This week’s meal was hefty, to say the least. Normally, what I like to do on reviews is go with a couple of people so we can share dishes and I can try a few different menu items for the column. This week’s trip, however, was made with a larger group than usual. Of course, the boyfriend, Ryan, joined me on this culinary conquest, as usual. But also tagging along on this week’s venture to Amaya for Indian cuisine were my mother, father, and two brothers. I didn’t even taste every single dish we ordered, and yet I still have nearly a dozen of them to include in this review. Brace yourselves.
For starters, we gave the garlic naan a go. The menu featured numerous different variations of naan, some even stuffed, but we decided to keep it very simple. I suppose this was just about the Indian version of garlic bread, which I will always be down for. Although I thought the flavor of the garlic could definitely have been stronger, I still, beyond all doubt, loved the dish. I found the texture absolutely heavenly: extremely soft, moist, and buttery with just a slight bit of chew. And the slightly charred outer edges formed a lovely crust of sorts.
Next, Ryan and I tested the lamb palak, which was, to put it simply, braised lamb in a spinach cream sauce. I found both the meat and the sauce involved here to be incredible. The lamb was braised perfectly — it was buttery and tender and just about as melt-in-the-mouth as a meat can be. The spinach sauce had a wonderful balance of warmth and freshness in flavor. Both the flavor of the lamb and the sauce were quite strong, yet neither outshone the other — both the taste of lamb and that of spinach were well-developed and easily identifiable.
I also, much to nearly-carnivorous Ryan’s dismay, forced us to pour one out for a lost homie — my former veganism — by testing out the baingan bharta, one of the entrée dishes from Amaya’s extensive vegan menu. This dish really just seemed to be the hotter, more exotic cousin of the familiar ratatouille. It had that same tomato stew-y sort of composition. The eggplant, much like the braised lamb, was cooked to perfection and instantly melted in the mouth. Though the spices of this dish were strong, they worked in support of the natural bright flavors of the vegetables rather than overpowering them. There was a refreshing sweetness from the eggplant that was a bit unexpected and totally satisfying. One of my favorite parts of this dish was the peas. There was a healthy portion of zthem mixed in and, much like everything else, they were cooked to a very strategic texture. The peas were left just firm enough to burst in your mouth, releasing all sorts of fresh, sweet goodness. This dish was warm, homey, and comforting while also being fresh and exciting. Hot stuff.
I also decided to shoot my shot with my dad’s slightly more unconventional dish of choice: curry goat. Following what seems now to be a theme of Amaya, the meat was blissful melt-in-the-mouth perfection. Served bone-in, the goat was juicy and tender and, to quote Gretchen Wieners, since we just passed “Mean Girls Day” this week, “so fetch.” The curry sauce had a complexity of spices, yet was still light enough to allow the natural flavor of the goat to shine through.
My mom, who is more well-versed in Indian food than I, ordered the saag paneer for me to test. This was a fine choice on her part. 10 points for Tobe. This dish comprised of healthy cubes of seemingly-homemade cheese bathing in perhaps the same spinach cream sauce from the lamb palak. Huge heart eyes. I loved this as a side dish. My family is Romanian, so — schnitzel, of course — I grew up with on my grandmother’s placinta, which is a warm cheese and spinach pie, much like a spanakopita. This saag paneer really took me back to that. Once again — that good good Ratatouille-style nostalgic flashback.
Now, for the dish that I tasted the least of, yet experienced the impact of the very most: the chicken tikka masala. My little brother ordered this, so I’mma give him some mad props. To severely dumb this dish down, I would equate it to chicken in a smooth, creamy vodka sauce. The spice level (ordered medium) was very light, which worked nicely to highlight the other flavors and spices from the sauce. Wonderfully flavorful and creamy without being heavy, this sauce was a favorite of the day. I ended up dipping pieces of the garlic naan in this sauce and eating them like that. It was essentially like eating garlic bread with vodka sauce, but I felt fancier doing so, which is always a plus.
Dessert certainly lived up to expectations established by the dinner: both flavors and textures were beyond on point. The signature mango mousse was such a flavor bomb. Though more of a light custard than a mousse, it was creamy and airy and oh so fruity-flavorful. And what may have been my star of the day was the gulab jamun. I have had a few gulab jamun in my day, including one made fresh by my friend’s Indian mother, but this was easily the greatest. The dough balls were creamy and shockingly moist, yet not dense in the slightest. And I loved the inclusion of just a pinch of a crunch topping over the dough. The syrup was warm, sweet, and addictive — I found myself drinking it straight up with a spoon.
Honestly, that was a common theme of this meal at Amaya: eating more than I’m proud to admit. This food was such a surprising combination of comforting and exciting. And it’s always so satisfying to find dishes that are creamy without being heavy, which many of Amaya’s dishes were. Amaya gonna be going back for more? You betcha.