Spicy surprise

Gandhi is the newest Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant in Hamtramck — or it was at the time of this writing. It seems new ones are opening fast now, to accommodate either the growing Bangladeshi population or, just as important for restaurant growth, the aspirations of Bangladeshi entrepreneurs.

It opened July 26 with fresh flowers — not just carnations — on each table, white linens, and a drawing of Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa near the bar, which is no longer used for alcohol, though a liquor license is forthcoming.

The food is above average, with some dishes I hadn't seen before. We had a long wait for our food on our first visit, when the place was just 10 days old — we'd been alerted by enthusiastic Hamtramck residents — but the delay had shortened by the second time around.

Portion sizes are also larger than average in Indian restaurants, closer to American size, which is to say that you will likely take home Styrofoam.

If you read that chicken Kashmir was "cooked with mild, creamy, fruit-flavored sauce," which fruit would you predict? We weren't expecting bananas, but the combo was actually quite interesting, and indeed mild and creamy.

Again, would you expect "fish masala" to be salmon? If you've got salmon, you flaunt it, I would think. Gandhi's chef showed off only in the dish itself, which was strong and spicy, cooked with tomatoes and chilies.

Another surprise was tomato soup, a special, very creamy with cilantro. The more traditional mulligatawny — for which there must be as many recipes as Americans have for vegetable soup — was unsatisfactory, tasting mostly of sour and cilantro.

I always order mango lassi, one of my favorite drinks in the world, but Gandhi's was disappointing, with a dry aftertaste. Better was the new-to-me dhai ka lassi, foamy and eggnog-colored, which would do for dessert. It's just milk, yogurt, lemon and sugar, so it’s a good sweet-and-sour alliance.

I have tasted chicken tikka in every Indian restaurant in town, as my daughter is on autopilot for this cuisine. Gandhi's is very tender, not dry as this bright-red dish often is.

Also good are chicken dansak, made with lentils and spicy, and begam bharta, thoroughly mashed eggplant, very rich.

Appetizers and breads are a must at Indian restaurants, and Gandhi's don't disappoint. The vegetable pakora will bring you fritters in five shapes, for two bucks. I recommend the onion-tomato relish that comes with these, and the tamarind chutney is also spicy and tasty. Shrimp poori is a salty and spicy shrimp-green peppers dish with puffy poori on the side. We found the garlic in the garlic naan to be undercooked.

Skip the salads. Green salads weren't meant to be part of Indian cuisine, anyway. You can serve lettuce and veggies with elegant little white pots of dressing on the side, but if that dressing is bottled ranch or French, it just doesn't make it. But the iced tea is fresh.

For dessert, both rice pudding and rasmalai are creamy. Rasmalai, in fact, doesn't taste of much besides cream, but if you're the type that likes half-and-half on your Cheerios...

A small note of warning: if you're allergic to peas, ask the waiter which dishes don't have them, or if yours can be prepared without them. Many dishes here contain peas without advertising the fact.

Everything is halal.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].