Monday through Saturday, Sherpa Kitchen
on College Street offers a daily lunch special — aptly named "special," since the amount you pay is extraordinary for the quality and quantity of food brought to your table. From 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., it's $8.99 for a homemade drink, first course and entrée. That's less than almost any entrée on the restaurant's everyday dinner menu. That's also a "Dining on a Dime" jackpot.
I've switched to winter eating. The chill has a habit of getting into my bones and settling there until April, and I do my best to counter the onset with hot curries, stouts the color of charcoal and braised meat that has stewed for hours, semi-forgotten, in its own juices. On a recent Wednesday, I woke up with the itch for a sit-down lunch hearty enough to battle the sudden 25-degree drop in temperature. Sherpa Kitchen was on my to-do list before I brushed my teeth.
By 1:30 p.m., I was sitting at Sherpa Kitchen's table-side window with a friend and a mango lassi rich with housemade yogurt. My first course was Aloo Chop, a pair of deep-fried potato croquettes with daisy-yellow insides hinting at spices like turmeric and cumin. The tennis ball-sized croquettes had a coarse-crunchy outer crust similar to Italian arancini, but with creamy interiors where I occasionally encountered the welcome texture of a soft onion, a chopped potato. A dish of fresh tomato sauce, bright with cilantro, was on hand for dipping.
My friend's first order was Sherpa Kitchen's version of pakora, a tangle of fried onions and slivered carrots plated with a verdant mint sauce almost as addictive as the salt-crunch of fried batter. My friend and I split both plates, spooning the remaining mint sauce into our mouths with the tines of a fork.
Aloo Chop and fried pakora at Sherpa Kitchen
The appetizers were hefty, and though I was technically satiated after the large "first bites" and a thick mango lassi, the oncoming perfume of ginger, garlic and stewed tomatoes readied me for my entrée.
Though I love Sherpa Kitchen's saag paneer — housemade fresh cheese that's spiced, pressed and stewed with spinach, herbs and cream — this time I went for the chana masala, braised chickpeas with cauliflower, onions and fresh ginger in a russet-colored sauce. My friend's order was chicken tikka masala, the velvety broth treading the line between nose-clearing spices and the sweet notes of onions and cream. Both entrées came with a mound of perfectly cooked white rice and a wafer-thin papadum.
I can't remember the last time I took home leftovers. Actually, I generally take pride in eating every last french fry, every last lettuce leaf, every last bite. Among my friends and family, the phrase "Clancy plate" refers to a dish finished so thoroughly it looks clean enough to shelve. But this time I took home two pint containers of food.
That night, I fried the leftover rice in a swipe of sesame oil, added the leftover stewed chickpeas and cooked an egg in the middle. For $8.99, Sherpa Kitchen was both lunch and dinner.
Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.