A week or so ago (June 2) I had the luck to be treated to a fairly lavish lunch at An Indian Affair in Manayunk (4425 Main St.), There was a lunch menu with reasonably priced thalis (the Indian equivalent of a blue plate special -- a platter with a few curries, bread, rice, raita, desert), I think 6.95 for veggie, 7.95 for non-vegetarian) among other things, but we ordered a la carte from the full menu because we wanted to experiment.
There were complementary papadams with an excellent coriander/chile dipping sauce. We ordered a fish curry made with salmon, chicken in an almond sauce, spinach with paneer fritters, a raita with fried okra folded into the yogurt, and nan. Also gulab jamun for dessert.
The fish curry was amazing -- in a tomatoey sauce with a hint of (I think) mustard oil and other unusual spices. I think it was a Goan recipe, with a Portuguese-origin name. The chicken dish was just as good, in a yellow coconutty sauce. When the chicken was gone -- before the chicken was gone, in fact -- people spooned the almond-coconut gravy over their rice. Both of these plates were essentially licked clean by the end of the meal. The spinach dish was less interesting -- the fritter seemed a not very interesting variation on the more usual chunks of straight paneer -- but still good. The raita was good, but had that almost carbonated quality that some raitas in restaurants get -- I'm never sure if they're supposed to be that sour or if the dish has undergone a little extra fermentation. Still, it was good. The nan was nice, one piece in four squares. Portions were not huge, but with the rice three entries and one raita was more than enough food for us (four women). We got one order of gulab jamun for dessert -- two small cheese balls (like donut holes) in warm syrup, garnished with little dollops of mango ice cream that melted into the syrup, cutting the sweetness in a nice way.
The waiter was both friendly and professional. I noted that he said "scusi" whenever he reached for our water glasses -- I wonder if Italian is becoming the universal language of waiters in fancy restaurants, like French used to be?
This place is definitely not the standard (North) Indian restaurant. The fish and chicken curries contained flavors I've never encountered in a restaurant. The waiter told us they specialize in the food of Southwest India. A few dishes on the menu were marked as Goan. I think maybe some were Keralan, but I'm not sure if the waiter mentioned Kerala or that was my inference.
This is not a restaurant for those who think Indian food is supposed to be cheap. Vegetarian entrees were over $9, I think, and non-vegetarian were above $12. I may be underestimating these prices by a dollar or so. I didn't see the total bill. I would definitely go again to dinner for a special occasion, especially with someone who is into the subtleties of Indian food. Maybe I would order the lamb chops in cashew sauce that one of our party had heard were very good, but we didn't get to try, and would try some of the other interesting things on the menu, if I could resist ordering the above-mentioned fish and chicken curries again. I say "for a special occasion" because I myself rarely eat in restaurants that cost more than $20 per person and have folded cloth napkins in the water glasses. I hope to go again soon for lunch to try out the vegetarian thali and see if it has the same distinctive quality as the food we ordered from the menu.
I short, I think this is a very interesting restaurant, at least as good as Khujaraho (sp?) in Ardmore when I last ate there, but perhaps with more unusual items on the menu.
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