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Indian in the Rough

March 7, 2019

What does it say about me that I like things a little bit dirty?

One of my favorite Indian restaurants in San Francisco had pigeons wandering in through the kitchen door. My favorite dim sum place brought “clean” plates and chopsticks to the table, that benefitted from a second cleaning with some hot tea and napkins. Taco trucks. Dive bars. Food stalls in distant countries. Sign me up.

It’s not that I prefer dirty restaurants over some of the exquisite dining rooms I’ve been fortunate to enjoy over the years. But I do strongly believe that good food does not need to be expensive.

With that in mind, I’m very excited to have finally made it to a great little Indian place in Schenectady. While it may not be for everybody, after just one visit, it’s my new favorite Indian spot.

Parivar is still towards the top of my list. And frankly, Karam Restaurant shares a lot in common with my other favorite Indian restaurant. Both are attached to grocery stores, and both are places where you order from the counter. However, Karam’s menu extends beyond vegetarian fare and includes halal meat. Karam also has an impressive selection of breads.

I tell you about this place at my peril, as there are only two tables. Technically, I suppose there are three. But two of the deuces were pushed together in the form of a four top, leaving one deuce by the window. The dining area really only holds six people at a time. Mostly, this is a take out spot. But I have no problem eating on cold hard metal chairs at wobbly tables when the food is good.

When we walked in there was a single diner sitting at the big table scooping up his curry with some of the best looking blistered naan I’ve seen in a while. What the place lacked in ambiance, it made up for in aromas wafting out of the kitchen.

The menu is relatively short, but it’s packed with things I want to try. And everything is so reasonably priced, it was hard to not just order everything. On this first visit, I was accompanied by Little Miss Fussy, so the choices were limited to kid friendly foods.

We went with the chicken tika ($5), chana masala with rice ($7), and a garlic naan ($3). I had a cup of chai ($1.5), she went for a bottle of water, and despite our better judgements we split a rasmali dessert ($2).

Even though I was actually hungry, we still couldn’t get through all the food.

My hope is that we can return for snacks before religious school sometime, because they have pani puri ($3), samosa ($1), and aloo tiki chaat ($3). And that menu of breads includes aloo kulcha ($3), cheese naan ($3), and kema naan ($4).

Yes, there are some more expensive dishes on the menu. It tops out at a whole chicken cooked in the tandoor and served with naan or rice ($18). That might be a fun treat for a family dinner, perhaps with a side of chana. Meat based curries, which include lamb and goat options range from $9-13. And I should note that all curries come with either rice or naan. Plus Karam offers biryani too, within the same price range.

It’s soul satisfying food.

Curries may travel well, but I would never advise ordering naan to go. So if you want to explore the bread menu, you should cross your fingers and hope one of the tables is open. Or alternatively, wait until spring and just bring your food to your car for a little roadside picnic. Although it’s not in the most charming part of Schenectady. But the rent has to be pretty cheap.

Seriously, this place is going to give La Mexicana a run for its money when it comes to my love and attention. And hopefully, over time, Little Miss Fussy and I can triangulate our way to a dinner order which is satisfying, but doesn’t leave us over stuffed.

Maybe the answer is a pani puri and a chicken biryani? That would put us at just $13 for a dinner for two. But the naan is quite good, and perhaps a chicken stuffed bread and an aloo tiki chaat would be plenty. That would set us back a mere $7.

My daughter is the sensible one. She knew we were ordering too much food last night, but went along with my plan anyhow. We finished the garlic naan since leftover naan isn’t that much fun, and brought home some of the chickpeas and rice. Mrs. Fussy was happy for the leftovers. I was less happy having overeaten. But I was absolutely thrilled to make this new find.

Hopefully you can make it out there. Just try not to linger, because tables are at a premium.

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