Touching diners’ hearts through their stomachs
By Rosemary Knower
Special to the Baltimore Sun
You might think an unprepossessing building strip mall on Joppa Road couldn’t house a superb restauruant. Wrong. Just as wrong as all those skeptics who thought Little Washington in Virginia and Arthur Bryant’s in Chicago couldn’t serve first class regional food. Salma Khanam, the restaurant’s hostess Maitress d’, and Mohammed Rahman, the Executive Chef, are both from Bangladesh and were married there in what they smilingly acknowledge was an arranged marriage with love. They came to the United States early 1997, determined to start a restaurant. Rahman apprenticed his skills at a number of restaurants in Washington D.C. and Virginia, while Khanam worked as a software engineer. They chose this place at 1842 East Joppa Road “Because it’s easy to get to and has lots of free parking,” says Rahman, “and a big sign you can see from the Beltway.
(Photo by Rosemary Knower)
food is all extremely fresh; the meat is Halal, and the seasonings are diverse and natural.
Once inside in this indian restaurant, all the surroundings are a world away from carpet stores and Pep Boys. Indian paintings and carvings, each with a story, surround the diners in the bright, sunny, dining room where each table has fresh flowers. The spotless steel-domed buffet servers are attended constantly by an attentive staff, and the mingled odors of fresh spices from the daily specials and menu favorites take you a world away. Kitchen of India is a frequent site for weddings and celebrations, and their catering business is in constant demand for parties like the New Years Eve Celebration for 200 members of Indian Community of Greater Baltimore. Since this organization has members from all over India , north and south, they know good regional cooking when they find it.
For one thing, the food is all extremely fresh; the meat is Halal, and the seasonings are diverse and natural. For another, there’s a Tandoori oven in the beautifully arranged kitchen, which is where all those delicious breads and lamb and chicken and goat dishes come from, backed fresh through the day. There’s a daily lunch buffet of enormous items, that the group that calls themselves the Monday Lunch Club was taking full advantage of when I was there. It was also fully in the spirit of the delicately lettered sign that says, “please help yourself to all you want, but don’t waste.”
As for the Metromix’s designation of the Kitchen of India as one of the most romantic restaurants in Baltimore . They’re right. The glorious wall paintings and carvings illustrate traditional ways of planting and preparing food, so the diners are surrounded by a visual textbook on Indian and Indochinese cooking. They are treated to the gentle scenes out of India ‘s storied romantic past, of Rama and Sita, Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan I, of the flower-strewn gardens of Omar Khayyam and lovers exchanging cups and quotes.
But thanks to Rahman and Khanam the restaurant is also very friendly to children and families. The day I was there, a table full of all ages wanted to point out to me that they had come all the way from Sidney , Ohio to eat here, after their first visit a year ago when they were visiting their daughter-in-law. “It’s wonderful,” said Susan Driver, who had brought their daughter-in-law Melissa and their grandsons Ethan and Lucas. “I especially love the vegetarian variety of food—and no additives; all natural.” Brent Driver, who is the family patriarch and family host today, confided, “We called the restaurant from Ohio before Christmas, to get a gift certificate to surprise them. And Rahman said, “I’m not sure how to do that, but we’ll figure it out.”
If you’re not a vegetarian, there are fourteen chicken dishes from Balti to Xacuti, nine lamb dishes, fish, goat, and shrimp curries, numerous tandoori specials and fresh desserts. And the naan, which is baked fresh for you when you complete your order, and brought out on a hot platter a few minutes later.
“Cooking is my passion,” Rahman says; having in the course of a few dextrous minutes spoken with me while baking tandoori, sautéing a vegetable dish, and laying out the fresh spices for both from a rainbow of cups put ready to hand with an attention and precision that will bring oohs and ahhhs in the dining room. “I love this.”
Kitchen of India , 1842 East Joppa Road , Parkville, Baltimore, MD-21234, Tel: 410 663-6880, https://www.kitchenofindiaus.com