A special on black bean shrimp with curry leaf ($14) is a good idea that needs some work. Both Indian curry leaf and Chinese fermented black beans are what I think of as "dry," slightly bitter spices. In a dish with burnt ginger and bamboo shoots as well as large, juicy shrimp, the aroma is fascinating, but the actual flavors seem to cancel each other out. Promising, but back to the lab on this one.
Another special, on soft-shell crab in a "mango Szechuan sauce" ($22), was the same sweet-sour-hot stuff. I doubt that sweet mango is used in savory dishes in Sichuan. But they do fry well here, and the pieces of crab are quite delicious as you pick them out. The stars of this dish are some black mushrooms.
Mumbai Chopstix hasn't figured out what you should drink. Beer is always safe, and the current run of imported-from-India Flying Horse ($9.95/22 ounces) has an appley sweetness that goes well with this food. There are a lot of mostly white, mostly American wines trying to do the same job, a few mixed drinks, and a mango lassi ($5) so rich and heavy I could barely get it up the straw. I remember when lassi was a thinned, salty-sour yoghurt drink. (I remember when India and China were at war, too.) Masala tea ($1.95) is a good choice with dessert. Our server one night apologized for not having the coffee/tea program running yet, but you can always get masala tea (which is the original, less creamy, version of what we now call "Chai").
Desserts are a strength. The green tea kulfi ($4.95) breaks out of the mold of most restaurant kulfi, which is an icy sherbet flavored with cardamom. This stuff is gelato-rich, so you can barely taste the astringency of the green tea, and there are pistachios and bits of ginger mixed in. You can get it with hot date pancakes ($6.95), which are stuffed with dates, and almost immediately melt all the kulfi into green delicious goop. Toffee banana ($6.95) is sugar-coated fried banana. The dish also comes in apple, which may be the better choice, because our toffee banana was made with a pretty green banana, and green apples taste better than green bananas.
The complimentary dessert with the check is sesame-coated hard candy. You pop one or two into your mouth, and for 30 seconds, nothing happens. Then a little tropical fruit flavor starts filtering in past the dull beige seeds. You bite down to get more and that releases sesame flavor.
Service is by a multicultural staff, which is kind of like not setting out chopsticks. If you want to present a new and recondite kind of Indian food, in my unsolicited and politically incorrect opinion, all the servers should be South Asians, so no one pronounces "lassi" like the TV dog.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.