2009-06-03 / Restaurant of the Week

GANDHI HAUTE CUISINE OF INDIA

I f you haven't visited Gandhi in a while, or have never been, it is time for you to experience the fine cuisine of Northern India in a comfortable, serene environment. Gandhi celebrates 8 years on 30th Avenue in Astoria and recent renovations have made the dining room very pleasant, with ochre colored walls, cool tile floors and doors that open to the street to allow for cool

breezes. A frosty cold Kingfisher beer from India

will also help to cool you off as you peruse the offerings from the northern reaches of the exotic sub-continent.

While you ponder the tempting appetizers, you can crunch away on light, crispy bean chips called papadam meant to be topped with a variety of sauces that include sweet tamarind, spicy chili and pickled onion. The congenial owner, Bedarul Islam, makes all his guests feel welcome and is happy to help you with suggestions from the menu, should you need it. While Indian cuisine is always flavorful, not all dishes are hot and spicy. If you have any questions, just ask, and the expert chef will be happy to adjust any meal to your liking.

Start with some of Gandhi's tempting appetizers such as flaky samosa pastries filled with meat, vegetables, potato and mild spices ($3). Drizzle on your favorite sauce for extra flavor. Onion bhajee are delicate fritters made of mashed chick peas and onions that are lightly fried until golden. Tender prawns are prepared in a special Bengali sauce and served with fluffy bread, ideal for sharing ($5). Chicken tikka is extra juicy and succulent from its time in the tandoor clay oven. While this dish is also available as a main course, the appetizer portion gives you a nice sampling of this uniquely cooked chicken. All of these appetizers were light and tasty and the assortment platter costs just $6. The chef at Gandhi uses no animal fat in cooking.

Only vegetable and olive oils are used, and sparingly at that, so your meal is light and tasty. Entrées range in price from $8 to $15 and cover mild or spicy dishes, vegetarian, rice dishes and more. Other entrées from the tandoor include shish kabob on skewers, jumbo

shrimp and tender lamb. The tandoori mixed grill offers a sampling of all and is ideal for sharing ($12). Balti dishes are typical of the northwest territory and are prepared and served in a wok-type pot. Choose among tender lamb, chicken, vegetables or shrimp that are slowly cooked with savory spices. Balti dishes are served with fluffy nan bread and raita, yogurt sauce.

The chef's selections include lamb tikka masala cooked in creamy yogurt sauce with a touch of tomato. Chicken tikka shag is prepared with spinach and mild spices, just perfect for spooning onto the fluffy basmati rice that accompanies main courses. In Indian cuisine, 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 addictive, filled with delicately spiced meat. Aloo paratha is filled with potatoes and peas.

If you enjoy spicy foods, Gandhi is your place. Try the Ceylon chicken, cooked in coconut milk and chili. Vindaloo, a classic three-alarm meal, is made with a fiery hot sauce and can be ordered with chicken, lamb or goat, and adjusted to your liking ($10). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes to choose from, including lentils, spinach, chick peas and okra, all delicately spiced and served with fluffy basmati rice. My dining companion enjoyed subzi jalfrazi, a blend of vegetables in a flavorful, yet mild sauce ($8).

Cool off your palate and satisfy your sweet tooth with one of Gandhi's delicious desserts. Try their version of rice pudding called kheer, which is creamy and delicious, flavored with coconut milk and almonds ($3). Gulab jamon are golden fried sweet cheese balls, soaked in honey syrup and the mango ice cream is creamy and cool.

Gandhi is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with an amazing dinner special for just $12 which includes a choice of appetizer, entrée and a side dish or dessert. The special is eat-in only, served from 4pm to 11pm. The lunch special also offers three courses and costs just $9. Visit Gandhi Haute Cuisine of India for the exotic dishes of northern India. There is free delivery too.

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