A taste of India in Parkville
Pleasant surprises among good, mostly familiar dishes
By Richard Gorelick
Special to the Baltimore Sun
July 16, 2009
The young chef/owner at Kitchen of India is Mohammad Rahman, who is better known as Babu. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / July 9, 2009) .
Tucked inside Kitchen of India’s leatherette menu is a page of five appetizers and six entrees titled “New Additions.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this page with the same items, give or take an appetizer, has been inserted like this since Kitchen of India opened two years ago. If so, then that’s pretty smart marketing. We tried, and liked, a few things off of the New Additions page, but I don’t think we would have if they had been listed under “Chef Specialties.”
One of the things we tried, pani poori, I don’t remember seeing in another area Indian restaurant. Street snacks in India , they’d make great appetizers to pass around at a party. Served seven to a plate, each hollowed out flour-and-wheat shell is stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes. They get dipped into a masala-spiced water and then popped whole into the mouth. Finding something new on an Indian restaurant menu isn’t easy, and it was a good feeling to be surprised.
We also liked another New Addition appetizer, keema naan, which is the traditional bread but stuffed with spiced ground lamb. Savory bits of lamb are distributed throughout the bread, so each bite is delicious. This is a savory treat that does show up with some frequency, but somehow I never think to order it. Another new appetizer, shrimp pakora, was not as refreshing or stimulating as the other two. It was very familiar stuff.
A lot of Kitchen of India is familiar, mostly in a good way. As nice as it was to try new things, the reality is that most of us go looking for our favorites in a place like Kitchen of India, things like chana masala, chicken Jalfrezi and lamb korma.
Even so, we found for our entrees a few dishes that struck us as relative novelties. One of these, a luxurious dish called chicken Xacuti, was described on the menu as being “cooked South Indian style with coconut and mustard seed.” Another was a fiery goat Balti, for which the meat gets sauteed with garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a woklike vessel called a karahi . The inclusion of a few goat dishes was another menu surprise, and the Balti preparation is available for both lamb and chicken as well. All of our entrees, which also included a lamb vindaloo, arrived at the table in particularly handsome and coppery tabletop food warmers, a nice touch.
We were pretty full by the time we got to these entrees, and for summer eating, they’re heavy going. (The three of us had also tried an appetizer of potato-stuffed samosas, which had a clean-fried taste to them.) They may have sounded different on the menu, but they tasted more or less like other similar preparations in similar restaurants.
For whatever reason, our enthusiasm flagged, just a bit – no permanent converts to Balti or Xacuti. For the record, we also ordered a mixed tandoori grill, which included shrimp, chicken and lamb; it was a gluttonous but rewarding addition.
Kitchen of India has a nice looking room, but it’s overly formal for my taste, the kind of room that only really comes alive when it’s full. And there’s some awkwardness when folks come in for carryout and kind of have to hover in the dining area while they wait for their food. Some wine or beer would have helped, and Kitchen of India is BYOB. Our waiter was sweet and gracious but was working alone when we visited. There were a few moments of wondering where he could have gone.
The young chef-owner here is Mohammad Rahman, who is better known as “Babu.” I think Kitchen of India is worth a trip to Parkville . I have a feeling we barely scratched the menu’s surface. Nice place.
On the menu
• Pani poori – $5.95
• Keema naan – $5.95
• Shrimp pakora – $5.95
• Vegetable samosa – $3.95
• Chicken Xacuti – $13.95
• Goat Balti – $15.95
• Lamb vindaloo – $13.95
• Tandoori mixed grill – $18.95
Dinner:5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2.30 p.m Monday-Friday; 12 p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, AMEX
[Outstanding: **** Good: *** Fair: ** Poor: *]
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
Modest digs, authentic eats at Kitchen of India in Parkville
Owner Mohammad Rahman stands in the dining room at Kitchen of India on Joppa Road. He is holding an order of chicken vindaloo, naan and a mango lassi.
With Kitchen of India, Mohammad “Babu” Rahman, a Bangladeshi native, has created an Indian food oasis in a modest strip shopping center on busy West Joppa Road near Towson. The 40-year-old chef-owner, who opened the restaurant in 2006, is constantly tweaking the menu of mostly traditional dishes.
In recent months, he has featured seafood and tandoori specials. In the next few weeks, Rahman plans to add wings and pizza to the repertoire, but with Indian flavors, he said.
After 10 years, the walkway to the restaurant, whose address is listed as Parkville, looks a little worn with ripped, green indoor-outdoor carpeting leading to the front door. But persevere.
Inside, the dining room is pristine and formal. The tables are covered in crisp white cloths and set with fresh flowers — yellow tulips on our visit. And the vibe is friendly and welcoming.
The dining room at Kitchen of India.
Scene & Decor The dining room is ablaze with striking burnt orange walls and colorful Asian-Indian paintings with rhinestones.
The dining room at Kitchen of India.
A customer’s drawing on a placement is on display at Kitchen of India.
Appetizers You’ll find traditional Indian offerings like naans (flatbreads) with fillings and various samosas. We started with the vegetable samosas ($3.95), featuring two crispy turnovers wrapped like a package around a fresh mix of potatoes and peas blessed with herbs and served with delicious dipping sauces, a cilantro-laced green mint and a tangy-sweet tamarind one. On a cold night, the golden lentil soup ($2.95) was a hearty, garlicky elixir.
Entrees There are dozens of main dishes to choose from in the eight-page menu. You can pick your level of spiciness: mild, medium, hot or Indian hot. Let’s just say that “hot” brings good tears to the eyes. Medium would suit those with a slight need for heat. We were intrigued by the Bangladeshi specials and were pleased with the fish fry combo ($16.95). The platter was piled with a gently breaded, plump tilapia fillet, a bowl of soft lentils and aromatic basmati rice. We were also given another serving of rice on the side. The chicken vindaloo ($13.95) was everything the curry dish should be — spicy and chockfull of tender chicken cubes and potato chunks.
The exterior of Kitchen of India.
Drinks BYOB with no corkage fee — a nice option. The menu includes favorites like chai tea and three kinds of lassi (a yogurt-based buttermilk drink), plus juices and sodas.
Service Our server was attentive (though we did have to ask for water) but not very knowledgeable about the menu.
Dessert The iced, bright-orange mango kulfi ($2.95) was a cool treat after all the spicy dishes. It also comes in a pistachio flavor. Other sweets include gulab jamun, homemade Indian cheese morsels dipped in honey syrup, and kheer, a rice pudding.
Kitchen of India
Backstory: Chef-owner Mohammad “Babu” Rahman opened the restaurant in 2006. The Bangladeshi native had worked in the hospitality industry as a manager and chef since 1997 before investing in his own business. “It was my main goal,” he said. “I love to feed people.”
Parking: Shopping center lot
Signature dish: Chicken vinadaloo, chicken tikka masala
Where: 1842 E. Joppa Road, Parkville
Contact: 410-663-6880, kitchenofindiaus.com
Open: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. lunch and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon to 3 p.m. lunch and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday;, noon to 3 p.m. lunch and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Credit Cards: All major
Bottom line: If you’re looking for traditional, well-prepared Indian food, Kitchen of India is worth a visit.
“Once inside in this indian restaurant, Indian paintings and carvings, each with a story, surround the diners in the bright, sunny, dining room. 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 fish and shrimp dishes come from, baked fresh through the day. There’s a daily lunch buffet of enormous items”