I don't know about you, but for some reason the onset of winter has felt especially harsh this year. Some nights it feels like the cold's found an express route to my bone marrow.
What better place to find relief than a restaurant called India Sizzling? The name itself is a kind of restorative.
Located round the corner of a strip mall off Allisonville Rd. in Fishers, India Sizzling is the brainchild of Basil Vaz, the restaurateur behind local treasure Passage To India, formerly known as Udupi Café. As lovers of Indian cuisine, not to mention vegetarians, should know, Passage To India's all-vegetarian menu offers what is arguably the most sophisticated meatless dining experience to be had in Indianapolis.
India Sizzling provides the same brilliant attention to the finer points of flavor that Passage To India excels at, while adding the additional dimensions of meat and seafood dishes. This is food that uses herbs, spices and heat to create a truly marvelous spectrum of oral delights.
We warmed-up for our meal with a couple of appetizers and some soup.
Vegetable Samosas, turnovers stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes and green peas, served with mint and tamarind chutney ($3.45) are commonplace at most Indian restaurants. India Sizzling's version carried an extra hint of what we guessed was cardamom that elevated this dish above most other local versions.
Then we tried an order of Chili Paneer ($5.45). Here, bits of homemade cheese are tossed with onion and bell pepper coated with a slightly sweet, spicy red pepper sauce reminiscent of a Chinese dish like General Tso's Chicken. Served (as were the Vegetable Samosas) with curlicue shreds of sweet red pepper and carrot, this was a fresh, vivid-tasting dish that was thoroughly satisfying in its own right.
Mulligatawny Soup ($2.45) translates very roughly as "pepper water" in English. This lentil-based vegan version, while packing plenty of sinus-clearing heat, actually seemed to owe more to turmeric and curry. Far from watery, it was, instead, creamy and richly aromatic.
Our main courses included South Indian Vegetable Korma ($8.95), a mixture of vegetables like cauliflower and green beans cooked in a coconut cream sauce; Saag ($13.95), a curry based on spinach and mustard greens, cooked with ginger, garlic, onion and a touch of cream, fortified with shrimp; and Lamb Roganjosh ($13.95), chunks of lamb cooked with saffron, ginger, onion and cardamom.
All of these dishes were elegantly presented in immaculate white, square-shaped bowls, with generous mounds of white rice to the side. Their combined color scheme — dark green for the Saag, pale orange for the Vegetable Korma and the Roganjosh's deep red — made for an exceptionally handsome table setting.
The Vegetable Korma, though ordered in a mild variation, was still stimulatingly spicy, its burn qualified by the coconut's sweetness. It managed to be creamy, yet light on the palate.
The same proved true of the Saag, which was whipped to a feathery lightness. The ginger, garlic and onion were a wonderful setting for the tender bits of shrimp. Roganjosh is one of my favorite Indian dishes. Although I ordered a medium heat setting, this version was a little mild for my taste. The quality of the lamb — tender, juicy and not at all overcooked, more than made up for this.
Indian cuisine prepared with the attention to detail found at India Sizzling is beautiful to look at and rewarding to taste. It is, alas, also quite filling. This meant that we had to pass on the variety of desserts on offer, settling instead for a Mango Lassi ($2.95), a bright, sweet mango and yogurt smoothie. It provided the equivalent of a satin pillow to cushion our amply satisfied appetites.