After a delightful meal at Masala Art last weekend, I was eager for more delicious Indian food. Luckily, a couple friends invited me to lunch on Saturday and I instantly suggested we try Cafe of India, another new Indian restaurant in Tenleytown that opened just a few blocks away from Masala Art.
Despite the close proximity and similar cuisine, these are two very different restaurants. I really liked Masala Art’s subtle spicing, bold flavors, and elegant presentation. Though some dishes were better than others, I still gave it points for originality and the merits listed above. Cafe of India, on the other hand, is much less adventurous with its menu, and yet, does not manage to deliver on flavor or presentation.
We began our meal with an order of samosas, a ubiquitous Indian appetizer of curried potatoes and peas stuffed in a deep fried fritter. The samosas were good, but not great, and the accompanying sauces were a bit too watered down for my taste.
For our entrees, we each ordered the lunch special ($10.95), which allows diners to choose 4 dishes from the lunch list. I ordered the punjabi chicken curry, lamb curry, aloo gobi, and eggplant bharta. All of these dishes, unfortunately, lacked depth of flavor. The eggplant bharta was extremely greasy; the lamb in the lamb curry was extremely tough. The chicken curry and aloo gobi were all right, except the chicken curry was lukewarm–tepid, even! Clearly the kitchen is having some trouble timing their dishes.
The best part of the meal turned out to be the least exotic: a warm basket of naan, or Indian bread. Since 3 of us ordered the lunch special, we were able to sample all 3 types of bread (each lunch special comes your choice of naan, garlic naan, or onion kulcha). My favorite was the onion kulcha, which is basically naan with scallions and green peppers mixed into the batter.
There are some redeeming qualities about Cafe of India which keep me from losing hope for this restaurant. The interior is surprisingly nice–a welcome contrast to the shabby exterior. And the wait staff means well and genuinely want to serve you a good meal. Unfortunately, there are some problems in the kitchen that will need to be addressed before I can come back to Cafe of India. For now, I’ll be sticking with Masala Art.
4909 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016