Johnson Road (Route 9R), Latham, 785-7600. Serving lunch Mon-Fri
11:30-2:30, dinner Sun-Thu 5-10, Fri-Sat 5-11, brunch Sat-Sun
noon-2. AE, MC, V.
price range: $10 (dal makhanni) to $24 (tandoor grilled
rack of lamb)
pleasantly disguised strip-mall room
I try to keep an eye on what the other area food writers write
about, especially if I’m worried about getting scooped on
a new restaurant. And, dammit, Bill Dowd got to Karavalli
first and wrote about it in the Aug. 7 issue of the Times
Union. Not only that: He lavished upon it a rare encomium.
Determined to disagree, I visited recently with my hypercritical
family of Indian cuisine fanatics. After besting the challenge
of finding the place—it’s in a strip mall on the lower end
of Route 9R, not far from the intersection with Route 9—we
parked amid a sea of SUVs (it’s Latham, after all).
But something changed as we approached the restaurant. The
doorway is outlined by an exotic wood carving, and the door
itself was held open for us by the hostess as we entered.
They want to be a little different; they want to be hospitable.
Let me get this out of the way first. Bill was right. This
is the best Indian restaurant in the Capital Region. And not
just because of the unusual variety of food the menu offers,
but also by the superior preparation and presentation of even
the most familiar dishes.
Open but seven months, Karavalli is still in the honeymoon
phase, which, for an Indian restaurant, means they start you
off with a complimentary basket of peppery papadum,
a crisp lentil wafer that serves as an excellent delivery
vehicle for the chutneys (onion and mint) served with it.
The friendly service, the spicy starter—they’re great distractions
from the unalterable fact that you’re dining in a box, albeit
a box that’s been tastefully painted (in contrasting shades
of blue) and hung with appealing Indian artwork and tapestries.
As you study the menu, as you inhale that robust mix of dry-roasted
cumin and cloves that wafts from the kitchen, you’ll see plates
emerge over the ends of which an oversized, rolled pancake
extends. That’s dosai, a signature dish at Karavalli.
It’s from southern India (where you’ll also find the coastal
Karavalli region), and marks a departure from the northern-Indian-intensive
cuisine typical of most other such area restaurants.
is an enormous, whisper-light lentil-and-rice confection
that has a more subtle flavor than papadum and therefore accommodates
a wider range of accompaniments. An aromatic potato mixture
characterizes the masala dosai ($7), which is also
served with a side of dal and some dipping sauces.
Another appetizer approach is the sampler plate ($10), which
gives you a taste of chicken tikka (otherwise available
only as a $14 entrée), fresh from the tandoor oven, along
with tasty morsels of ground lamb kebab, grilled chicken wings,
a deep-fried, veggie-stuffed somosa patty and some crisp vegetable
fritters. And an order of nan, the unleavened, tandoor-cooked
But be careful. That sampler and a dosai are a meal
for two, and you don’t want to miss a shot at the various
entrées. Owner Sunil Kayalchirayil, who also co-owns a restaurant
in Lee, Mass., explains that he and many of his associates
in the restaurant are from southern India, and they reasoned
that it was about time that area had more than merely Punjabi
Thus the chemmeen pappas ($17), from the southeastern
Kerala area, in which shrimp are tossed with coconut, chilis
and coriander, and avial malabar ($12), a vegetarian
dish with bananas, tams, beans and more in a coconut-yogurt
My wife practically pounced on the exotic-sounding lasoni
gobi ($12), a unique concoction of deep-fried, garlicky
cauliflower florets served with a sweet and sour sauce. My
daughter, meanwhile, as she approaches the age of 9, paid
me the highest compliment: “You pick something for me.”
I came up with a winner. Coconut chicken ($14, also from Kerala)
features a tricky blend of spices dominated by chili peppers
and mustard sweetened to a delicious finish by coconut milk,
reminiscent of a Thai curry.
While I don’t (honest!) pursue spiciness for its own sake,
a sauce called phal, noted on the menu as even spicier
than a vindaloo, called to me. With chicken it’s $14,
$17 with shrimp, and the lamb-enriched version I ordered was
$15. While it’s not a mouth-searing killer, it was decidedly
hotter than I’m used to finding in the area, and not just
offering heat for its own sake. Flavors mixed excitingly with
Plenty of familiar items are available, including tandoori
fare and rice-based biryani dishes, and there’s a sizeable
list of vegetarian entrées.
There’s also the usual lunch alterative of a buffet, which
when I visited included an array of more than a dozen dishes
that included preparations of chicken and lamb (the latter
in a sweet coconut sauce) as well as a vegetable curry and
deep-fried lentil donuts. And a basket of hot nan is
served at your table.
So here, at last, is the place that breaks what’s become a
too-familiar pattern in the presentation of Indian cuisine,
and I’m betting that it ups the ante for all concerned.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Sophie Bistro (2853
Route 9, Malta) announces its first cooking class
of the season, to be held from 11 AM to 4 PM Sun.,
Oct 23. Tentatively titled “Fall Harvest,” the
class is limited to 12 people and will be a real
hands-on experience. The students will work together
to prepare a number of dishes, focusing on techniques
that can be used in the home kitchen, after which
everyone will sit down to a late-afternoon lunch
to enjoy the fruits of those labors—with the added
fruit of wine. The price is $125 per person. Also,
the restaurant’s first wine dinners of the season
take place at 6:30 PM Wed., Nov 9 and Thu., Nov
10. The theme will be “Seraphic Syrah,”and the
dinner will focus on the divergent ways in which
the French use this versatile grape to make everything
from rosé to Chateauneuf du Pape. The dinner will
include five courses designed by Chef Paul Parker
to complement each wine. The cost is $75 per person
plus tax and tip, and seating is limited to 20
people per night around a single banquet table.
For more info and reservations, call the restaurant
at 583-3538. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..