Imagine exotic, mouth-watering aromas that you have not experienced in months. Then imagine your taste buds soaking up forgotten flavours in the way that dry earth absorbs a downpour. Although I still enjoy a delicate sauce over pasta al dente, and always look forward to many a dining experience in Rome, as an American living here I also have a craving for other cuisines.
My family and I stumbled upon the India House restaurant by chance one day on a tiny street two blocks off the Lungotevere in Trastevere, and I must admit that when we walked inside, the irresistible aroma alone set our salivary glands working. We have returned to eat in this restaurant three times and we are always the first to sit down around 19.30. The same friendly waiter (who speaks some English) greets us and shows us to one of the wooden tables covered in light pink tablecloths. He brings each of us a festive sparkling rosy drink in a champagne glass along with a little bowl of salty crunchies to welcome us, which gives us time to look over the menu del giorno, a five-course set meal.
Dinner begins with deep-fried but delicate pakora bite-sized pieces of potato covered in a batter made from chickpea flour served piping hot along with a delicious minty coconut sauce that usually disappears within minutes. Next, the waiter delivers small, steaming bowls of tangy Melaguthanni soup. I detect flavours of lime mixed with chilli in this fragrant broth. There is a good selection of beverages, but I suggest beer along with a large bottle of water.
The parade of dishes continues with the arrival of the third course of puri steaming puffed wholewheat pockets perfect for scooping up the vegetable dish of masala that it accompanies. This masala is a creamy spiced mixture of potato, tomatoes and lentils. Every plate goes back to the kitchen without a crumb left, and I realise I need to pace myself because the main course is still to come.
Just when you feel you could stop eating, the smiling waiter tempts you further as he sets the cooks enviable choice of four large family-style dishes on the table. Theres the indispensable basmati rice (some days it comes plain, sometimes spiced with clove) for soaking up the sauce of the chicken curry. The soupy dal, a lentil and chickpea concoction, helps calm the curry spices. A cinnamon aroma emanates from a bowl filled with slightly sweetened red beans simmered in onions. The food is delicious but at last we push back from the table. Just as we are wishing we could take the significant leftover portion home, our waiter appears and suggests we do exactly that. Somehow we manage a small refreshing dish of mango ice-cream, the perfect dessert to end this extraordinary meal. As we stroll out into the night we are already planning our return.
l The menu is a fixed price of 15 per person excluding drinks. Considering you should probably skip lunch before coming, it is excellent value for such a feast. You never need reservations, even on a Saturday night, because this place has not been discovered yet.
India House, Via di S. Cecilia 8.
Dinner only, 19.00-23.00.
Mondays closed. Tel. 065818508.
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