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. (The Indian-Nepalese restaurant Mount Everest used to have this location before it relocated to Nottingham.) 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.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's LIVE section misstated the address and lunch hours of Kitchen of India. The restaurant is at 1842 E. Joppa Road, Parkville, and is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.
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 (but seldom is). 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 - $3.50
* Chicken Xacuti - $13.95
* Goat Balti - $15.95
* Lamb vindaloo - $13.95
* Tandoori mixed grill - $15.95
Kitchen of India
Where: 842 E. Joppa Road, Parkville
Open: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, AMEX
Food: *** (3 stars)
Service: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)
Ambience: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)
[Outstanding: **** Good: *** Fair or uneven: ** Poor: *]