Sunday’s were made for two things: Sunday drives and Sunday dinners. We were lucky enough enjoy both of these Sunday Funday events today with our super cute friends Jay and Suzanne. So, we went on a little tour of coastal Maine before hitting up Aroma in South Portland for some Mulligatawny Soup along with a handful of other delicious Indian dishes.
I’m usually wary of food establishments in strip malls (read: I never go to them), but Aroma has been getting such amazing reviews from other food bloggers and people I trust in the area that I felt it was high time to give it a fair shot. Jay and Suzanne were happy to be part of this experiment too. These two rad kids just moved here from San Francisco less than a year ago, so they know Indian food. In fact, they are very in the know when it comes to Asian cuisine.
Upon first arrival, the place certainly doesn’t look like much. There isn’t even the typical Indian décor that you usually find in restaurants. It’s very simple, just a few tables, the set-up for the buffet area (they do a lunch and dinner buffet most nights) and a television set up in the corner that played some music along with photos of different Indian dishes. The television idea amused us.
We decided not to order the buffet because a) it didn’t look like it was set up and b) I’m not really a buffet person. I have come to find that buffets are usually an invitation to eat more than one should and I can’t help but question the sanitation of buffet operations. Some patrons are gross and I know they don’t wash their hands properly before touch the utensils, but I digress…
We all decided to start out with the vegetable samosas and an order of the Mulligatawny soup.
The samosas were some of the best I’ve had, though I thought they were a little heavy on the potato and a little bit light on carrots and peas and other such veggies I have had in ones at other restaurants. It also came with two sauces on the side, one I would liken to mint chutney and another with a hint of plum or some other dark, but sweet fruit.
The Mulligatawny Soup was what I came for though. I am humiliated to say that I have never had this soup before, but I always think of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine puts the soup Nazi out of business when she finds his recipes in the armoire that he gives Kramer who then sells it to Elaine who was banished from his restaurant for joking around in line. I’d venture to say that his Mulligatawny Soup wasn’t as good as Aroma’s.
Mulligatawny is a curry-flavored lentil soup. The soup at Aroma has a rich green color and is a really nice blend of spicy and salty. Everyone tasted it and agreed—it was a clear winner. I would definitely order this again. It was well-balanced and the kick after you swallow only added to the depth of its flavors.
After these appetizers we moved on to entrées. Suzanne ordered the Saag Aloo with is potatoes simmered in spices with spinach. Jay ordered the Chicken Kurma, a creamy Indian dish with a special cashew and almond sauce. We also asked for two orders of naan, one regular and one garlic, for the table.
Mark ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala (his signature Indian dish). And I decided to order the Chicken Vindalo, because my friend Erhan always raves about how great it is and I was in the mood to keep the spiciness rolling after the amazing soup starter. I ordered a side of raita (yogurt sauce) in case I needed to cut the heat.
Jay and Suzanne have a little more experience with authentic Indian food than Mark and I do, and they thought their dishes were rather “boring.” Jay said he was longing for more spices to enhance his dish, and the sauce on his Kurma wasn’t as light as he’s had at other places. All in all, it was a bit of a bust for him. Suzanne said much of the same, she longed for something more magical and she felt that it could have used more spices and depth.
Mark on the other hand loves their Tikka Masala, he thinks it’s the best he’s had. My Vindalo wasn’t spicy in the least, and I was worried to order it because it’s supposed to be a “flavorful hot sauce.” I’m not the wimpiest person when it comes to heat, but I’m no rock star either and this was mild in my opinion. Mark tasted it too and felt it was weak. I probably wouldn’t order the Vindalo here again…
I think this is a great addition to the Indian food scene in the greater Portland area. They have some staples of South Indian food that you can’t get other places in town such as Dosa’s, Vada’s and Uthapam’s. It’s worth a try, you never know, you might find a new Indian dish that you really, really like (like their Mulligatawny Soup!!).