Indian Cuisine
By Lydia on May 18, 2009 2:29 PM| | Comments (6)
"Oppressive" may seem an odd word to describe a room designed to mimic a sidewalk cafe, but it comes to mind when shivering in Eastown's newest Indian restaurant, the straightforwardly named Indian Cuisine. Gloomy and chill, the space is a holdover from Chez Bayou, a confusing creole joint that took all of a few months to die, and it retains all of its Epcot-French quarter kitsch. I beg you not to read this contradiction as quaint, but rather the perfect decor to highlight all the failings of a slapdash operation: fake food, fake surroundings.

Indian Cuisine, ostensibly an "authentic" south Indian restaurant, brings to mind Indian food, done like the Chinese we get in America: gluey, one dimensional, and (theoretically) the same thing you would get at any crappy Indian place in the country. Or, it almost perfectly recalls the foil pouches of curry you get at Meijer and heat in boiling water for a disappointing, but economical meal. Unfortunately, the dishes at Indian Cuisine will set you back $11-14 insead of $2.99. Add a nan or two at $2.50 a piece, and you are looking at a pricey meal.

After a long wait at the door (Yes, I timed it. It was just under 2 minutes) trying to get someone's attention, my boyfriend and I were seated in the empty French Quarter. It was rather eerie, and sound tended to echo, making the atmosphere uneasy. I ordered some veggie pakoras right off the bat, and then a fish curry with coconut milk and a lamb vindaloo. The waiter asked us how hot we wanted them "on a scale of one to ten," which always makes me nervous, because what is anyone's 10? I mean, I like things spicy, my tastebuds are used to spice, but I don't want it "Indian hot" like some friends from the subcontinent. I tried to deduce what system the kitchen uses; Indian spicy or Midwestern spicy, and the waiter told us that we should get everything at a 10, because its "not that hot. More like a 7" Well, ok, I am no sissy baby.

The pakoras, out first, were decent, though a few were unpleasantly oil-soaked. They only vegetable in them was onion, and while I like onion pakoras, I thought they could have been less misleadingly described on the menu. The accompanying chutneys were a run of the mill cilantro-mint, and a too-sweet tamarind that tasted a bit too much like ketchup.

Curry-wise, things went downhill fast. The food was too hot. I overheard the server later telling a table that he tries to make customers "push the envelope." Well, that's just irresponsible. Why try to make people eat something that will hurt them? Do you think you know what they need better than they do? The vindaloo was hot, and it was sweet, but it wasnt much else. More than anything it was like a few pieces of fatty lamb swimming in a bad BBQ sauce. The fish curry wasn't much better, being hot, and coconut-creamy, but not much else. The fish, some sort of cod, I think, almost seemed reconstituted it was so oddly textured.

We are experiencing a sort of glut of Indian in GR right now. Bad food at high prices just isn't going to cut it. In fact, if anyone is really tempted to go to Indian Cuisine maybe you can just pay me $45 a couple and I'll make you way better Indian right at home.

Last trip to the Crate & Barrel outlet, I bought this great book-- 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. Or Crate & Barrel does the Sub-continent. I know your Indian expertise outranks this book, Lydia, but--- Reading Rainbow style shout out to any of your readers who find the list of ingredients in some Indian recipes a little daunting. So far I've liked everything I've made from it.

I bought a food processor because every bread recipe in How to Cook Everything requires one. My first attempt was cinnamon buns. So good! Only draw back was that they didn't come with the mini-tube of icing you get with a poppin' can and I was out of powdered sugar... Still, my first leavened success!

Any suggestions to try next?! I bought chickpea flour to make the little pancakes.

i think that 5 spices thing is a great concept. I mean, sure, you can use 10 and get a more complex flavor, but who has the energy? I mean, using 5 different spices instead of a bought curry powder is a huge step, and I applaud those who take it.

Food processors are gods gift to baking. Now you can make samosas! Just stuff the curry into food-processor dough and bake or fry! Hummous and babaganoj (sp?) are great and only take 10 minutes. I made my own pita the other day (a huge hassle involving 6 cups of flour and 5 different rises.) and it was awesome. The recipe, unfortunately, is long and difficult, being the best of possible pitas.. it is from Beard (james) on Bread. Maybe I'll just make a pita and toppings post!

ps...cant wait to drive to LA. I'll quit my job if need be, I am totes coming along!

I am glad to hear you agree. I was a tad worried I was unnecessarily harsh!

"fooled?"

Yes, please to the pita and toppings post!

I was going to make samosas last night for a dinner party, but the crummy grocery store by my house was out of peas! Not even frozen. Lame. Seemed to0 close to Indian pierogis without them. Ted still needs to guest blog his empanadas recipe.

I am so stoked on our trip to LA! I've heard Westwood--my new neighborhood-- is known for Iranian delis. I walked by an open-air counter Korean deli next to the grad student apartments too. Whoa. I've never been to either, I don't think. I did go to In-and-Out Burger and was totally underwhelmed. But, what was I expecting, really?? We need to pick some places to spend the night along the way! We just have to roll up to UCLA by 12 noon on August 1.

(Maybe next time I should just email you instead of commenting..... )

We really can't let Indian food go the way of the disgusting "Chinese" food that has proliferated around Grand rapids. Bad food is bad food, and there's no reason to be nice about it, especially if they are charging premium prices.

I mean we already have the Grand Rapids Press to tell us that every restaurant that runs an ad is fantastic. In fact, I remember the puff piece they published on the Chez Bayou. Didn't help.