Indian Food at its BestApril 27, 2010
Karavalli has the best Indian food in Albany County. It’s a bold statement to make, considering the number of Indian restaurants in the county; but I will qualify it by saying that I have been to at least 90% of those other restaurants, and after my second visit to Karavalli, I feel completely justified in making such a claim. With locations in Latham, Saratoga Springs and downstate in Nanuet, perhaps soon they can claim to have the best Indian food in New York.
Located in an unassuming, small strip mall off Columbia Turnpike in Latham, Karavalli features dishes strictly from India, unlike most of their competitors which offer both Indian and Pakastani cuisine. Karavalli is also unique in that their menu features items from all over India – many Indian eateries concentrate on only one region of that country.
It was packed at 7:30PM last Saturday night. For some reason I had actually made a reservation (usually unnecessary in this town), and luckily we were seated immediately upon arrival. Karavalli’s décor features modern lighting fixtures with traditional Indian pieces of artwork, costumes and accessories adorning peaceful, blue walls.
We began with a couple of appetizers – the kurkuri bindi (spiced okra) and the tamarind eggplant. Both were terrific – we had the eggplant dish previously, so we knew what to expect: thin slices of eggplant along with chickpeas and onions in an amazing tamarind yogurt sauce. It was truly delicious. The okra would make for great football-watching food – thin strips of okra wrapped in a light, spicy batter and then quick-fried…finger food at its best.
We ordered 5 more dishes: chicken tandoori, lamb torkari, lassoni gobi, palak paneer and aloo paratha. Chicken tandoori is one of my all-time favorite foods, and Karavalli does it exceptionally. Full of juice and flavor, it was served sizzling over cabbage and onions. Tandoori ovens are very hot, usually over 500 degrees, so it’s easy to overcook anything in there. But this chicken was perfect.
The lamb was cooked in a cumin and coconut sauce – it was flavorful and tender. The lassoni gobi was by far the most interesting dish of the night, and it’s something I had never seen in an Indian restaurant before. Large chunks of cauliflower were fried along with sautéed onions and peppers in a soy ginger sauce. The dish was intensely red in color, sweet and spicy in flavor, and if you’d told me it was a Chinese dish I would have easily accepted that. It really did look and somewhat taste like sweet and sour sauce at first – but after a few bites the Indian influence did become apparent. It was very tasty, and very unusual.
Palak paneer is a must-have any time I eat Indian food – cubes of semi-soft cheese in a marvelous spinach Jacuzzi of sorts. You can judge an Indian restaurant solely by how they make this one dish – and again, Karavalli’s is fantastic. They even included a little matchstick-sliced ginger on top for extra flavor and texture, a very nice touch.
For the bread course, we eschewed our traditional favorite, garlic naan, for paratha; paratha is a pancake-like Indian bread dish, the dough stuffed with potatoes and spices before being griddled. Karavalli’s paratha is a bit on the thick side, so while tasty and palatable, it was a little too heavy given how much other food we had ordered.
If Karavalli has a down side, it’s their service; it can be inattentive at times, but if you go there expecting things to be a little lackadaisical, you’ll be fine. With a couple of drinks and tip, dinner for 4 was right around $150…an incredible value for the amount of food (we had two lunches’ worth leftover). The Mouse House Kitchen gives Karavalli 4 out of 5 stars!