2002-11-27 / Restaurant of the Week

Restaurant

Of The WeekExotic Indian Cuisine At Gandhi
By Teresa Barile

Of The Week
Exotic Indian Cuisine At Gandhi

As the cold weather sets in, come and warm your soul with the haute cuisine of India at Gandhi, located on 30th Avenue in Astoria. All dishes are freshly prepared, using only the finest ingredients. Their talented chef creates flavorful, satisfying soups, appetizers, entrées and bread that excite the palate, and are never heavy or overpowering. Add to that a warm, exotic interior and incredibly low prices, and you'll be back to Gandhi again and again.

The softly lit interior features Indian craftwork on the walls and a red carpet on the floor, creating an elegant backdrop for tables dressed in crisp, white linens. Even the ceiling is festooned with brightly colored quilted fabric, creating the look of an elegant palace. Yet for all this luxury, the prices at Gandhi are extremely reasonable and the service is quick, efficient and polite.

The amiable owner, Bedarum Islam, greets customers warmly and offers suggestions of house specialties. We were intrigued as he spoke about their signature balti dishes. A balti is a special pot in which succulent beef, lamb or chicken is cooked with savory spices. This type of cooking is popular in the Northwest Frontier of India, and is already popular in England, where Indian restaurants abound. Now diners can enjoy this method of cooking right here in Astoria. Balti dishes are served with nan bread and raita, a type of yogurt sauce made with cucumber, carrots and spices, and range in price from $7.95 to $12.95. I ate to my heart's content and still took some home for lunch the next day.

We began our culinary journey by munching on some light, crispy bean chips called papadam, meant to be dipped into the array of sauces on the table. We also sampled a platter of assorted hours d'oeuvres which included two samosas, puff pastry filled with meat, and tender chicken from the clay tandoori oven ($1.95). These samosas were lighter than air and will melt in your mouth. In addition, the onion bhajee are delectable little chick pea and onion fritters, flavored with herbs and spices ($1.95). Prawns (shrimp) cooked in an aromatic sauce with fluffy bread cost only $4.95 and are delectable. Mulligatawny soup, a classic Indian soup made from lentils and tomatoes, is well worth a try. The chef at Gandhi uses only vegetable and olive oils and sparingly at that, so your meal is light and tasty.

Enjoy a glass of wine or one of several brands of Indian beer while you decide on your entrées, which range in price from $6.50 to $12.95 and cover mild or spicy dishes, vegetarian dishes and more. One of the most popular dishes besides the balti dishes, is the chicken tikka masala, cooked in a mild yogurt sauce, served with basmati rice ($8.95). If you like spicy foods, try the Ceylon chicken, cooked in coconut milk and chili. Vindaloo, a classic three-alarm meal, can be ordered with chicken or lamb, and adjusted to your liking. While all Indian food is very flavorful, not everything is hot. If you prefer a mild dish, try the gosht kurma, tender lamb cooked in a creamy sauce garnished with almonds ($8.95) or one of the chef's selections, chicken tikka biriyani. It consists of chunks of tender barbecued chicken, herbs and mild spices and is served with basmati rice laced with almonds and apricots. Another specialty of the chef with a bit more fire is fish jalfrazi, a combination of fresh fish filet cooked with chillies, green peppers, coriander and spices in a fiery sauce. This dish can also be ordered with chicken.

The clay tandoori oven renders the most tender, succulent meat, be it chicken or lamb tikka, shish kabab on skewers, or jumbo shrimp. The tandoori mixed grill offers a sampling of all meals and is ideal for sharing ($10.95). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes to choose among, including lentils, spinach, chick peas and okra, all delicately spiced and served with fluffy basmati rice.

Bread is ordered separately. For about $2, enjoy a freshly baked nan bread from the tandoori oven, or poori, a light, fluffy fried bread. Keema nan is filled with delicately spiced meat, while aloo paratha is filled with potatoes and peas.

Even the desserts at Gandhi are special. Try the refreshing mango ice cream. If you like rice pudding, try their version called kheer, which is creamy and delicious, flavored with coconut milk and almonds ($1.95). Gulabjamon are golden fried sweet cheese balls, drizzled in honey syrup.

Gandhi is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner until 10:30 p.m. Lunch specials are delicious and satisfying and quite a bargain at just $5.95 ($6.95 on weekends). In addition, they will deliver your order to your office or home. Orders can be placed for take out, so pick something up on your way home from work.

Enjoy a fresh, flavorful haute Indian meal in a warm, exotic setting at Gandhi.

Gandhi Of India

34-14 30th Ave.

Astoria

956-7555


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