While on vacation our habit of eating at late, Spain-like mealtimes becomes even more entrenched. So we didn’t hit the New Delhi Indian Restaurant until after 3:00 p.m. Thank goodness they were still serving the lunch buffet. The restaurant had a steady stream of customers, including one table of over a dozen people, so the food kept coming out of the kitchen hot and fresh.
We ate the same dishes we find at our favorite Indian restaurant in Syracuse, Sahota Palace, but I have to say, everything was a notch better. For instance, the homemade cheese in the Palak Paneer had been lightly browned, adding another layer of flavor. The pastry of the Vegetable Samosas was light and crisp. The tamarind sauce was the best I’ve ever had and made me think that every other tamarind sauce I’ve had was not homemade. The chicken in the Chicken Tikka was unbelievably tender, juicy and flavorful and the bright orange sauce was rich and complex. The Lamb Korma was pleasurable in the same way but with a darksauce that brought out the best in the lamb. The Vegetables Malai Kofta, “mixed vegetable balls in a mildly spiced thick sauce,” provided the same satisfaction one gets from fresh Italian sausage floating in a dish of pasta and homemade sauce. That says quite a lot for a non-meat dish!
In short, this restaurant does better than any in Syracuse what Indian food should do: orchestrate a symphony of spices and flavors in a way that creates harmony not only within the individual dishes, but within a meal consisting of many courses. Dave and I agree that were we to ever “go vegetarian,” we would be eating a lot of Indian food. I have to wonder, though, why doesn’t Syracuse get this quality of cooking? We don’t find it in the local Indian, Chinese or even Vietnamese food (although New Century comes pretty darned close). What prevents the great chefs of ethnic cuisines from moving to our easy-on-the-wallet city?
Puzzling over that, stuffed to the gills, we hopped on the trolley and headed downtown where we could walk off a bit of the feast and consider our next move. Dave had done his homework (find gelato! find ice cream!) and steered us quite directly to Capogiro Gelato Artisans. Between the two of us, we tried four flavors: cioccolato scuro, green apple marscapone, cranberry apple, and pineapple mint made with fresh mint bits. Each one fairly screamed its flavor. But let me tell you about just one, the dark chocolate.
Last year, about this time of year, our-son-the-chef came home on vacation from the Culinary Institute of America where he was finishing his baking and pastry studies. With him he brought a huge block of Valrhona chocolate. In our little Eastwood kitchen he proceeded to make the most delicious dark chocolate truffles. We helped. We nibbled. We watched and nibbled some more. Weeks later we were finding tiny drips of 70% Valrhona chocolate in the oddest places, bringing back memories of heavenly dark goodness.
So our first two flavors at Capogiro were the dark chocolate paired with the green apple marscapone:
Yes, it was really just about that black (terrible picture taken with phone!). Just as I was savoring my first bite, the young chef called. So I answered and launched immediately into a full description of what was at that moment melting in my mouth: a memory of last year’s Christmas truffles. Just as dark, just as intense, but cold instead of warm. I would never have thought it possible. The pleasure nearly matched a moment I’d had only two days prior, sitting in Anthony’s Italian Coffee House…
An espresso con panna, made with Philadelphia’s favorite coffee, La Colombe, was sitting before me on a little marble table. My best friend and husband was with me and holiday coffee drinkers were all around. We could hear Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma” over their system. I brought the coffee to my lips and sipped. At the precise moment when the espresso and lightly sweetened cream filled my mouth, Pavarotti sang “Vincerò! Vincerò!” Did I hear someone say, “I’ll have what she’s having”?