Monday, August 29, 2011

Aroma - 200 Gorham Rd., South Portland, Maine

When Aroma came to South Portland last year, it was their artistic sign that initially caught my eye. Bold, and creatively constructed using images of various spices, I couldn't tell just by driving past if it was a restaurant, or some kind of new kitchen store.

When I finally discovered that Aroma was in fact a new Indian restaurant, I was excited. I love Indian food, and in all the years I've been in the Portland area, had yet to find one to really cling to and call my own. Intrigued, I put it on my "must try" list, and filed it away. Then, as luck would have it, I received a gift certificate to Aroma from my generous sister, and eagerly anticipated finally being able to try it out. After reading several glowing reviews, and surveying the menu, we decided to give Aroma a try on a Sunday evening, which is their special Dosa night.

When we finally got into Aroma (a bit of tricky driving to locate the entrance is required) I was very surprised to discover how small the restaurant is inside. It claims seating for 44, but I'd hate to see that many bodies try to actually sit in there. Despite the size, Aroma is tastefully decorated, featuring dark reds and deep colored wood. Our server was a pleasant young lady who was very attentive without hovering.

After a long debate, Mr. X and I decided on cut Mirchi, cheese Dosa, onion Naan, goat Kurma, and lamb Biryani. We figured that would give us a healthy range of selections to get a good handle on Aroma's menu.

The cut Mirchi was the first dish we got to try, a battered dipped chili that is fried, sliced, and then fried again, and served with mint chutney and tamarind chutney. Now, when I see a dish that is double friend, I expect something incredibly crispy- not the case here. Not only was a serious crunch factor missing, but the chilies themselves weren't very flavorful. However, with enough delicious chutney, they were definitely edible.

Next came our cheese Dosa, which was recommended by our server. My husband and I were of two minds on this. I didn't particularly care for the Dosa - I think it was the type of cheese - but he loved it. I think this one came down to a matter of personal taste on this one. I will say that the Dosa was fresh, and huge and served with some fantastic sauces.

Then came our entrees along with our Naan. The Naan was phenomenal. Chock full of tender onions, the Naan was hot, soft and totally delicious. As a Naan fanatic, I can't eat at any Indian restaurant that can't produce a decent Naan. Aroma knocks it out of the park on the Naan frontier.

The lamb Biryani was perfectly seasoned, and the lamb was delicious. The rice was a tad bit dry, but overall the dish was really well put together was a great balance of spice.

The goat Kurma was, for me, the highlight of entire meal. My husband and I had never eaten goat before, and were both really eager to finally find a place that offered it - and we were not disappointed. The goat had obviously been perfectly prepared. The meat was tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful-  it reminded us both of a stronger flavored lamb. The Kurma was a perfect sauce, rich, creamy and a perfect complement to the goat. It was almost a shame to put it over  the rice that accompanied it and dilute the taste. Complete, goat studded, perfection.

As we were eating, we saw several other dishes that passed by that looked stunning, several of them still hissing and spitting as it contiued to cook in its serving dish, emitting fantastic smells. We saw some great looking tandoor offerings that we made note to try next time.

Overall, my first experience with Aroma didn't make me fall madly in love. The food was good, but didn't convince me that this was now my Indian restaurant. However, we will definitely go back and sample some of the other, fantastic looking dishes Aroma has to offer. Who knows, maybe I just haven't met the right Aroma dish yet that brings me that special love.

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