There are a few Indian restaurants around that we go to regularly. Most of the time I don’t even think about it but once in a while it occurs to me how, more than thirty years ago, I went to an Indian restaurant for the first time, not having a clue what to expect and being amazed by all the dishes I’d never heard of before. And now if we drive down the road and see an Indian restaurant we’ve never been to before we have a pretty good idea that there’ll be pakoras and chicken tikka masala and malai kofta and naan.
Those terms have become so assimilated into English my spellchecker doesn’t even blink at them.
There’s one, though, that’s a little different. It has some of the old standards but also dishes it specifies are from some of India’s southern states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. The spices are different, the flavors more intense. It’s not just what we’ve come to think of as “Indian”.
What also stands out for me is they have a couple of guest books at the front and the guest books are hilariously disorganized. People have written notes diagonally across the page, they’ve drawn pictures. Flipping through one night while waiting for a to-go order I found a couple of notes written in Sinhala script, which was cool.
It’s a big place, always crowded, and while I’d gotten a couple of to-go orders there before I didn’t think I’d really been noticed, but while I was waiting the manager came over to me and said, “Next time you need to come in and sit down. I’ll make you something special and it will be very good!”
We didn’t really plan it and the next time we went in I don’t think the manager was there, or he didn’t see me, so we just ordered from the menu, but it was very good.