May 13, 2009

Good food, sexy British accents and rum (ish).

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You'll have to forgive me. I'm buzzing a little. I've just been seduced by chocolate pudding with rum cream. And I'm a little giddy. But let's start at the beginning - I don't want you to miss a bite.

There's a little big place on NW 21st and Everett, called Indish. Formerly an adult store, an antique shop and a garage (at different times of course) , #305 NW 21st is at once intimate and spacious. Leather love seats and small tables make up the entire front half of the restaurant on a stained cement floor. Tables and chairs take up the space in the back. And in the corner on the left is an open kitchen.

Raj was amiable and smiley right when I walked in, shaggy and splashed with rain. I should have felt intimidated by leather and glass around me, but I didn't. The music put me at ease immediately - it was a shout out to my kid-hood, where I only listened to Sinatra, Dean Martin and musicals. Shortly after I got there, Ansley and Sara arrived. Raj, the owner and husband of the chef, asked if we had been to Indish before. None of us had. "Oh good," he said with a smile and began his speech on what Indish was.

If Indian people ate the "curry house" food that is served in American Indian restaurants, they would fall over dead, he said. They simply don't eat like that. Raj and his wife decided to start a restaurant that showcased the REAL Indian food - the food made with very little fat - with spice that is in the spotlight but not overwhelming or tear-inducing. Raj excitedly explained the concept of the restaurant, using his hands in a lively talk that made me excited to eat. "My wife cooks everything," he said proudly in his dead sexy British accent.

The menu is written in a laid-back and approachable manner, using names like Fresh Flame Puffed Chapati Rolled-up Thingies, and stating that the food is "accidentally healthy." The menu unapologetically says "no naans" (secretly the soft chewy bread is the reason any sane person orders Indian food!) It's Ind-ish food. Indian-ish. And de-lish. (Shout out to Rachel Ray. Sorry. Can't help that bit.)

So. We started out with the peanut salad ($3.50), stir-fried peanuts with a lemon, chili, cilantro dressing, and the onion rings ($6) dipped in chick pea batter and deep fried. The peanut salad I could have eaten as a main dish. It was less peanut-y and more bean-y, but crunchy. And spicy enough that when I licked my lips, they burned happily until I put them out with water. The onion rings were not greasy and not completely crispy. A little chewy and lightly salted, with a subtle spice underneath, dipped in the tomato chutney, these were divine.

For my main meal, I ordered the Lamb Saag Tikki ($15), ground lamb with onions, garlic, ginger, fresh herbs and spices, served with Punjabi Saag (mustard greens, spinach, ginger, spices), and Bombay Potatoes, smashed with green herbs and spices. What a rich, flavorful, delightful meal. The lamb was a good texture, not too tough, not too loose - moist and soaking up the flavors of the sauces atop it, it was a perfect bite with the potatoes. And also encased in the chapati bread. Either way, it is delicious.

Now for the matter of the lentils. On the menu there are light lentils and dark lentils. When we asked Raj what the difference was, he could not tell us. He just said that the dark lentils were more complex than the light ones, but that he could not give us concrete language to distinguish their flavors - they are different, he said, but both delicious. When we got the lentils (Ansley, Sara and Rich all ordered them), we discovered that Raj was right. The light lentils had a surprising, spicy taste, but I couldn't put my finger on the flavor. The dark ones were spicier, almost like a Mexican flavor. Definitely more complex. But both delicious. And this is coming from me, who generally speaking does not like lentils.

Most everyone ordered from the Roti menu, where you pick one thing from each of the three columns listed. The combination of the 3 things is $12. Tasted: Chicken and Mushroom Korma, Pork Balchoa, Paneer Dopiaza (stir fried Indian cheese), Pan Fried Cabbage, spiced cauliflower and both the lentil dishes. Everything was so individually strong enough to stand on its own. Pretty amazing.

Raj popped in and out, chatting us up about the food, how he started the restaurant, why they came to America. I won't spoil it for you - I'll let you talk to him yourself. He was quite nice and his talking, which could have been annoying in any other place, was just an asset to our dinner. One can always use good conversation with a meal.

I really couldn't pass up dessert. Take the richness and the depth of my dinner and roll it up with chocolate and rum cream? I've already tasted the possibilities - and once you've experienced that, it's difficult to say no to more. If you know what I mean. Dark chocolate pudding, light rum cream combined together made my tongue tingle with pleasure.

Others: Cardamom Creme Brulee, Mango and Coconut cheesecake. A. Maz. Ing. That's all. I'm coming off my buzz now, from the rum cream. I think I will sleep well. Hopefully I will not have a headache tomorrow.

Indish on Urbanspoon

7 comments:

Sara said...

I LOVED this place. Not only is the food divine, but it is so reasonably priced for what you get.

The original wood beams and the original cement floor...from 1920 provide a clean and warm dining room from which to enjoy the fabulous food.

chelsea said...

Sounds amazing. Can't wait to try it!!

Amy I. said...

So, WOW. I'm so, so glad I came across your blog and this recommendation yesterday. It was by far the best meal (food, ambiance, service, oh and did I mention the food?!!?) we've had in a long, long time. I wish we had places even a fraction as innovative (and yummy) in Eugene. Thanks Lizzie!

Amy I. said...

Oops I spelled your name wrong. Sorry Lizzy :)

Lizzy said...

Yay! I'm so glad you liked it! I can't wait to go back. (No worries on the name:))

Anonymous said...

Indish truly is a great find. I'm not much of a restaurant booster but I think I've told half of Portland to try this place. It's too good to see it fail.

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