As an expatriate, I am always on the lookout for good Indian Restaurants – places where I can get a proper Indian comfort food fix. Unfortunately, in this part of the world this is no easy task. Rarely do you come across a gem like Coromandel – offering inspired authentic Indian cuisine, very reasonable prices, and a restaurant experience that delivers in terms of ambience and service.
The Coromandel group has a monopoly on good "home cooked" Indian food in Fairfield County. And while there is ongoing debate over the "best" location, mine is SONO. Manager, Gopi Nair, is very proud about what sets Coromandel apart. Their dishes are based on traditional recipes sourced from master chefs and regional culinary pundits in India. Their local chefs are then trained to cook the ‘Coromandel Way.’
Indian cuisine is as diverse as it history, culture, geography and an amalgamation of influences from the past – Mughal, Persian, Zoroastrian, Portuguese. And as it has travelled across continents and oceans it has incorporated the local ingredients as well. We decided to showcase some of the traditional regional specialties along with more contemporary dishes. Join us at Coromandel for a gastronomic journey.
Sham Savera - A Coromandel original and one of their most popular appetizers. I call it a deconstructed Saag Paneer. Paneer, a very popular Indian version of cottage cheese is rolled up in pureed spinach that has been seasoned with spices, predominantly garlic, and steamed into rolls. These rolls are then sliced into bite sized pieces and served on a bed of fresh tomato sauce with hints of black mustard seeds and honey. Sham Savera is a literal Hindi translation of Night and Day a stunning visual of the white paneer set in the dark spinach; a wonderfully innovative dish where the combination of ingredients surprise and delight
Lasuni Gobi - A delicious garlicky cauliflower dish, another one of Coromandel’s original creations and a vegetarian’s delight. The cauliflower is dipped in a batter of seasoned cornstarch and then fried with tomatoes, garlic, cumin and turmeric. Though served as an appetizer I usually order this as an entrée.
Andhra Chicken - A fiery starter based on a traditional recipe from the state of Andhra Pradesh, where the Guntur district is known for scarlet red chilies considered amongst the hottest in the world. Chicken cubes are coated with a chili paste made with vinegar and salt and then stir fried with bell peppers and onions. The chilies give the dish a vibrant color and add a wonderful kick to the chicken, without setting your mouth on fire. If you prefer milder cuisine, this may not be for you.
Rasam – This dish is the South Indian equivalent of Moms Chicken Soup and can evoke many an impassioned debate. The Rasam base is primarily tamarind, pepper and yellow lentil broth. Though the ingredients are standard, the taste and the texture varies from household to household (translation…mom to mom). The version served here is a brothy hybrid of tomato, garlic and lemon rasam. Served in a soup bowl with rice, the aroma alone will make your mouth water. Guaranteed to clear your sinuses, the rasam is a robust start to any Indian meal.
Masala Dosa – This wafer thin crispy crepe is made from a batter of fermented rice and lentil. One of South India’s most popular culinary exports - it can be eaten for breakfast or dinner. At Coromandel they serve it in its most traditional form, filled with mustard potatoes and accompanied by 2 sides. Coconut Chutney – a delicious concoction of freshly grated coconut, green chilies, mustard seeds and curry leaves; Sambar, a traditional stew made with yellow lentils and mixed vegetables flavored with tamarind. Included is the drumstick vegetable giving it a very authentic touch. Seafood lovers should try the Crab Dosa – where the potato filling is substituted with chopped shrimps and crab that has been cooked with mustard seeds and curry leaves. You won’t go wrong either way.
Aadu Ulathiyathu - This lamb curry has its roots in the Syrian Christian population of Kerala who are the meat eaters in the predominantly vegetarian community. This delicacy is cooked with freshly ground whole spices like cloves, cardamom, ground pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, red chilies, as well as ginger and shallots. The lamb cubes are stewed for hours and then served with a garnish of fresh coconut slices that have been tempered with mustard seeds. The deep flavor of the lamb is absolutely wonderful with just plain boiled rice as a neutral backdrop.
Hariyali Machee - Translated as "Green Fish" it is a fillet of fish cooked in a green masala paste. Here the Chilean sea bass fillets are marinated in yogurt seasoned with white pepper and cilantro paste and then cooked in a tandoor (an Indian Clay oven). Succulent and tender because of the yogurt marinade, the subtle flavors raise this dish to a very sophisticated level. Truly outstanding.
Chicken Tikka Masala – Ths dish got its roots in Soho, London when Robin Cook called it ‘The True British National dish’ in the local newspapers. You would never find this on the menu of an Indian Restaurant dish in India and ironically it is considered THE most popular dish in an Indian Restaurant in the Western hemisphere. Coromandel serves their take on the British version. It is based on the traditional North Indian Murgh Makhani. Here the Murg (chicken) is marinated in a yogurt seasoned with garam masala, fresh ginger and garlic, coriander, cumin, lemon, chilies and turmeric. The chicken cubes are then cooked in a tandoor. The finished cubes are then nestled into Makhani, the decadent tomato based sauce cooked with cream and spices like cinnamon, cloves, pepper, fenugreek and a dash of honey …. Anyone who has eaten this dish will understand why it is one of the most ordered dishes in any Indian restaurant, and Coromandel does it justice.
Chicken Chettinad – This spicy, black peppery chicken stew has its roots in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu where the Chettiyar clan created a very distinctive style of cooking with their own blend of spices. Absolutely delicious, this curry has an unusual taste with spices like mace, fennel, poppy seed and star anise. This can be eaten with a paratha, naan or plain boiled rice.
Coromandel Lamb Chop – Inspired by the traditional Kashmiri Ghustaba, this is one of those dishes that has its place in the ‘last meal on earth’ category. Fresh New Zealand lamb racks are marinated over night in yogurt, sour cream, ginger, nutmeg and mace. The chops are then skewered and cooked to order in a tandoor. This is one of the very few dishes in the restaurant that can be cooked according to your personal preference. The lamb is incredibly succulent, boasting complex flavors, yet the dish is quite simple … a true showcase of culinary prowess.
Bhindi Do Pyaza – For all of you okra lovers out there, this dish featured okra and onions or as ‘Do Pyaza’ suggests, double the quantity of onions. The onions are actually the main ingredient in this recipe and they lend a sweet taste to the otherwise bland okra. Cooked with tomatoes and coriander seeds, this is a simple classic dish, which showcases the okra at its best. It is delicious eaten as side to lentils or a meat dish.
Chole Peshawari – This is Peshawar’s culinary contribution - garbanzo beans cooked with potatoes in a tomato and onion broth, mingling both tangy and spicy flavors. A staple from the northern part of the country, this is comfort food at its best. Plain boiled rice is its ideal companion.
Tomato, Tamarind and Lemon Rice – A delicious accompaniment to any meal, this trifecta of flavored rice is from the traditional Iyer – Tamil Brahmin kitchen. Plain boiled basmati rice is given added flavor dimension with three different seasonings. Tomato Rice is made with plain basmati rice seasoned with fresh crushed tomatoes, mustard seed and fresh green curry leaves. Tamarind Rice uses seasoned tamarind puree stir fried into the plain rice. And the most fragrant of all is Lemon Rice which is fresh lemon juice seasoned with turmeric powder, mustard seeds and curry leaves, stirred into plain rice. I personally prefer eating the rice with a raita.
Aloo Paratha – A paratha is an ubiquitous homemade Indian flat bread. For those who think that Indian breads are restricted to Naan – you are missing out on bread heaven. ‘It’s an Indian Croissant’ exclaimed my fellow gourmand Stephanie Webster when she bit into the paratha for the first time. Made from whole wheat flour, this thin multi layered bread is pan fried on a tawa. There are many variations on the stuffing inside. My personal favorite is Aloo Paratha with a traditional Punjabi potato stuffing. A great accompaniment to any dish or fabulous just eaten on its own with raita, a pickle or chutney.
Pyaz Ki Chutney – aka Onion Relish. Go to any Indian Restaurant and you will always find a bowl of green cilantro chutney and brown tamarind chutney on the table. These are considered the standard accompaniments to any meal. Chutneys and pickles are a norm in most Indian meals and they add another flavor dimension to the repertoire. What makes the chutney platter even more special at Coromandel is their amazing Onion Relish. It is unique to this restaurant and I have never tasted anything similar anywhere else. Finely chopped onions are marinated with cilantro, cumin powder, crushed tomatoes and a variety of Indian pickle seasonings. Crunchy and delicious, this chutney is a must try with any dish.
Gajar Ka Halwa – A carrot pudding, a very traditional Punjabi dessert and a favorite to be served at family feasts and weddings. Grated carrots- Gajars are simmered in milk for four to five hours until they reduce into a course pudding-like consistency. The flavor is then enhanced with a bit of ghee (clarified butter), a little sugar, raisins, almonds and cashews. At Coromandel the warm carrot pudding is served with a dollop of coconut ice cream. A completely decadent indulgence that feels almost healthy.
Mango Kulfi and Pistachio Kulfi Kulfi - is an Indian version of Icecream. The Mango Kulfi is made from the pulp of the Alphanso mango which is considered the sweetest mango in India, and until last year could not be imported into the US. The mango pulp is mixed with milk, cream and cardamom, cooked till the whole mixture thickens, and then frozen into molds. The Pistacho Kulfi is basically milk and cream simmered with saffron, cardamom and pistachios till it reduces and then is frozen into molds. Traditional classic Indian desserts – a wonderful way to end the meal.
Building on this fabulous repertoire of dishes once a month Gopi, the Manager of Coromandel Sono hosts Wine Dinners – which is a four course Indian meal paired with wines (both red and white) from across the world. Check back for updates.
Coromandel Sono 86 Washington Street, South Norwalk. 203. 852-1213