When you have gone to India and eaten at any restaurant, home, or down some alley, the standard for preparation of Indian food is pretty much ingrained. You might not know the exact amount of herbs and spices that each dish should have, but you know when the food is so good that talking to someone while you are eating is the last thing you want to do. And when you hear people say that cab drivers frequent a certain Indian eatery, you think authenticity. You get slightly hyper, ready to gnash away at something spicy, hungry like the wolf.
Last year my colleagues took me to a nearby Indian hole-in-the-wall at 310A S. Canal Street named Baba’s Village. As far as quick goes, it fits the bill. At the time, there was a constant ebb and tide of suits, ties, and wanderers off some Amtrak train from the neighbouring Union Station. It looked like it had all the trappings of the Indian spots that have endeared themselves to my appetite. And without extra charge, you got a bit of attitude with your order. I never bothered to return because the personnel atmosphere had ruined the meal, which was so Americanized that it was practically American food being passed off as Indian food.
I returned recently after work when there was no crowd and noticed a change. Granted the Indian guy at the cash registered barely looked at me while I was placing my order, that changed with a little bit of Hindi that I let sprang forth. I have a habit of unconsciously letting people know that I’m not as typical as I look. So, he was rather engaging thereafter, and it may have been the few short sentences of Hindi that resulted in my food being – and I must apologize for the blatant continuation of my sentence – so DAMN DELICIOUS.
Veggie samosa. Chana bhatura.
The samosa was spicy and almost the size of a fist. Considering my hands are extra large, I will say that the samosa was about the size of a large fist. It came hot and flaky, not cold or lukewarm and chewy. That was a big change from what I remember during the lunch order I had last year, in which the samosa had the texture of toast. Where there was indeed a HUGE improvement was with the chana bhatura. I am a fan of choley and bhatura. The bhatura was certainly not a let-down. The chana was still very much like seasoned chickpeas in a spicy stew gravy, but there was flavour this time. I have no idea what the concoction was that I had last year, but its bland-as-a-rice-cake flavour then was nothing like the pop that I had during this recent visit. I actually finished everything and when I say everything I mean I took the last pieces of bhatura and went around the bowl to sop the last bit of gravy.
It may have been my appetite. It may have been that the cook had more time to prepare dishes without the rush of the lunch crowd. Whatever it was, this most recent visit was an indication that Baba’s Village may be worth avoiding during noon and waiting until after 5:00 PM when everyone is rushing home or to some watering hole to turn up some beers. The prices aren’t all that expensive. I can’t speak to any dishes other than the chana bhatura and the sampling of some “You call that tender?” butter chicken that a fellow colleague had last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the butter chicken doesn’t have a wow factor after 5:00 PM. I can’t say. But maybe during your visit, you can let me know thereafter.