A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Street Food Reimagined

Last night I took another trip to Indique. Near starving, I thought an appetizer and an entrée were the way to go, so I ordered the Samosa Chaat (served in "the chef's style") and the Lamb Vindaloo. The lamb was good, if a little light on the spice. It came with the sort of rice I generally dislike as an accompaniment to complex curries, shot through with various aromatics and cashews. I like my curry with pure white rice or with naan. But overall it was a decent dish, if a little pedestrian. But the samosa...

Samosas in India are simple street foods, served piping hot, usually in newspaper with tamarind sauce. There are various ways of fancy-ing it up, such as adding a cilantro sauce or, you know, serving them on a plate. But basically its junk food, served as an accompaniment to tea or eaten as a quick snack. Oddly, I only found myself liking them (more specifically, the Bengali version, shingara) in the last few years. The last time I was in India I jumped at most opportunities to eat them. Okay, so I jumped at the opportunity to eat any street food, but you get the idea. The samosa is probably one of the easier Indian snacks on the Western palate... but as fas as innovation goes, well, there isn't much going on. The samosa at Indique had been recommended by a friend as a different view on what a samosa could be. No further description was given to me but the recommendation was taken seriously, as it was given to me by an Indique regular and a foodie in her own right.

What came out of the kitchen after ordering the dish was not the standard plate of two-three puffy bread triangles you expect from a bog-standard Indian joint... instead, it was as if one single large samosa had erupted, volcano like, spilling its contents down its walls. And the contents were far from the standard spiced potatoes/peas/chickpeas variety. Sauces of tamarind and yogurt coated a mixture of cilantro, curried chickpeas, and spicy potatoes giving the appetizer a weird sort of synergy where each bite was different but complimentary. It felt "deconstructed," to use that oh-so-popular term hitting culinary circles these days -- but deconstructed in the best possible way. Every single bite was worth it (and there were many). Did I mention when I was eating it I was starving? Well, those who know me know I don't have a particularly small appetite. But after the samosa I could barely get through half of my vindaloo, saving the rest for a later date.

My impressions of Indique after two trips are that the appetizers/small plates are serious winners. I haven't delved into the entrées, but with small plates this good I don't know if I will. I am certain I'll go back for the samosa, and after eating that I doubt I'll have room for anything more. Maybe I should just order two of those. Seriously, it would be worth it.