On that first evening, four of us took advantage of the multicourse dinner-for-two special, which turned out to be a minibuffet, but made just for us. It was the kind of long, leisurely meal for which Indian food is so well suited—lively talk punctuated by spicy food, beginning with a complimentary plate of pappadams, those crisp wafer-thin, saucer-size peppery crackers made with lentil flour. Alongside came ramekins of mint-cilantro puree and tamarind sauce. Then our real starters arrived—piping hot vegetable samosas, generous deep-fried triangles of crisp pastry stuffed with potatoes and peas and spices. These were followed by a cuplet of dal, a yellow lentil soup that had a light and silky texture speckled with finely chopped bright green herbs, which in turn was succeeded by two chicken and two vegetarian mains. The chicken makhani—cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey calls it “chicken in a butter sauce”—was splendid and rich, with a tomato-cream sauce flavored with herbs, ginger, and the kitchen’s own garam masala spice blend. The vegetable korma was lovely too, but it was also fairly rich, with a cream sauce binding chopped carrots, potatoes, nuts, and peas. So to balance it we had the boneless and sauceless tandoori roasted chicken tikka and saag paneer, cubes of house-made cheese and chopped spinach. The paneer was the least popular dish of the night—I was the only one in our group who liked its astringent, somewhat bitter flavor. On the side came a platter of fluffy, faintly seasoned basmati rice and fresh puffy crisped naan baked just for us. We ordered everything medium-
spicy and doused the occasional chili fire with sweet mango lassi.