East India Co Grill and Bar   Leave a comment

Ever since I moved here, I have noticed on the way back on the Portland Streetcar, there has been this really nice looking Indian restaurant along the way. The stop I get off to walk across PSU and then home is still another stop away, so I never got off early to take a look. I remedied that last week.

Inside East India Co Grill is a very contemporary restaurant- they have a list of interesting (and strong!) cocktails. I would say although the presentation is modern, the food itself tastes very traditional, though not the "home-cooked hole in the wall" that has been the current Indian restaurant fave, Tandoor. East India Co certainly does have a classier atmosphere going for it though, and beautiful looking food, even if the complexity of flavor, in my opinion, really varies. I think I've been spoiled by my experience at Rasika in Washington DC, as East India Co seems to try to do something similar but isn't quite up to par.

To start was the Papdi Chaat- mini crispy poories filled with potatoes and spiced with chaat then topped with yogurt, tamarind, and mint chutney. This looked great when presented, though it gets destroyed when trying to cut it up to share. The flavor of this one was very good. Along with this, not pictured, was papadum along with the red tamarind sauce and mint chutney. The papadums were perfectly fine (who could possibly mess that up?), but I wished the two sauces had more kick. My cocktail, a Sharaabi Lassi (Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka and Mango lassi) was giving me more of a kick.

My main dish was Begam Bahar Ratan of baby scallops and chopped asparagus cooked in an aromatic sauce with cashew nuts, lemon, ginger, green chilies and cilantro, accompanied with rice and the lentil stew of the day. The stew was great, and I think if they had held back just a bit on the cream the taste of the scallops and asparagus and other seasonings would have come through instead of being muddled. Look at that cute little pyramid of rice…

The naan and garlic kulcha was warm and fluffy and slighlty doughy, definitely fresh, which was great. The side of dahl (slow cooked lentil) was a bit on the blander side though (and it doesn't have to be prepared that way), and the other main dish of Aloo Gobi of cauliflower with new potatoes, stir fried with ground spices & tomatoes garnished with cilantro, was ok, nothing special. My second cocktail of Rangpur Chill (cucumber and Indian green chilies muddled and shaken over ice with Tanqueray’s Rangpur Lime Gin) was pleasant but could have used a bit more chili though the combinition with the cucumber was a brilliant idea. We finished everything off with pistacho kulfi, which was a soothing mix of flavors and textures that ended the meal on a high note.

So the theme was- I liked it a lot/it was just ok. I would go back again since it is a short walk away, rather than necessarily going all the way to the other side of downtown, if I wanted Indian food, though the prices here are also reflective of the atmosphere here being crafted rather than a hole in the wall that plays Indian music videos on a TV during the meal. I can't help it, those music videos and Indian soaps mesmerize me. Sometimes you want a classy ethnic meal though, and this place doesn't hit a home run, but it definitely has some base hits.

On the other hand, there are also two Indian carts around the corner that I want to try. They offer all vegetarian chaats, which are snacky appetizer bites, but I also am drawn in by their War of the Roses type story.   

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