Welcoming cuisine


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This week, I felt like I needed a welcoming environment. And what better way to achieve this than with a big sign outside that reminds me I am indeed, welcome.

The sparse portraits of Indian landmarks, environments, and traditional paintings were a good start to my dreams of finding authentic cuisine that is not native to Iowa. India Cafe, found right near the Englert Theater on Washington St., fits just that mold. Known more for its lunch buffet, I thought I would see what the dinner cuisine had to offer. I'm not normally big on lunch buffets, but I may come back to try it.

Before the food was served, I came to this conclusion: The service from the people here was absolutely delightful. There was only help provided, without any tone of condescension. That may not sound like much, but my peers working at restaurants don't normally offer the same courtesies the people here do.

I decided on the Goat Rogan Josh, selected pieces of goat cooked with special herbs and spices in Punjabi style.

First, I had to figure out what Punjabi style was.

The focus of Punjabi is a mix of rice, butter, and cream with the plate. Here, that was the goat.

I received my dish and found the appearance of the food to be a little less than ideal. But different cultures, different appearances. Although it may have had a rough look, the taste did its job.

The flavor was more powerful than the texture, and thank goodness. I am an Iowan, so the stringy goat meat wasn't my definition of tender. The heavy servings of broth with the goat definitely helped, the extra kick of spice was a nice reminder that I should've gone with something a little stronger than "mild" — despite the suggestion that I stick with something weak and move to something stronger next time.

I had it served on Naan bread, which is basically just plain flatbread. This serves as the host for the rice and goat and absorbed as much of the Punjabi sauce as I could throw on.

The rice on the plate itself was spiced and buttered, which may be under-appreciated for many locations.

All in all, India Café was a very positive experience. My cultural ignorance was the biggest issue I had here, and that's only because I don't eat goat very often.

My biggest warning to all people coming here would be to try something they are going to love.

If you love trying new plates, ask for advice on what to order. The staff will be more than willing to assist with what to get, how spicy to make it, and what to get on the side. I would've been lost without the support from the staff.

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