Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Anand India (Evendale, OH)

Until a few months ago, I had never even had Indian food; let alone visited Anand India.  Anand sits on a stretch of Reading Rd. that’s not quite in Cincinnati, nor nearby Sharonville, either.  In fact, it resides rather inconspicuously in the town of Evendale, OH.  I’d passed it many times prior in my journeys, but had never went inside until recently.  The outside is rather dull; giving no hints on the wealth of flavor that awaits inside, and it’s only distinguishing quality was the image of an elephant on their sign, which stirred old memories of using the character Dhalsim in Street Fighter 2.

Why had I never tried Indian food?  I’m not entirely sure.  I’m an avid fan of food, and particularly enjoy foods of other ethnic origins, such as Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and Greek.  I never really knew what to expect with Indian, I had grown up hearing legends of curry; how it’s so hot, and that Indian cuisine is generally very spicy.  I expected most of the local Indian restaurants probably had a small cadre of spices, which they’d use to heighten the flavor of their traditional and boring dishes and call it special.  Boy, was I ever wrong… all of those art students and bicyclers downtown are right, Indian food is good!

First off, we decided to go crazy and get an appetizer.  On this particular evening, we opted to go totally insane, and try the Mixed Platter.  This was… amazing!  The highlight was the chicken pakora, but honestly; everything on this sampler platter was delectable.  You get three sauces with appetizers generally; I prefer the dark brown variety which is a lot like BBQ sauce, and a little bit of the green variety just because it looks so weird.

Let’s now talk about the entrees!  Indian entrees usually come in large portions, which you then scoop out over rice and eat with your choice of Indian bread.  Amanda and I usually stick to the vegetarian section of Indian menus, but occasionally we’ll stray and get a chicken dish.  On this day, I had my favorite Saag Paneer; which according to their menu is described as “homemade cheese cubes cooked in spinach and cream”.  Amanda, on the other hand, had Durma Baingan; “egg plant cooked with potatoes and spices”.

Here you can see what my meal looks like right before consumption, and the other picture is of traditional Nan.  Nan is the most famous Indian bread, and comes in several varieties, including garlic, onion, mint, etc.  It compliments Indian food perfectly, and really completes the meal.  I tend to mix my entrée with some rice, and eat it along with a bite of bread throughout the entire course of the meal.  I’ve tried other Saag (spinach) dishes, including both Chicken Saag and Shrimp Saag, and have it found it to be my favorite style of Indian dish, albeit its strange look.  Amanda’s personal favorite is Aloo Mater, which is listed as “peas and potato combination blended with aromatic spices”.

Here are a few random pictures of us enjoying our meal.  Amanda introduced me to Indian food, having discovered it while going to University of Cincinnati herself.  We’ve eaten at a few different Indian restaurants, but currently Anand India is my personal favorite.  The food is always exceptional, and the staff are super nice and courteous.  They’ve become to know us as regulars, and we’ve also developed a small friendship in return.  In fact, the other day we went on my birthday; and as a total surprise, after our meal the staff came out with a free dessert for me and serenaded us with a terrific rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

In closing, I’ll discuss a couple miscellaneous details.  Most Indian places have scales of hotness in regards to their food, at Anand, the scale is 1 to 6, and I’d recommend 2.  2 will give a slightly spicy aftertaste, but doesn’t interfere with the meal’s flavors, however adding to them.  In terms of drinks, you’re given complimentary water, which is often fine; but if you opt for soda, know that they don’t have a fountain, and it’ll be poured directly from a can into a glass of ice.  Lastly, enjoy the candy coated fennel seeds that are given for free as a snack with your bill; they’re an acquired taste, but will usually become slightly addicting.

Overall Grade: A+ 

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