Friday, December 21, 2007

Virginia Roadtrip Part II: Farouk's House of India

NB: I wrote this post this morning in my hotel room. Photos to follow.

Just one note for your travel planning: if internet access is a big thing for you in booking a motel, avoid the Comfort Inn Executive Center. Despite what they advertise, it doesn't work.

Tourists to Richmond usually head to the Shockoe Slip area. I don't know why, because I've never seen it. All recommendations, however, were for the Carytown section of town. This is where the locals prefer to go. It's got lots of fun shops and restaurants, kind of like Richmond's version of Federal Hill or Hampden's Avenue (perhaps a better analogy is Georgetown). It's also not too far from the Virginia Commonwealth University, making it a hip place for college students to go. I went there for dinner; it's no surprise that I intend to go back today.

There was a large handful of dining options available to me last night, and me, Mr. I-Can't-Make-a-Decision-to-Save-My-Life, had to walk up and down Cary Street to find where I wanted to eat. My friend suggested a place, but I'm holding off on it until lunch (more on that in the next post). Some of the stores I did see (also more on those in the next post) just dazzled me - a lot of window shopping opportunities. But the restaurants ranged from McDonald's (bleeaaahhh) to the super-fancy Acacia, a locally popular restaurant that offers regional cuisine. I hardly opened the door before I stopped, saw how everyone was dressed, and realized that it would probably cost me just to sniff the wine cork. I went elsewhere.

Passing various Thai places, French restaurants, sushi bars, ice cream parlors, delis and BBQ joints, I finally made a decision and went for Indian. And I made a good choice this time. Farouk's House of India has been around for over 30 years, and I'm not surprised that they're still around. It was small and sparsely settled, but many places are like that on a Thursday night. The waitress gave me some water as I perused the menu. Since I was unfamiliar with the place, I decided to just order some standbys. This time, that meant vindaloo. I got the lamb version for $14 (they have three heat levels; I got the second one, their "sweat" level). To go with that I ordered some garlic naan ($3) and veggie samosas ($4).

The samosas came out first. These were delicious - some of the better ones I have had. The crust was buttery and the filling was not all filler; the potatoes were also buttery, though the peas were an afterthought. Even better was the coriander chutney that went with it; I also used the onion salsa that came with the papadums the brought out first - these were on the house.

Then came the vindaloo. Not the hottest I've tasted, but it did make me sweat, that's for damn sure. It was hot and tangy, with okay-sized pieces of lamb. I had to order some lassi ($3) to cut the heat. The vindaloo came with a heaping plate of tender basmati rice. Just at many Indian restaurants, the rice was separate from the vindaloo, each of which I had to scoop together onto my plate. What else can I say? The vindaloo was quite tasty, though the tanginess and sourness of the tomatoes took over at the end. And the garlic naan was perhaps the best I have had in a very long time. It sounds absurd to say "Oh, the garlic naan was so garlicky!" But relative to most that I have had, it was. Intense garlic and butter flavor, and not in the least bit dried out.

All of this northwest Indian goodness was for all of $25 - for the same amount, I could've gotten an entrée and nothing else at that faincy Acacia Restaurant I passed on earlier. After tip that came to $29 - more than I wanted to pay, but less than I could have paid, and about as much as I have paid for a nice dinner out. It is, however, motivating me to not head down to Der local Waffle Housen for breakfast but to save my money and hit the complimentary buffet they have here (which is in a separate building - don't stay at this hotel if that's a problem, people; just don't).

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