The first difference I noticed was the quality in service. From the moment I sat down at Sangam to the moment I signed the check, the staff was attentive and always around if I needed anything. Every 10 minutes or so, someone would come over and ask us how the food was or if we needed anything. My glass of water never saw an empty minute. I thought this was a pretty stark contrast to the staff at Mehak. While Mehak’s staff is nice, they don’t interact as much with their customers. There were many times I had to extinguish the fire set loose on my tongue by spice with rice rather than water, as it was a pain for me to find someone to refill my glass.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Mehak. But when I tell you Sangam took my taste buds to a whole other dimension with just one sip of mango lassi, I mean it. I couldn’t even tell you if the lassi was just sweet or just tangy; each drop seemed to have its own flavor: A cool refreshing combination of the earthly sweet overtones of mango cut by the curt tanginess of yogurt. The texture was heavenly as it gently caressed my tongue with it’s smoothness. While Mehak’s mango lassi is also top tier, Sangam’s lassi is definitely giving it a run for its money. In fact, I think it won this match-up by a hair.
In order to accurately compare which restaurant I enjoyed my meal at more, I decided to review the same dish at both: Fish curry — a boneless fish cooked in a tangy onion and tomato based sauce with garlic naan and rice. I noticed the first difference as soon as my waiter at Sangam put down a large plate of warm rice. Unlike Mehak, Sangam’s rice is tinted golden-orange because of the spices it’s cooked with. This additional step in preparing the rice with a mixture of spices, black peppercorn and cumin helped bring out the flavor of the accompanying dishes. The spices added a subtle zing, the peppercorn added an earthy taste and the cumin added an almost smoky and nutty taste to the rice. In fact, the rice was so good that it took everything in me from eating the whole plate plain. While Mehak’s rice is also yummy, and could be enjoyed plain, the addition of spices in Sangam’s rice set it a league above Mehak’s.
The biggest, and perhaps the most important, difference between Mehak and Sangam was their garlic naans. Sangam absolutely obliterated the playing field with the most buttery-soft garlic naan I’ve ever had. The naan tore very easily and practically melted on my tongue. It was decorated with the right amount of roasted garlic, adding a toasty flavor with a slightly sweet undertone. In my opinion, an Indian restaurant’s garlic naan either breaks or makes it. I’d honestly give Sangam, as a whole, five out of five stars just from trying their naan. On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed by Mehak’s garlic naan. The naan was slightly overcooked, making it kind of chewy and somewhat burnt on the edges as the sides looked dusted by charcoal. While the warm butter added a nice toasty taste, the garlic flavor was understated. Overall, the taste was pretty decent but nothing remarkable.
Before I start comparing the fish curries, I’d like to say that I enjoyed both dishes. Mehak’s fish curry is standard. The fish was juicy and soft — the perfect texture — and it was marinated well, soaking up the flavor of the sauce. The gravy seemed like the majority of it was just tomato puree, as if they just poured it out of the can and cooked it with some spices on the side. It was more watery and tomato-y than I would have liked, but it did have a nice tangy and earthy taste with a hint of spice (I ask for a level three spice because I’m a weakling).
On the other hand, Sangam’s fish curry was the best fish curry I’ve ever had. That’s saying something since it’s my go-to dish whenever I eat Indian. The fish was tender with a consistency like butter. It was juicy too; a single bite and the fish would give way to a subtle pop of juice. When the gravy first hit my tongue, it felt smooth like cream, but as I ran my tongue through it, I could feel the bits of garlic, onion and coriander, adding a satisfying contrast in texture and a perfect balance of flavor. The gravy was tangy, nutty, earthy and spicy. It felt homemade and heartfelt. The perfect finalizing touch was the boiled egg garnish. The only thing to beware of at Sangam is their spice level. When Sanagm says spicy, they mean set-your-body-on-fire-and-jump-into-the-gorge-to-extinguish-it spicy. Usually, my roommate, a true spice veteran, barely sweats, but after a few bites of lamb vindaloo, her nose and forehead were dripping. So, if you like spice but don’t like-like spice you’ll want to get the mild.
Both restaurants have their pros and cons. Both restaurants make mouth-watering food and deserve a visit. In my opinion, at least for my most recent visits to both restaurants, the winner of this battle was Sangam. So, next time you’re in the mood for Indian, spice things up by going to Sangam.
Serves: Authentic Indian Cuisine
Vibe: Subtly Elegant
Serves: Hearty Indian Cuisine