Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mother India

I was shopping at South Coast Plaza and stopped by one of my favorite ramen shop on 688 Baker. Yes, I'm talking about the Cursed 688 Baker Suite 7. It used to be Dadami, then for some reason the owners moved on and another ramen shop took its place. Now yet another ramen shop stands in its place--Mentatsu. It doesn't make any sense either. All three had great business even during weekdays! I remember customers waiting outside even at 1:30pm. Yeah the Shoyu Ramen was that damn good.

Though I hear the newest owners of Suite 7 churn out some great noodles, the fact that they don't specialize in any style ramen kinda makes me shy away. Besides, NO ONE WILL EVER BEAT DADAMI! There I said it. So I headed next door to Mother India.

Mother India has been in business for a long time, and I remember the family owned restaurant doing some pretty brisk lunch business back when I was a regular Dadami patron. They have a lunch buffet...but I'm never interested in buffets...maybe it's because of all those bad memories from eating at Las Vegas (/shudder).

I found the place to be empty on a weekday at around 1:15pm. There was a couple really workin' the buffet, but that was it. Usually I see a lot of business types out on lunch. Dunno what happened today. Well, on with the food!

Lamb Samosas:

A pair of triangular savories filled with spicy ground lamb and fragrant herbs (4)

I had these at a Pakistani friend's graduation party a couple years ago and just couldn't get enough of them. I'm not familiar with Indian herbs/spices, but I know the dominant flavors (other than lamb. duh) were curry and cloves. You can see a clove piercing the center of each samosa. The skin was nice and crispy, but not at all oily. I swear I can eat 30 of these.

Garlic Naan:

Well...half of the naan anyway. I only remembered to take pictures upon being served the samosas. After that, I was just too excited to dig in. The naan was fantastic. It was crispy on the outside, but still very fluffy on the inside. Striking such a balance really takes practice! Mother India makes better naan than the nearby Royal Khyber. No contest.

Lamb Vindaloo:
Tender sliced lamb in the famous fiery curry of tomatoes, onions, and potatoes simmered with mustard oil (12)

Jeebus this was spicy. The owner's daughter had asked me if I wanted it "Mild" or "Medium,"and I really did think she meant it in the white-man sense. Yeah...I ordered it "Hot". My family eats some pretty damn spicy Chinese/Taiwanese food and this vindaloo really made me sweat. By the way, the picture I posted features a half-eaten portion. No wait, I think I pretty much finished the plate before I took the picture. Eating this entree reminded me why I love Indian food so much. The curry was just so intense! Pair that with the aromatic lamb and BAM! Your tastebuds get a big whallop of flavor.

Seekh Kabab:
Finely Ground lamb mixed with fresh herbs and spices, formed onto skewers and served sizzling from the tandoor (12)

Half eaten again, before I remembered to take a picture. The lamb was really savory and heavy on the herbs/spices and went really well with the saffron and Basmati rice. Although they appear to be dry when you cut them open, I assure you they are sufficiently moist. I couldn't finish these kababs and the owner was kind enough to give me a take-out box with a big piece of garlic naan and some more Basmati rice + saffron. Family-owned ftw!

Gulab Jamun:
Rich pastry balls, delicate inside with a lightly fried crust cooked in syrup (3)

I first had these at Royal Khyber, so I just had to order them at Mother India to make a comparison. Mother India makes a larger version, but both restaurants aren't far off when it comes to texture and flavor. But because Royal Khyber charges you twice the amount, the winner is clearly Mother India! Like the description claims, these are lightly fried pastries that soak up a lot of syrup. Surprisingly, they are not overly sweet. Imagine a nice thick warm donut that oozes a delicate syrup when you chomp down on it--that's pretty much a gulab jamun.

For the amount of food you get, I'll always think Indian restaurants are a tad pricey (at least for the ones I go to anyway....tell me if you know better ones!). Regardless, I love the flavors and aromas of Indian cuisine so much that I really don't give a damn. I should have tried out this restaurant years ago when I was waiting for a table at Dadami.

Mother India
688 Baker St, Suite 8
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 668-9661

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