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Some Like It Hot

Indian Delight Turns Up the Heat

Indian Delight

This location is closed

By Jill Yesko | Posted 9/2/1998

The last time I had a compelling reason to spend time in Catonsville was several years back when I paid a small fortune to have a tricky operation performed on my basset hound's front leg. He's doing just fine now, thanks, and there's been no need for me to visit that area of western Baltimore County since. But a recent Sunday night found myself and some friends rounding the Beltway like a group of hungry, bored teens in search of cheap food and maybe even some cheap thrills.

We quickly abandoned the idea of finding thrills--we'd landed in Catonsville, after all--but we did find Indian Delight, an unassuming and slightly down-at-the-heels Indian restaurant on the town's sleepy main drag.

Indian Delight's décor could be politely described as head-shop-meets-college- dorm. Tattered Indian tapestries and artists' renderings of the Taj Mahal decorated the dim, subterranean walls. Overhead a bright array of colored fabrics covered a ceiling pockmarked with water stains. The whole scene was reminiscent of nights in the '70s spent getting high to Pink Floyd.

As dulcet strains of Chinese flute music helped lighten the mood, we pondered the red and gold menus, which looked as if they'd been salvaged from a Chinese restaurant. "Are you comfortable?" asked our Bangladeshi server as he sidled up to our table and gently offered suggestions in a half-whisper.

Indeed, we were comfortable, even a bit somnambulant given the nearly empty dining room and our low blood-sugar levels. After enduring the preening and sometimes overly eager service at many of Baltimore's Indian restaurants (you know, the places where a fleet of servers refill your water glass the moment you've taken a sip), we found the low-key approach of Indian Delight's staff a welcome relief.

To awaken our palates, we ordered a vegetarian appetizer platter ($2.95). It consisted of a tasty but somewhat meager serving of four spinach, green-pea, and potato samosas. An order of aloo paratha ($2.95) was also pleasing; the lightly fried bread filled with spiced potato came with a mild coriander dipping sauce. A side order of papad (95 cents) was our third appetizer. The serving was incredibly skimpy--a solitary spicy disc made from chickpea flour and peppercorn. It was a disappointment. And we were irritated to discover that Indian Delight does not furnish customers with a complimentary basket of papad and mixed pickles. If you want one, you must buy it for $1.

In the absence of any entrée specials, we decided to go with four straightforward main dishes from among the restaurant's more reasonably priced middle-of-the-road tandoori, biryani, and vegetarian offerings.

Of our selections, the beef biryani ($8.95) proved to be the crowd pleaser. Dark, rich, dense, and filling, it packed a spicy wallop. So did the lamb vindaloo ($10.95), a two-alarm wonder with a kick that one person in our party likened to the pleasing afterburn of a shot of whiskey. The rogan josh ($9.95), lamb cubes cooked in a light but pungent sauce, was hot and flavorful, as was the vegetarian aloo govi, which came in the same fiery onion, garlic, and curry sauce that inflamed the lamb dish. Unfortunately neither the rogan josh nor the veggie offering were presented with any sense of inspiration. Piquancy alone does not make food special. (If you want it really hot, there's no extra charge for adding more spice; just ask a server.) One dining partner, an Indian-food neophyte, was put off by all of the hot stuff. She limited herself to devouring our side order of confetti-like saffron rice, and was quite pleased with that--proclaiming the rice delicious.

Heated up by all of the spices, we craved a frosty cold beer. Alas Indian Delight does not have a liquor license (but you can bring your own). We decided to cool our steaming mouths with glasses of cold sweetened lassi ($1.95, also available in a salty version). We followed the beverage with generous helpings of mango ice cream ($1.95) and kulfi ($1.95), a "traditional pistachio-flavored Indian ice cream" we suspected came from the local supermarket. A simple cup of strong, black tea made a pleasant digestif.

If you live in the city, there are many superior Indian-food eateries to choose from; stick with them. But if you're motoring along the Beltway and find you have a craving for curry, Indian Delight isn't a bad place to visit. You won't find any thrills, but the service is pleasantly laid-back, the prices are reasonable, and if you like your edibles heavy on the spice, you can toast your tonsils with abandon.

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