I've eaten at a lot of Indian restaurants in Philly. Mostly there's a lot of same old, same old: the University City restaurants aren't too different from Darbar Grill which is strikingly similar to Passage to India, et cetera, et cetera. None of them are really bad, mind you, but they don't really reach (or even aspire to) deliciousness; what virtue they have lies in their cheapness.
So that's why I'm so delighted that I got the tip about Khajuraho. We combined lunch with a trip to the Barnes Foundation a few days ago, and it was no disappointment. What impressed me was how they really seem to pay attention to their ingredients. Even the buffet, which is usually candidate #1 for mediocrity, was really, really good: it had the usual suspects (tandoori chicken, tikka masala, lamb rogan josh) but also some dishes that you don't see often.
Like an incredibly succulent aloo bindhi made with really fresh, firm okra. Also, when mama eggplants tell their babies that they can "grow up to be anything," they're thinking about Khajuraho's baigan bartha. But in a weird way, what's most impressive is what the restaurant does with side vegetables: I've gotten so used to seeing iceberg lettuce in a sad little salad bar that I almost didn't know what to do with the marinated mushrooms, peppers and onions there.
This is a little gushing, and I apologize. But it is *very* nice to finally find a good, cheap Indian place in-- or at least near-- Philly.
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