When I began writing this column, I had two goals in mind. The first was that each week, I would strive to review a mini cross-section of food types and Rochester-based locales you can experience by stepping off campus. The second was to push myself beyond the bounds of what I would normally eat.

This week both the goals were met when I tried out Taste of India. Located on West Henrietta Road, a mere eight-minute drive from UR, this location provided me with my first Indian restaurant experience. Though I’d eaten Indian food at catered events on campus and at the homes of friends whose families are from India, I’d never been to an actual restaurant.

As we settled in, I noticed on the far wall a giant painted Indian flag and an American flag, whose staves were crossed, framing a clock. While the clock was nothing special, and actually reminded me of clocks we have in classrooms on campus, the interlocked flags really got me thinking about what it’s like for immigrants sharing their culture with others. It sounds sappy, but it struck a chord with me and I believe represented something much greater to be appreciated.

Once seated, the waiter brought over some cracker-like snacks for the table, which served as the equivalent to a breadbasket. I later learned that they are called ‘papad,” made from dry lentils and grains, and they were served with two different chutneys, tamarind and mint coconut.

The mint coconut was much spicier than its deceptive light green exterior might lead an individual to believe, and not being experienced with Indian food, I took more than I should have. Needless to say, it most definitely kick-started the meal.

Menu-wise, Taste of India has so many options, but luckily there’s good organization to help keep it straight. There’s a natural flow through about a dozen appetizers, 15 breads (which are an Indian staple), Tandoor Specials (cooked in a clay oven and served on a sizzler), chicken and lamb entrees (about ten of each), a handful of seafood entrees, Balti dishes (served in a special bucket) and Biryani dishes (whose base is rice with added ingredients). With so many choices, it could seem overwhelming, but all of the dishes have detailed descriptions so you definitely have a good sense of what’s available to order.

Once the papad was served, it seemed that two servers were assigned to our table, though the whole system was very informal, with a couple of people covering whatever any table needed. While one server was dynamic and direct, the other was quieter and more difficult to understand, which made ordering in the beginning a little frustrating.
Regardless, for appetizers the table opted for a couple of orders of samosas, some of which were stuffed with lamb and others with mashed potatoes and peas. Each order had two pieces, and at $3 they make for a great opener to share with a friend.

When it came time to order main courses, Lamb Biryani, Chicken Tika Masala, Chicken Vindaloo and Kadai Gost (a lamb dish) were ordered. When the food was brought out, each was served in an individual traditional bowl and spoon to be ladled out onto the dinner plates. Large plates of rice also accompanied each entre and there was plenty to go around.

Throughout the evening, I sought to try a wide selection of foods. I began by sharing the samosas, and for my meal I ordered Chicken Makhani, boneless chicken cooked in a semi-sweet butter tomato cream sauce with nuts and raisins. Believe me when I tell you that dish was as good as it sounds. Known colloquially as ‘Butter Chicken,” I would whole-heartedly order it again in the future. I also chose Tandoori Roti, a traditional flat-rolled whole wheat bread that came out with the main course and provided a good shell in which to wrap rice and pieces of the chicken.

Price-wise, the menu is really fair, with the appetizers averaging about $4, the breads $3, and all of the entrees between $11 and $14. Because all of the entres were so closely priced, there wasn’t any single option that stood out as a Best Bang For Your Buck. That being said, nearly everyone in my party left with another meal’s worth of food, so you definitely won’t leave hungry and will likely have more for later. A 10 percent student discount doesn’t hurt either. Taste of India provided a fun meal out for my dining cohorts and myself. The food was good, there were a ton of options to chose from, we had leftovers to chow down on and the atmosphere, while not the most exciting, was quaint and a nice escape from the hectic nature of campus life. Overall, I left pleased with my experience and I think you will too.

Siegel is a member of the class of 2010.

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