by: Ellen Descisciolo
Korma on the Block
Ballston Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-2004. Serving lunch daily
11:30-3, dinner Sun-Thu 5-10, Fri-Sat 5-11. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $9 (many vegetarian dishes) to $16 (the huge
local fans of the cuisine
Indian dining remains in comparative infancy in the Capital
Region—if not in most of the country—and seems to be similar
to the state of Chinese restaurants four decades ago. A narrow
slice of a wide-ranging cuisine appears to represent that
cuisine in its entirety, and that’s fine as far as it goes
(provided it’s presented with some authenticity), but once
we moved from Cantonese fare into the cooking of the Hunan
and Szechuan regions, Chinese restaurants became far more
There’s little difference in the menus from one Indian restaurant
to the next: Most center in the Punjab region in the north.
This was the food of royalty, so I suppose we’re being honored,
but I’ve seen few local attempts to broaden the geographical
range, and those restaurants that attempted to do so were
Obviously, we need to cling to the familiar for a while longer,
but we’ve come a long way in the last 20 years in terms of
wide- (or at least wider-) spread acceptance of the unique
flavors of this cuisine. Back when the Sitar restaurant was
the only game in town, the owner noted the difficulty of persuading
potential customers that all Indian fare wasn’t oppressively
Now that we’re well beyond that, we’ve got an impressive array
of restaurants to choose from, the newest addition Saratoga’s
second such: Haweli, located in a former KFC but redecorated
to a fare-thee-well. Little India, a few blocks down Broadway,
has held sway for the past 10 years with consistently good
food but variable service; now Haweli duplicates that in a
more attractive location.
Kudos first off to Engineering America for its redesign of
the place, which includes landscaping that nicely obscures
the intersection of Routes 50 and 9. The small dining room
is warm and accommodating with a deft use of color to set
off the walls and windows.
Unless you’re a vegetarian, you can’t go wrong starting with
the Haweli Medley ($6), an array of kebabs, pakoras and samosas,
the last two variants of fritters—the former batter-coated,
the latter fried in a pastry shell. Because I dined with a
meat-eschewing friend during one of my visits, we sampled
the vegetarian array (cheaper, too, at $5), which leaves out
the kebab bits but adds aloo tikki, fried potato-wrapped
veggies. Both samplers also come with papadum, flat lentil
wafers that you can dip in the accompanying trio of sauces:
a fiery onion relish, a more mellow mint sauce, and a dark,
piquant tamarind sauce.
Most of the appetizer list is drawn from the above, priced
from $2-$6, but there’s the unusual addition of chicken wings
cooked in the tandoor oven ($5), which will be juicier than
any of the mainstream versions.
A long list of vegetarian items dominates the entrée list,
including the always popular palak paneer ($10), a
creamy mixture of spinach and Indian cheese that’s in such
demand in my family that I’ve learned to prepare it at home,
and aloo channa ($9), mixing chick peas and potatoes
in a not-too-spicy tomato sauce. Vegetarian entrées run $9
to $11, and, like all entrées, include a side of basmati rice.
My own taste runs to the very spicy, and I was pleased with
lamb vindaloo, in which a deft touch of sweetness delays
the impact of the heat. Even though I noted my heat-scale
preference, however, it wasn’t terribly challenging although
the flavors were wonderful, the lamb appropriately tender.
Beef, chicken and seafood dishes run the typical array, with
curries, the tomato-based masala, and the stewlike
kadahi among the preparations. These are $10-$14, pricing
that’s in line with the other white-linen Indian restaurants
in the area. Thanks to the clay oven that’s visible from the
floor, my daughter was able to order her favorite, tandoori
chicken ($13), which arrives sizzling on a platter also heaped
with onions and green peppers.
And you have to accompany your food with nan, the tandoor-cooked
flatbread that’s available plain or with a variety of added
The most compelling dishes, to my palate, are the biryani,
a time-consuming rice-based mixture featuring the meat of
your choice or a vegetable mix ($9-$12, $19 for two), with
nuts and raisins and a pleasing array of spices that seems
to inhabit and enhance the main ingredient. I had the lamb
version and marveled at how the familiar flavor burst the
borders of its frame and colored so many more taste bud areas.
Haweli also offers a take-out menu, which duplicates what
you’ll order from when dining in. During our August visit,
we saw a fair amount of take-out go by. Service is conscientious
but not consistent; while my first visit started slowly and
picked up speed toward the end, my second slowed as the dining
room thinned, until we had to make a maddening search for
a server in order to get a check.
With more consistent service, this will be one of the best
of its kind in the area. But I think—I hope—we’re on the brink
of something new in Indian cookery. It’s ripe for a touch
of fusion, and a brief Internet search found just such a menu
that includes such dishes as chicken chili dosa, uttapam
pizza and Mumbai masala tacos. I think we’re ready for
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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..