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Diner 2009

The Oregonian
June 10, 2009

2038 S.E. Clinton St.

If your knowledge of Indian cuisine begins and ends with dreary buffet steam tables loaded up with bright-orange tandoori chicken legs, it's time to discover a fresh take on one of the world's tastiest cuisines. The restaurant explores what it calls Spice Route cuisine, taking heirloom recipes from the Indian subcontinent, then using local ingredients and hard-to-find spices to create dishes loaded with nuance and interesting textures. Most dishes pop with flavor and texture, from the crispy pappadams -- paper-thin lentil crackers -- with homemade tamarind chutney that come gratis at the start of a meal, to fiery braised pork shoulder loaded with garlic and chiles.

Eat and drink: Don't miss the tender lamb kofta starter ($8), with meatballs doused in a curried tomato-yogurt sauce. The paneer pakora ($8) -- fritters of cheese and spinach -- are perfectly fried, though the accompanying tomato chutney is overly sweet. Main dishes include tender, moist chicken tikka ($16) and a knockout pork vindalho ($17). Six specialty cocktails (all $8) match well with spicy masalas and curries, and the thoughtful wine list offers specific by-the-glass recommendations for different dishes.

Bargain bin: Happy hour deals include five dishes for $5; newsletters on the Web site sometimes include coupons for 20 percent discounts on specific nights

Reality check: On slow nights, the staff may outnumber diners, with servers having a tendency to hover.

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