Monterey's new Indian restaurant does justice to a fascinating cuisine.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
If trying to figure out where Olivier Street is has you puzzled, here''s a hint: Think Sensory Gardens. These delightful public gardens bloom year-round in the lovely stretch of pedestrian walkway between the DoubleTree Hotel and the Maritime Museum next to Monterey''s Custom House Plaza. It''s a fitting location for the newly opened Indian Summer restaurant, a venture that elaborates on the theme of pleasing the senses. In both atmosphere and product delivered, it''s my pleasure to report that Indian Summer hits the mark.
It''s unusual to come across a dining experience that makes such an immediate impact. Admittedly, this can be partly accredited to the novelty that Indian cuisine poses to my palate. That''s also what brought me back three times in about a week. I made the discovery that this kind of cuisine is an excursion for the senses, and a bus that I had been missing. And I''m not the only one that was excited; a dining companion, sentenced to a low cholesterol diet, miserably bored and suffering from a bad case of culinary ennui, just about jumped out of his chair. He was thrilled to uncover eating options far and away beyond the salad bar.
To begin with, owners Himanshu and Preeti Sharma bring an impressive background to their enterprise. They met while working for the same exclusive hotel in New Delhi. After Himanshu completed a lengthy culinary apprenticeship and graduated from hotel school in Paris, the couple headed to America.
Now when she''s not doing her gig as the director of housekeeping at Quail Lodge, Preeti oversees everything in the front of Indian Summer, while Himanshu runs the kitchen. Their young son Gaurav runs interference. What they''ve done with the decor--a beautifully appointed, butter-yellow sparkled-up interior and an outdoor garden dining area that is pure sensory pleasure--leaves no part overlooked.
But, as always, we''re from Missouri, so show us the money. Which they did, three times. Vegetarians will flip for the tomato soup, tamatar ka shorba, that''s always on the menu, sweetly pungent with fresh tomato flavor, cumin, cilantro and cloves, $3.50. The artistry with the spices is the distinguishing factor here. Still in the vegetarian vein, the Kashmiri pulao is right on, a yummy blend of basmati rice with whole spices and dried fruit, $9.95. It''s just the stuff to mix up with the gobhi manpasand, tender cauliflower florets in a vegetable sauce, $7.95. What was left of these particular concoctions was consumed the next morning for breakfast, right out of the refrigerator.
Just about all the meat found on Indian Summer''s menu is cooked in the tandoor. (See Window Seat for more on this.) The lamb, chicken and shrimp gosht ki tashtari were each uniquely flavorful and tender ($12.95 for the sampler plate) and a dining companion pronounced the braised chicken in tomato butter gravy, murgh makhanwala, "outta sight," for $12.95. Never before tasting dumplings made from cottage cheese and served in a creamy sauce, ($10.95) I was culinarily edified by the experience. Ditto the salmon tikka, ($12.95) though beware of the occasional pin bone. Some good local wines are on the list and I''m told more are on the way, as is an outdoor exhibition kitchen, to be inaugurated this summer. There''s a lot to be discovered and savored at Indian Summer, whatever the season.
Indian Summer: 220 Olivier St., Monterey, 372-4744. Hours: 11:30am-2:30pm lunch, 5:30-10:30pm dinner, Tuesday-Sunday. Average price for two: $24