India House, Northampton, MA

I love Indian food, but have found a disturbing lack of it in Western Massachusetts. Of course, my gold standard has always been Darbar India in Branford or, in a pinch, Thali in New Haven, but was just unimpressed by the sparsity of Indian cuisine around here. It was a little saddening, as it's one of my chief comfort foods. Long-time readers will know that I halfheartedly reviewed India Palace last year, so when Keepitcoming proposed checking out India House for dinner tonight, I was all too excited to have a chance at Indian cuisine once more.

This was an interesting restaurant. I thought the menu really combined things that were traditional with innovative creations, like pomegranate glazed kebabs for appetizers, or lobster tikka masala as an entree. Diners ought to be warned that the menu is extremely adjective heavy, with bewitching bomb-dropping and spewed bullets of seduction all over the place, but when stripped of extraneous speech, is easy to read and devoid of misspellings.

In an uncharacteristic move, I opted to pass up the stranger of the options and went straight for chicken tikka masala. I mean, come on, it's 39 degrees on a good day around here and only the hottest, creamiest, sauciest foods will do. So tikka masala it was, and for Keepitcoming Love, baigan bharta. We shared a chana samosa for an appetizer.The chana samosa wasn't complex, but it combined a good percentage of the textures and flavors we typically frequent- mushy, fried, saucy, tender food. It was basically a deconstructed samosa slathered in condiments, so how could we not love it? It was everything we expected it to be, with crunchy dough pieces, curried potatoes, creamy chickpeas, and SO MANY CONDIMENTS. Just covered in sauce. And the radish on top was a pleasant garnish. Something so simple was easily one of the tastiest dishes I've had at an Indian restaurant.After that pleasant snack, our entrees arrived. The portions were quite large and predicted tons of yummy leftovers in our future. The chicken tikka masala was a light salmon color and was full of vibrant flavors- red peppers, curry spices, chili peppers, chicken, and such. Poured on top of rice or spread on naan bread, it was heaven in a dish. Much spicier than I expected it to be, which was a huge plus.The baigan bharta was really soft and mushy, with a rounded curry flavor and a decent heat, but nothing overwhelming. The texture was perfect, with a fantastic selection of spices. This made it both hot and seasoned instead of an onslaught of fire on the tongue. Coupled with the naan, it was absolutely delicious. The genius who invents naanwiches will have my own personal seal of approval.God, what a great dinner this was. I don't often come to a place and plot out my next order that very night, but in this case, it was irresistible. I can't wait to come back here and try something new!(Note: I have made a slight change to my system of restaurant reviews. I will be rating as a whole instead of evaluating individual items as of tonight's review and all that follow it.)

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