>> Monday, January 4, 2016

71-51 Yellowstone Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 674-6298

Once upon a time, there was an Italian restaurant that had existed since the dawn of time. Dawn turned to dusk and it closed, becoming a kosher restaurant called Pomegranate. Dusk turned to 7pm and Pomegranate folded. At 7:01, Pomegranate, the kosher restaurant turned into... Pomegranate the Indian restaurant? No. Wait. Hold on. It's actually Aaheli. Aaheli the Indian restaurant. Better known as:
Aaheli Indian Restaurant, formerly known as POMEGRANATE. This is actually their second location, the first being near Columbus Circle.

Okay, so they refuse to replace the huge, glowing, color-changing sign for reasons that I can only assume have to do with hiding themselves from their bookie. "Hey Vinnie, where's that Aaheli place the boss wants us to 'visit'? All I see is a nail salon and a dry cleaner." What about the interior? Uh, fairly awful. Whoever painted the inside did such a half-assed job that they should be sued, and the white tables with pink tablecloths make you feel like you're dining at a bat-mitzvah-to-be. Okay, how about service? I give service a 2 out of 5. Our waiter looked haggard, everything took forever, we were upsold constantly, and flagging him down just for a water refill required an effort just shy of firing up a rescue flare.

And yet despite this laughable shittyness, I forgive them. Because the food is very good. At the end of the day, even if the decor is embarrassing and the service not up to par, they can crank out a quite tasty dish. And they're BYOB, which will save you a few bucks. 

Soups are Aaheli's weak spot. I typically love Mulligatawny Soup, a spicy split pea soup, and who wouldn't like a bowl of Coconut Soup, made with curry seeds and cumin? But man were they thin. Mulligatawny broth might be a better description. Ditto for the coconut soup. The same cannot be said for Bro's choice, the Sambar Soup, a much thicker, heartier lentil soup, which was quite good.

If the soups were a letdown, then it was all uphill from there. I won't beat every dish to death with an adjective-laden paragraph. The menu is pretty big, and there are only so many ways to say "the chickpea-based sauce was delicious." So take my word for it that every appetizer and main dish I had tasted very good. The Tawa Shrimp, shrimp sauteed with curry leaves, onion, and bell pepper was delicious. So much flavor, but so small a portion. You could inhale the whole plate in ten seconds. The Lamb Madras, boneless chunks of lamb cooked in a coconut curry sauce, was heaven. The lamb was tender enough that one could cut it with a spoon if need be. Bro, having been dating a vegetarian for a couple of years, has learned to shun the shunning of vegetarian entrees, and he ordered the Bhartha, an eggplant dish that was similarly rich and flavorful. Deciding to go carb-heavy after an upstate bike trip, I ordered the Chicken Biryani, chicken cooked and served buried in a spiced, herbal rice. The chicken was a little dry, I won't lie, but it was still fantastic and guilt-inducing.

I did not get tandoori chicken or any curries, and not for any real reason other that to try something different.

We were upsold on getting the Garlic Naan, which was fine, since who doesn't like garlic naan, but looking back, once you smother the bread in thick sauces, it probably isn't necessary. 

Indian food has this image as being inexpensive. I don't know where this comes from, since it never is (maybe the buffets are, but I don't eat food from a trough). When Bro and I ate at Aaheli, sans any drinks, we ponied up almost $80. Entrees average about $15, which isn't expensive by any measure, but it's also not "cheap", although you will have leftovers the next day, and Aaheli is BYOB. So, you'll definitely save a nickle or two bringing a bottle from home.

Aaheli, being on Yellowstone, might be a bit of a schlep for some of you (though it's perfect for me), but it'll be a rewarding schlep and you can burn off the calories on the walk.

One complaint: I asked for every dish to be served "very spicy". Not mild. Not medium. Very. Not once were we given dishes that were anything but mild.


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