Dining Review: Thank you, we'll come again

For Elijah, our waiter at Indira, waiting tables is a grown-up job and he takes it very seriously.

indian food 88 (photo credit: )
indian food 88
(photo credit: )
Delivery boy, bar tender, phone solicitor and waiter. These are just a few jobs that most people have before a real "grown-up" one. We complain, mock the costumers and smile politely while trying to keep calm in the face of the aggravating patron in the hopes of monetary reward. Yet for Elijah, our waiter at Indira, waiting tables is his grown-up job and he takes it very seriously. Elijah has been a waiter here for the past 17-years and for 15-years at five-star hotels in India before that. Like other waiters, he too gets annoyed with customers calling him over to order and then gabbing away while he stands tableside. But Elijah can be swift, polite and efficient - befitting his 23-years of experience. Our different courses came right on time, there was never a need to call a waiter over and our water glasses were always refreshed. Never before had it occurred to me the huge difference the approach towards waiting tables has on the dining experience. To be frank, when it comes to Indian food, I cannot for the life of me distinguish between specific flavors. There were hints of coriander, cloves, ginger and garlic, as there should be; but, the ability to discern whether a dish could have used more or less of any one spice is beyond my palate. Rather, my point of reference for Indian food is color and taste, and the food - almost all of it - was great. The restaurant is designed in the style of an upscale eatery in India. It's somewhere in between a design concept and simply the Indian owners' personal taste. In any case, combined with the soothing Indian music in the background and Elijah's stories, the atmosphere is complete. The menu is versatile and includes a great variety for vegetarians and carnivores in addition to Sikh and Kashmiri menus. With some advice from Elijah, we started off with a platter of assorted appetizers that included samosa (deep fried dough filled with potatoes and vegetables), pakora (deep fried vegetables) and mungdal pakuri (deep fried vegetables covered in chickpea flour, sesame seeds and spices). Although we feared for our stomachs, we cleaned our plate. Next day be damned, this was delicious. The roasted tandori chicken wings were scrumptious with just the right amount of spice, according to my dining partner. According to Elijah, "If we make it too spicy, people eat and then complain on the Internet." For dipping purposes there were three different chutneys served: coconut, coriander and mint and sweet and sour. For our main course we ordered the vegetables jelafrazi (mixed vegetables in spicy sauce) and the classic chicken masala. The vegetables lacked some of the mixture of flavors that accompanied the other dishes, yet were still great. The chicken masala was terrific, according to my meat eating sister, swimming in a sauce, the taste of which fills the mouth and nose with every bite. To accompany the meal we ordered an addictive cheese naan and Cobra - a pale ale, Indian beer that made for easy drinking. At first we thought to go for wine, yet the selection of wine was far from exciting. For dessert Elijah recommended the chai ice cream, saying that Indira is the only place in the world that offers it. I found that a bit hard to believe and remained reluctant due to my burning curiosity pertaining to some of the other desserts. However, Elijah convinced me by offering what I assume to be an expression of his own creation, "Experience is experiencing what you did not experience." To this I had no choice but to acquiesce. A minute later Elijah returned to inform us that they were out of the chai ice cream. Not to worry, he apologetically offered compensation, which to our dismay, turned out to be chocolate pecan ice cream suspiciously similar to Strauss's Le Cremaria. The disparity between "only in Indira" to "found in every supermarket" was a disappointing end to an otherwise great meal. We left the place hoping to encounter the bustling streets of Delhi but, of course, exited to the less appealing Shaul Hamelech. Oh well, the beer and delicious food left us happy and sleepy as it should at a great Indian restaurant. First courses range from NIS 23 to NIS 29 and main courses from NIS 36 to NIS 89 with an impressive variety within. Desserts range from NIS 19 to NIS 39. A business lunch is available Sunday to Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Indira, 4 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, Tel Aviv, (03) 695-4437. Open all week from noon to 1 a.m. Not kosher.