by Alice Levitt
334 Cornelia Street, Plattsburgh, NY, 518-561-8301
My earliest memory is eating tandoori chicken back in New York. On Facebook, I list Indian buffets as my religion. Needless to say, living in Northern Vermont has been difficult for me.
I learned early on to stay away from the bland, greasy Indian food in the area and wait until I was in Montréal or New York to indulge. Recently, I started hearing good things about a closer option — Karma in Plattsburgh. Could I be just a ferry trip away from nirvana?
Karma was in a strip mall across from a KFC. This was the first good sign. Humble location? You must be doing something right to stay open.
The hostess was funny, sarcastic and a native English speaker. Not quite the turbaned grandfathers I'm used to but a great addition nonetheless.
The thick menu offered a range of options I've long craved — and several I'd never seen before. Though there were several goat dishes, a real rarity, and tandoori salmon and lamb chops, I just had to try the chicken chutney walla — a curry of mango, mint and ginger.
Roti curry (right) in the appetizer section also caught my eye. The whole-wheat flatbread roti is a staple at Indian and Malaysian restaurants. The fact that it was being served paired with curry reminded me of the Caribbean tradition of making roti wraps. I couldn't resist making my own.
At just $5.95, the roti curry was a meal in itself. The soft, buttery bread had crisp edges, but was still easy to tear into — worthy vessels for the creamy, coconut-filled curry. I could immediately tell that the meat was of a far better quality than I'm accustomed to in Vermont Indian eateries. The mildly spiced stew boded good things for the rest of the meal, and I cleaned the bowl with bread to spare.
A native Vermonter, my boyfriend is a newcomer to Indian food, but he is passionate about korma. Any Indian restaurant that we try, the sweet cream-based Mughlai dish is our control dish. This luxurious meal was miles better than anything we had tried within a one-hour radius of Burlington. The yellow stew was full of meaty chunks of tender white meat chicken and bedecked with almond slices and golden raisins. The thick sauce was a nice balance of sweet and savory, but had an odd undertone of what tasted like undercooked onions.
The same flavor was slightly more apparent in the chutney walla (right), but since the dish appears to be the chef's invention, it didn't seem quite as out of place. I asked for the curry to be somewhere between medium and hot, and it was exactly that — just enough to feel a bit of burn on my lips, but not enough to detract from the dish's complex tastes.
The mango base of the creamy sauce was more tangy than sweet, a nice surprise in a dish that could have easily turned revoltingly saccharine. Glowingly fresh ginger dominated with a breeze of coriander that blew threw each bite.
I spooned the chicken into the silver bowl filled with basmati rice and peas that came with the meal. I made sure to get a bit of the mint sauce that sat on top on each piece of meat for an invigorating counterpoint to the cream sauce.
A great addition to the meal was one of Karma's 14 breads, the Kashmiri naan. The light, tandoor-baked white flatbread was filled with almond paste and ground raisins. The bread tasted somewhere between a traditional naan and a Bavarian dessert, but lent an exciting new taste to the chutney walla.
Though I was tempted by my standard gulab jamun (fried dough made from milk solids in rosewater syrup) and carrot halwa, I simply didn't have room for dessert. I will be sure to hop the ferry to try one soon, but sooner still, I hope to visit my place of worship, the lunch buffet.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.