April 19, 2007

A Hearty Taste of the East

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Although Ithaca has the most restaurants per capita in the United States (yes, it’s true and totally cool), sometimes I just do not know where to go. And, of course, when indecisiveness sets in, there’s no telling how much time will pass before a solution is reached. This was my exact scenario on Saturday night.
Exhausted after an extremely long dance rehearsal, I trudged home only to find my original plan for dinner had fallen through and now was at a complete loss as to where to go and who to go with. Now, this doesn’t sound like something extremely difficult to fix, but for a compulsive planner like me, a failed plan spells disaster. Reaching my empty house, I immediately collapsed onto my couch and began to contemplate what to do. Just when I was about to give up and call it a night, my friend Andrew came sidling into the house and exclaimed that he was free to be my date for the evening since his girlfriend, who also happens to be my best friend, was busy setting up for a party (that happened to be for him, but he didn’t know it yet). Having found a companion, all that was left to do was decide where to go, and, since I was very grateful to Andrew, I let him pick the restaurant.
Sangam Restaurant, located at 424 Eddy Street, is a pretty well-known Indian Restaurant in Collegetown. However, not being the biggest fan of Indian food (I only go to the Indian Restaurant in my town for Sunday night buffet dinner), I had never been to Sangam and was slightly wary of trying it. Knowing this fact, Andrew assured me that the food was quite delicious and so I agreed to take the plunge into the unfamiliar.
Entering Sangam, we found it busy but not overly crowded and were seated at a table immediately. Looking around, I not only noticed the fun paintings hanging on the wall, but also the different ages of the patrons, which ranged from students to adults in their sixties and seventies; I was immediately impressed that Sangam attracted such a diverse crowd. The restaurant’s aroma of exotic spices enhanced the quaint atmosphere, and after seeing a number of delectable dishes being brought to the tables around me, I became more eager to try some for myself.
Because Andrew had been to Sangam before, he was able to recommend dishes he had especially liked and offer his opinion as to what I should order based on my partiality to certain flavors. Much pondering and mind-changing ensued (the menu is quite large) until I finally decided on the Chicken Biryani, a dish featuring long grain rice flavored with saffron and paired with boneless chicken, nuts, egg and vegetables. Andrew ordered Beef Sagwala, which consists of beef prepared with spinach and spices. We also ordered an appetizer of Vegetable Samosas, or crispy turnovers filled with potatoes and peas, and an order of Nan, which is bread baked in an Indian Clay Oven to share.
The appetizer arrived soon after we placed our order and came with three sauces, all featuring different flavors and different degrees of spiciness. The Samosas were cooked to the perfect amount of crispiness and were not as oily as other Samosas I’ve had in the past. In addition, each sauce complemented the Samosa perfectly, but did not overwhelm the Samosa’s own taste.
Not long after we finished our appetizer, our entrees and Nan were brought out. They all arrived in covered plates, and when the covers were removed a generous amount of steam and a wonderful aroma were released, making it very difficult not to dig in right away. And so we did.
My entrée was simply delicious. The dish was cooked with an interesting combination of spices but was not overly spicy on the whole, which I greatly appreciated, as I don’t particularly like hot and spicy food. The ingredients in the dish were perfectly balanced in flavor and quantity and, even though it is mainly a rice dish, I felt as though it was just as hearty as a poultry or beef dish. Andrew allowed me a bite of his dish as well, which looked creamier than I had originally thought but was very tasty when paired with the rice that came alongside. Finally, the Nan, which was more than enough for two people, was wonderful and the perfect accompaniment to our fantastic entrees.
Overall, Sangam proved to be more than I could have hoped for. My only complaint is that the food was so good that I ate too much and ended up feeling full for the rest of the night. However, the entire night’s experience made me appreciate my great friends who will not only recommend restaurants, but also accompany me to these restaurants and thus help me to write a thorough and honest review.