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Indian giving

It's an odd latitude to find such an authentic touch of India in the little shopping plaza just west of the I-4/436 bridge. But, nestled in the middle of Altamonte Springs' commercial clutter, Kohinoor offers just that.

In a word, "serene" most aptly describes the ambience of this establishment, from the plants placed throughout a cooling, deep green and white interior, to the unobtrusive strains of music, to the quiet voices of the staff.

A menu offering an extensive choice starts with soups ($2.50). My vegetable soup, actually a kind of puree, liberally seasoned, was hot, smooth and tasty; my dining companion found the lentil soup a spicy treat.

Eight appetizers ($1-$7.95) cover the gamut from papadam, a kind of thin bean wafer, to chicken tikka -- boneless, marinated chicken pieces cooked in a clay oven -- to my choice, the vegetable samosa, which featured two crisp, yummy patties of potatoes and peas with a light touch of Indian spices. My companion enjoyed a mixed pakora of onions, green pepper, potatoes, spinach and chickpeas.

From a dozen vegetarian entrees ($7.50-$8.50), I found the dal-makhni, matpa beans simmered with tomatoes and ginger, a tangy culinary treat. the more familiar bhartha was equally a palate-pleaser, the eggplant seasoned exactly right for my tastes.

My dining companion enjoyed the aloo gobhi, a delicately seasoned mix of cauliflower, potatoes, green peas, green pepper, onion and tomatoes.

For lamb lovers, Kohinoor offers five dishes ($10.95-$11.95). Perhaps the best of Kohinoor's traditional recipes is to be found among the tandoor selections 9$9.50-$15.95), six dishes prepared slowly, with mild and aromatic herbs, in a clay oven -- king-size, marinated shrimp, for example, or minced lamb. Then, too, there are seven chicken options ($9.50-$11.95) that find the bird cooked in everything from spinach to tomatoes to curry to almond sauce.

While the restaurant offers a variety of entree specialties, we could have had just an assortment of their delightful breads ($1.75-$3.75) and left the place happy. An assortment of Indian desserts rounds out the menu.

Whereas the food was good, and the surroundings lovely, the service was exceptional, with quiet, graceful women, in traditional dress, attending us unobtrusively and attentively.

My mantra for this dining experience is definitely "yuummm "

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