I have to admit, I had some reservations about Indian food. I thought it was going to have some odd spicy taste, be very strong, and everything was going to taste the same. Much to my surprise, I was completely wrong.
Spice of India on Market Street is relatively new, just opening last year. I met with owner and chef, Raj Ingle. I admitted to him I had never tried Indian food before so this was a new experience for me. He was trained in India and creates authentic dishes but at times, he tells me, he adds his own flair on things. All I knew about Indian food was spice so I asked Raj what is the most important spice in the Indian kitchen. "It's like you're asking me to pick my favorite child. All the spices sit out in the kitchen like instruments in an orchestra," as he waves his hands in the air, "and I'm the conductor." "Once all together, the symphony comes out." Garam Masala is a main spice in the kitchen. It's a combination of many spices that when blended and roasted create the most amazing aroma. When Raj is cooking, he doesn't taste, he smells. "I can tell by the aroma when it's just right."
Raabia was my server today who presented me with a sizzling, steaming dish that when placed in front of me literally took my breath away. She tells me it's called Paneer Tikka. Raj tells me it's a Tandoori Specialty and like the Nan bread, it's baked in a special clay oven called a tandoor. Chunks of cheese (Paneer) are marinated then grilled with green peppers and onions. It continued sizzling, emitting this wonderful aroma as Raj served me. It's a different smell and I'm guessing it's the level of spice/heat that finds its way to all your senses. It smelled amazing and looked beautiful and I couldn't wait to try it. One bite and I was sold. It's so not what I expected. The cheese is not the type that melts. It's firm, yet soft. It reminds me of a greek cheese that I've called Haloumi. The outside of the cubes are bright red from the spices. The grilled peppers and onions on the bottom get a nice caramelization on them and the whole dish is topped with a few slices of raw peppers and onion and fresh lemon wedges. Next to the dish is a trio of sauces. Raj says these are typical sauces served with any dish. I actually really enjoyed all three and don't have a particular favorite but I would want all three with my meal just for the variety of taste and texture. One is a chunky Onion Chutney. It's probably the hottest of the three. A thick red sauce with chunks of onion and lots of spices. The smooth red sauce is Tamarind which, to me, reminds of American barbecue sauce. The third sauce is a beautiful green color. It's called Mint Tamarind. It's cool and refreshing due to the mint and it's very good. I kept trying each one and thoroughly enjoyed them all for their unique flavors.