Sunday, January 07, 2007

Karavalli - Rotterdam, NY

We are fans of Indian food, and were semi-regulars at Sapna, located next to the pool at the Quality Inn on Hamburg Street in scenic Rotterdam, NY. A little while ago (I don't know exactly when), Sapna went out of business, and Karavalli appeared. Please understand that Sapna was a no-frills affair, with probably the best Indian food in the Capital Region. Given its location off a hotel in a small strip mall, it was probably destined to be relegated to the diamond-in-the-rough category at best, with few decorations in the dining room, and very little in the way of ambience. Karavalli, I'm happy to report, has improved on this markedly. While still next to the pool, the chlorine smell is gone from the dining room, the walls have been repainted a semi-flashy two-tone blue, and the tables now sport cloth coverings (i.e. it looks like a restaurant).

It should be noted that this was our first visit. We arrived at around 5 PM on a Saturday, and the place was empty, a trait shared with Sapna. We actually never saw more than one other patron in that establishment, ever. The greeting today was courteous, and we decided to sit at a central table on this occasion. We were quickly provided with papadum/sauces, as well as ice water. So far, so good.

The Karavalli menu is chock-full of all your indian favorites (samosas, tandoori, nans, etc.), as well as some items that are less commonly available (dishes from the jewish section of Calcutta come to mind). We ordered ragara as an appetizer, and found it delicious and plentiful. This is a chick-pea/potato fritter combination that provided a welcome change from the appetizer rut we had fallen into. The main course consisted of chicken Vindaloo and Avial Malabar, served with rice. The latter was tasty, and not overly spicy, with an interesting blend of vegetables, which my wife appreciated. The vindaloo was prepared to taste (spicy!), but the chicken sections were tough and somewhat gristly, degrading the quality of the dish in my estimation.

Both courses were served by what we assumed to be the chef (although this may be incorrect), with an attempt at flair. Service on the whole was quite good. Portions were sufficient to provide dinner the following day.

Bottom line: the ambience has been significantly improved over the previous establishment. The service was fine, and the bulk of our dishes were excellent. We didn't stray from the "beaten path" very much, but will return to do so.