"Their walls are painted with that thrown-sponge technique that was so popular a few years ago," I muttered to Eric as we walked through the door of the Cambridge branch of A Passage to India. "It looks kind of weird. There aren't many people here," I continued, "is that a bad sign?"
It was the day before Valentine's Day and we had once again ventured into world of mid-priced Cambridge Indian restaurants. We had considered going back to Desi Dhaba for the holiday, but had decided to go to a place that had repeatedly caught my eye as I got off the 96 bus to go grocery shopping in Porter Square. Now that I had actually committed to going to the place, however, I was having doubts. However, we took a seat and started poking at the bottles of San Pellegrino that had been placed on every table.
"Do these come with our meal?" asked Eric, and after a weird interlude where the waiter started writing the cost of the bottle on the bill, and I suddenly reverted into Scotland Me and asked for "still water, not fizzy", we finally sorted out that the San Pellegrino was not intended to be a freebie, and ordered our drinks and appetizers.
I took one bite of my first appetizer, a paneer pakora, and decided my doubts were unfounded. The cheese was a perfect combination of fluffy and gooey, and the chickpea-and-caraway-seed batter provided a satisfying crunch. Having the aloo tikka and vegetable pakora on the same platter were redundant -- two mashed potato based snacks got a little dull -- but both were well flavored and just the right amount of spicy.
I had better luck with my wine this time, perhaps because the food at Passage to India was less spicy than that at Desi Dhaba, but for whatever reason the glass of Blue Fish Riesling I ordered held its own against the flavors of my meal: it was light, fruity in a nicely astringent sort of way, and killed exactly enough pepper fire so that my mouth wasn't burned to a cinder when I dumped a little too much hot sauce on my pakora.
We had Kabuli Channa: a chickpea, tomato, and potato based dish that blended well with rice but could have used a little bit more ginger and garlic -- and Vegetable Korma, which was a mix of fresh vegetables in a really wonderful yogurt sauce. (Even Eric, who hates a couple of the veggies they used, loved it.)
The naan was a little disappointing, a little too heavy, a little too garlicy, but it was still good enough to bother taking the leftovers home for breakfast tomorrow.
All in all, Desi Dhaba was better, but if you live in the Somerville/Cambridge/Medford area, this place is worth a look.