On that first evening, four of us took advantage of the multicourse dinner-for-two special, which turned out to be a minibuffet, but made just for us. It was the kind of long, leisurely meal for which Indian food is so well suited-lively talk punctuated by spicy food, beginning with a complimentary plate of pappadams, those crisp wafer-thin, saucer-size peppery crackers made with lentil flour. Alongside came ramekins of mint-cilantro puree and tamarind sauce. Then our real starters arrived-piping hot vegetable samosas, generous deep-fried triangles of crisp pastry stuffed with potatoes and peas and spices. These were followed by a cuplet of dal, a yellow lentil soup that had a light and silky texture speckled with finely chopped bright green herbs, which in turn was succeeded by two chicken and two vegetarian mains. The chicken makhani-cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey calls it "chicken in a butter sauce"-was splendid and rich, with a tomato-cream sauce flavored with herbs, ginger, and the kitchen's own garam masala spice blend. The vegetable korma was lovely too, but it was also fairly rich, with a cream sauce binding chopped carrots, potatoes, nuts, and peas. So to balance it we had the boneless and sauceless tandoori roasted chicken tikka and saag paneer, cubes of house-made cheese and chopped spinach. The paneer was the least popular dish of the night-I was the only one in our group who liked its astringent, somewhat bitter flavor. On the side came a platter of fluffy, faintly seasoned basmati rice and fresh puffy crisped naan baked just for us. We ordered everything medium-
spicy and doused the occasional chili fire with sweet mango lassi.