakoras and crumbly-shelled samosas, in particular, really needed it; silken lamb seekh kebab was made all the better with a tamarind splash; while juicy red morsels of chicken tikka are flawless as they were.
Mains draw inspiration from all over the Indian subcontinent with, commendably, little to no temperance for Western palates. Green chilies and crushed peppercorns provided the bass note to lamb shakuti’s ($14.95) fragrantly lavish sauce, each meaty chunk sweetened with the essence of roasted coconut. A few bites of carrot pickle worked wonders for the Goan specialty, as did a side of unleavened goodness – superlative aloo paratha ($3.50), glistening with ghee and stuffed with seasoned potatoes and peas, is one of a dozen tandoor-baked breads offered. The sly heat of crushed pepper greeted me in the chicken kali murch ($14), a saucy number gorgeously streaked with paneer and textured with bell peppers.
The token wine-and-beer list does little to complement your meal, but desserts are necessary to complete it. Creamy, rich kulfi ($4.25) is a palliative pistachio ice, though neophytes may be put off by the waxy finish. The gulab jamun ($3.95), my favorite South Indian sweet, was as good as I’ve had anywhere on the continent. Take your sweet time with the syrup-soaked cheese balls, and be sure to have them warmed before biting in – the finish is guaranteed to be memorable.