Amaya the Indian Room
Since Amaya The Indian Room opened quietly two weeks ago, word has been spreading: this is no ordinary Indian restaurant. Not surprising, considering its founders: Lynn Stimpson and Derek Valleau. [Update: Lynne Stimpson (ex-Cava) is the General Manager at Amaya. Derek Valleau & Hemant Bhagwani are the proprietors.]
The interior is tastefully decorated, with lots of wood and open space, and there's some soft world fusion music going on in the background instead of the usual cheesy pop so common in the typical Indian restaurant. I'm relieved; after all, there's nothing like a badly musacked "Stairway To Heaven" to take the edge off a good samosa experience.
Dishes in Amaya focus on North Indian cuisine. My server explains that North Indian food is milder than South Indian food, though diners are welcome to ask the chef for extra heat if they'd like.
The menu is divided up into starters ($5-14), vegetarian dishes ($8-12), seafood / fish ($19), poultry ($17-19), meat ($17-24), rice ($3-9), bread ($3-4) and accompaniments ($2-5). Amaya also carries a selection of wine by the glass and bottle ($35-99 for a bottle).
After ordering, I am presented with some complimentary poppadoms accompanied by a small dish of mango sauce. The sweetness of the mango complements the peppery kick of the light and crunchy poppadoms.
For a starter, I have the Rajasthani Bhindi ($6, see photo at top of page), which consists of crispy Indian okra with a mango powder crust and mango chutney on the side.
I'm impressed by the artful presentation but still nervous; I chose the dish on whim because of its intriguing name. I take a tentative bite ... dear lord. My taste buds do cartwheels of ecstasy as each crispy morsel melts in my mouth. With great effort, I resist the urge the lick the plate. Okra has never tasted so good; I'd take these over French Fries any day.
And here comes the main course: Murgh Satrangi ($17) with organic chicken, green chili, assorted vegetables and lemon. I also order steamed long grain Himalayan basmati ($3) which comes in an interesting container that, though intriguing, holds a disappointingly small amount of rice.
Everything is good, and I find myself wondering what the other dishes on the menu would be like. Next time I come back, I'm bringing dinner companions; that way I'll be able to sample more dishes! Like the savory chaat (crispy dough wafers, sprouted beans, potato, yogurt and pomegranate seeds, $6), the patrani machchi (halibut, blend of 21(!) spices, mint, ginger, banana leaf wrapping, $19), the kerela pepper duck (tandoori roasted duck breast, orange, red & green apple, black pepper, $19), and the tandoori lobster.
After dinner, I peruse the dessert / tea menu. I wish I was hungry enough to order the expresso-cardamom creme brulee ($7), but I settle for an Indian truffle instead. The server gives me a choice of three:
I choose the garam masala truffle and leave the mango and mint for another visit. The combination of sweet and slightly spicy works surprisingly well. I finish with some Assam-Lapsang Souchong tea: the rich, smoky flavour is palate-pleasing and an appropriate finish to a wonderful meal.
I look forward to coming back soon. Tonight, I'll be dreaming of Rajasthani Bhindi ...
Amaya is open for dinner 7 nights a week at 5pm. Reservations recommended.