Monday, September 23, 2013

Karavalli Indian Restaurant

There's an abundant of Indian cuisine here in the Capital Region. Albany's Central Avenue alone has four Indian/Pakistani restaurant all within a one mile radius, not even! I remember being hesitant about trying Indian food, but after one bite, it wasn't as intimidating as I thought. I was introduced to Indian cuisine when a housemate during my summer internship had a hankering for palak paneer, a dish of farmer's cheese in a spinach sauce. We drove 70 miles to eat at Ghandi Restaurant on Central Ave where I was introduced to Chicken Tikka Masala and was hooked at first bite. 

I'm one of those people that likes to try a bit of everything and Indian buffets are perfect for that, but usually I've only come across buffets at lunchtime. So when the craving hit at dinner time, J and I decided to venture up to Latham to Karavalli and stray from our usual sushi date nights. A 4.5 star rating from Yelp was enough to pique our interest. 

There was already a pretty good dinner crowd when we arrived; a full dining room is always a good sign. Even better, there was complimentary papadum (a thin, crispy cracker) with a duo of sweet and savory chutneys aka Indian condiments. J isn't much of a seasoned Indian foodie as I am but was adventurous enough to order lamb saag. I usually don't like lamb but loved it in this dish. Sometimes the gamey flavor of lamb is off-putting to me but the blend of spices in the spinach sauce balanced well with the chunks of meat. I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish that sets the standard and quality of each Indian-American restaurant that I visit. Karavalli's version did not disappoint; creamy and spicy (but not hot spicy), chicken tikka masala always hits the spot when the craving hits. Indian food is also never complete without naan, a buttery and chewy flatbread. It's perfect for sopping up the sauces and picking up bits of meat mixed in with basmati rice.  Don't be afraid to get hands on! A glass of mango lassi, basically a yogurt milkshake, is always an added treat too. 

What I love about Indian food is that flavors are so complex. Not every masalas and curries are made the same; dishes can taste different across the board depending on where you go. Each Indian restaurant is unique in its own way; they use their own blend of spices and if you go enough like I do, not one dish tastes exactly the same and that's the fun part! Just don't ask me to name all the spices, it's nearly impossible but I mostly pick up on cumin, cinnamon, and paprika.  Indian food can be as regional as our American foods and I love discovering and tasting the nuances of this type of cuisine. It's hard to pick a favorite Indian food spot in the Capital Region, but J and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Karavalli. Plus service was excellent; our dishes were cleared right away and you never run out of water (a giant pet peeve of ours when ignored). 

Does anyone know of Indian buffets for dinner in the area? I'd love to go on more Indian dinner dates. Variety is the spice of life right? Indian food certainly doesn't lack spice! Ok, really, I just want to be glutton and fill my plate with all kinds of delicious morsels. -R

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