Dawat Fine Indian Cuisine

Exactly what you'd expect — and then some
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 2, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

Fortunately, I had ordered a plain dosa ($7.95) off a short menu of South Indian specialties. I expected a long rolled crêpe with the standard filling of caramelized potatoes. Instead, I essentially got a thin potato pancake with a pot of what seemed like cream cheese and herbs for spreading, plus an extra-large portion of the traditional super-hot vegetable soup, sambhar, that almost always goes with it. This sambhar — with curry and basil leaves, oniony black kalonji seeds, and chunks of summer squash, tomatoes, and onion — was good enough to go on the menu.

A more conventional entrée, murg reshmi kebab ($13.95), is chicken breast marinated in a mild creamy sauce and baked over a "slow charcoal fire." The fire was so slow, in fact, that it left no grill marks or taste of flame. It arrived with a fanfare on a sizzling platter that fried the kebab vegetables: bell peppers, onions, and squash.

Murg Madras ($13.95) was the most piquant curry on the table, despite coconut milk, which only seemed to amplify the fiery notes, as well as the notes of curry leaves, fried mustard seeds, and green cilantro. It was a relative filler-upper, but this is not a restaurant of huge servings.

From a long list of breads, the Peshwari naan ($3.95) was two flatbreads stuffed with fruit and topped with dried coconut. The poori ($2.50), though puffed up like half a basketball as it fries, did not taste "sprinkled with fenugreek."

Wine here is attractively priced ($18–$30/bottle), yet senseless unless you are all having murg reshmi kebabs and pakoras — the only entrées that pair well. Better to try one of the three Indian beers, or something like the homemade lemonade ($2.50). Chai ($2.50) is really old-fashioned masala with boiled milk and hot tea — not the thick chai of American coffee chains.

We only got to two desserts out of seven, but there is no ground-breaking development in this course, I suspect. Ras Malai ($3.95) were bigger cheese balls than most, served in simple milk rather the lacing of rosewater some restaurants use with this dessert. Kheer ($3.95) was likewise a fairly dull creamy rice pudding, despite some cardamom pods.

The room is as low-key as a storefront restaurant can be; the inside handsomely redone, featuring a shiny blond wood floor, dark wood tables, red and yellow walls and table linen, and a variety of abstract arts and crafts. There is one concession to American taste: the placement of a flat-screen TV in the corner set on mute to CNN.

Service our night was excellent, though we were the only patrons. This review should encourage a better test of the kitchen capacity. If you walk by and the place is empty, don't hesitate to enter. You'll command all the attention and will get the freshest fried food ever.

Robert Nadeau can be reached atrobtnadeau@aol.com.

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