Last month I had a chance to try Delhi Belly Indian Bistro, off Sonoma's plaza, for an al fresco dinner on the back patio. The consulting chef, Bhupender Singh, is the star who put Amber India on the map back in the day. He has been active with his own restaurants Ambrosia in Monterey and Avatar Indian Grill in Fairfield and Salinas where I've enjoyed his cooking.
For a light dinner I ordered:
Organic avocado chaat, $7 - This was rather light on the promised bhel (puffed rice) and I notice that the current online menu includes wheat crisps rather than the bhel. Using avocado was a unique and richer flavor than just the usual potato and garbanzos. But adding pomegranate made this a bit too sweet of a flavor profile when gilded with the tamarind chutney alongside the mint chutney. I added more of the mint chutney from the condiment caddy to try to pull the dish back into balance.
Cumin scallops appetizer, $10 - Four sea scallops lightly seared with cumin powder and topped with aromatic vegetable garnish in a puddle of citrusy sauce. I liked this one alot accompanied by lemon rice, $5. The rice was only faintly seasoned and needed more lemon juice.
The staff were quite gracious and checked with me repeatedly asking if the food was too spicy. Not even close, but I guess this indicates that many of their customers must be flaming-out. The dishes and my cup of chai had a very light hand with seasoning and could have used more ooomph in that department. When the condiment caddy was brought to my table, I was warned that the hot sauce was VERY spicy. I tasted it and it does go above what I'd consider medium heat. This is the signature hot sauce that I recognize and know well from Chef Bhupender's repertoire. I added it liberally to my food. At one point, the head waiter saw me with a spoonful of the hot sauce heading to my plate and rushed over to warn me again. I assured him that I'd be fine and had already consumed quite a bit of it.
The dishes did not taste particularly Indian given the fear of spice here. I'm not sure how I can get the kitchen to not be afraid of putting more flavor on the plate for me, which would need to happen if I return. Chef Bhupender is said to be here on the weekends, perhaps coming back then would make a difference.