Bar & Grill
Main St., Great Barrington, Mass., (413) 528-3116. Serving
lunch noon-3 Tue-Sun, dinner 5-9:30 Sun-Thu, 5-10 Fri-Sat.
Sunday buffet noon-3. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $11 (vegetable curry) to $22 (whole chicken
good friend recently moved to
Great Barrington, giving me an added prod to visit a town
I’ve always enjoyed from my 90-mile distance. Not least because
it packs a nice variety of restaurants in a few downtown blocks.
The burg was not always a resort getaway like neighboring
Stockbridge and Lenox, but has become more so in the past
three decades, and its population nowadays is salted with
many a transplanted Manhattanite. Its New England crankiness
is realized, in part, by its own currency, BerkShare notes,
each dollar of which—exchanged on a one-for-one basis at local
banks—trades for 95 U.S. cents at more than 350 local establishments,
giving shoppers a small discount while affirming the importance
of community-based commerce.
The downtown area sports a mix of lovely old houses, vintage
shops and the usual more-recent intrusions of architectural
ugliness, but when dressed in snow and holiday lights, it
looks relentlessly charming. So we took a recent stroll along
Main Street, taking in the holiday finery, rushing to inspect
antiques, cooking ware, cowboy clothing and all manner of
handcrafted goodies, studying window-posted menus along the
way, trying to find the perfect fit for a quartet of divergent
A chance remark by our friend Robin gave us common ground:
“I enjoyed an Indian restaurant called Aroma not long ago
. . .”
The restaurant sits far enough from the village center to
send us back to the car, but this also meant that we could
ease into a parking lot once we released our desirable downtown
space. A few Italian-themed decor elements remain as vestiges
of Aroma’s pizza-making predecessor, but it’s not the ambiance
that brings you here. It’s comfortable enough, with the dining
room’s tables and booths flanking a divider that gives a sense
of intimacy. Service is cheerful and you’ll get any information
you need about menu items—and, as I discovered, a chance to
retract any order of spicy food. But, yes, I was sure I wanted
We started with a complimentary basket of papadum, which are
crisp lentil wafers accompanied by spicy onion chutney, mint
sauce and tamarind sauce. It’s an old-fashioned Indian-restaurant
custom that has all but disappeared.
Six menu pages offer the expected gamut of traditional Indian
fare, with Aroma’s masalas noted as signature dishes.
Masala denotes a mixed variety of spices, dry roasted
or finished in a slurry. The six items on the list ($13-$17)
include preparations of chicken, fish, shrimp or vegetables,
in sauces typically finished with tomato.
Lamb tikka kabab masala ($16) offered tandoor-baked
lamb sausage as its main ingredient, which would be appealing
enough on its own (and is thus available as lamb kabab
kadai, $15). With the addition of the tomato sauce, finished
with cream, it sounded irresistible.
It was. Not only was the spice combination rugged enough to
be interesting (and spicy enough, per my request), it also
complemented the lamb without overwhelming it. Served with
a side of basmati rice, it had a brightness of flavor my jaded
palate encounters too rarely. And it proved to be a good successor
to my starter, a $4 bowl of rasam, which is a light
lentil soup from southern India with the subtle sweetness
of tamarind. Robin’s mulligatawny soup ($4) was, in
Aroma’s preparation, a close cousin to the rasam, but
tending more toward curry flavors.
Other starters include an array of deep-fried stuff: thick-coated
samosas stuffed with potatoes and peas ($4) or minced
lamb ($5); crunchy pakoras with a core of vegetables
or Indian cheese ($5 per order) or chicken ($7), fish ($8)
shrimp ($9), some combo options and even chicken wings (10
for $9). Potatoes and peas also form the basis of aloo
tikki ($5), which emerge as two thick deep-fried discs
that use the pakora chick-pea-flour-based batter but
have a smoother texture.
Meat that’s baked in the hot clay tandoori oven makes for
some of the best barbecue, and you can get all of the meat
and fish you’d expect here, prices ranging from a $13 order
of cream-coated chicken to a whole chicken, masala marinated,
The half-page of chicken dishes ($13-$14) includes the usual
curry, vindaloo and korma varieties. We enjoyed
the chicken madras, a curry enhanced with pepper and lemon
(the menu reminds us that “it was south India which exported
black pepper to the world”), and mango chicken jalfrezie,
which adds vegetables and mango to the mix—rich, thick and
sweet. Many of the chicken dishes are duplicated with lamb
($14-$15), and the $17 seafood dishes center around the shrimp
or the fish of the day. And there are plenty of vegetarian
options ($11-$13) featuring eggplant, lentils, chick peas,
okra, cauliflower and homemade cheese.
Southern Indian biryanis are said to be the test of
a chef. It’s a slow-simmered pilaf in which seasoned meats
or veggies get cooked in a serving of basmati rice, served
with a side of yogurt-based raita. The chicken biryani
($14, and yes, we can’t get enough chicken) was an impressive
representation of this, presented in an elegant copper pot
and releasing a most pleasing aroma, making the name of the
place all the more appropriate.
Even with two orders of tandoori-baked nan, the meal
proved surprisingly affordable, especially for Great Barrington.
Too full to consider any of the sweet desserts, laden with
take-out containers of leftovers, we staggered back into the
cold and drove back into town, well-fortified for more shopping.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
the Toast of Christmas Past. New World Home
Cooking (1411 Route 212, Saugerties) holds
its 13th New World Champagne Dinner on Friday
(Dec. 18) with favorite selections from the 12
past celebrations. Chef Ric Orlando and CIA wine
professor Michael Weiss have chosen such items
as a blue corn-lobster tamale with huitlacoche-poblano
crema, paired with an Iron Horse Russian Cuvee;
wild mushroom pierogis with white woodears and
lemon-chive butter with a Pol Roget Brut; and
Creole-style pan-roasted quail with dirty rice,
red beans and sauce picante alongside an Australian
Shingleback Black Bubbles. Dinner is at 7 PM and
priced at $75 per person ($50 without wine). Reservations
are required. Call (845) 246-0900. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland.