This week, Hindus around the world celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights. But for those of us far from family (and those, like me, unable to grasp how to cook the native food), the next best thing is to grab a few friends, find an Indian restaurant and make merry.
The truck debuted earlier this month with a vegetarian (and mostly vegan) menu of North Indian street food: chickpea-and-chutney topped samosas (samosa chaat); spiced potato pancakes (ragda); and that hard-to-find holy grail of Indian food, dosa.
Chatpat (pronounced Chut-putt) makes two kinds of the lentil-and-rice-flour crepes to order, one stuffed with spiced potato ($8), the other brimming with spinach-and-cheese curry, a filling that’s not traditional for dosas, but who’s arguing? In the truck was Jawahar Shah, who owns Nirvana Express and the Chatpat truck with his wife Doler. He reminded me that a dosa is best consumed quickly, while it’s still crispy.
If you’re in search of some more of the city’s best Indian, check out this list of recently reviewed Indian restaurants, with recommendations on what to order:
Diners enamored of the crispy spinach appetizer at the two Rasika restaurants in the District might be surprised to learn that a handful of flash-fried copycats lurks on area menus. The crackling Kurkure Hariyali ($5.99) at Tandoori Nights has a heavier robe of sweet-and-sour tamarind and tart yogurt, but it’s otherwise satisfyingly close to the downtown favorite.
“This is a kitchen where no two sauces or curries taste alike,” wrote Tom Sietsema. “Pistachios, almonds and cinnamon lend their accents to the velvety gravy of the golden shahi lamb, while coconut milk, curry leaves and mustard seeds impart a sweet heat to the lamb masala. I got stung by the goat vindaloo -- and I loved every pinch of it. Be sure to sop the sauces with some of the hot breads, especially the stuffed ones and the dome-shaped poori.”
“If I close my eyes in the new restaurant, attended to by chef Manish Tyagi, I could be dining across town,” wrote Sietsema in last month’s 2012 Fall Dining Guide. “The Mumbai native's herby chicken kebab, peppery crab stacked on phyllo and smoky black lentils all pop with flavor.”