Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FLAVORS Essence of India

The Buffet Lunch: Squash Fry (green veggies at 6 o'clock then go clockwise) this was my repeated favorite, Aloo Ghobi (alongside relishes), Basmati rice, Sambar, Chicken Curry and Veg Pakora.

Vegetable Pakora: come forth

SAMBAR-Y save me!!!

First off - sorry about the crazy issues on the 'header art' & other art this past week. Having some major technical issues and hopefully it should get resolved in the next week.

For now; please enjoy the stark Bauhaus look of my header title with fonts only!

If you would have asked me five years ago to Indian food on a weekly basis I would have walked away. As Indian food was often an 'exotic twice a year treat' for my palate that I wasn't too accustomed to.

I was in a cooking class awhile back ago and indulged in a dish we prepared that day. I recall it was the chilled lemongrass soup which included the following delicate yet intense ingredients that punctuated the tasting:

- milk
- vanilla beans
- fresh lemongrass chopped
- sugar of course
- papaya diced
- dollop of coconut ice cream

Now of course; the milk, vanilla beans (split lengthwise to diffuse its *essence*), chopped lemongrass and sugar was brought to a low swimmer to fuse and heighten the flavors.

The final result was a taste sensation that included a myriad of Thai-Indochine spices and ingredients. I remarked “it tastes beautiful” and some one charged at me laughing and perhaps my remark was hokey.

I'm sure it was a hokey remark....yet...

Well, it did taste b e a u t i f u l to me.

Sweet sour lemony funky and slightly deranged. It was a complex confusion of flavors you often don't wake up to eat to.

Yes it was different.

An enjoyable challenge to eat something different. Though I'm not as brave as Anthony Bourdain trekking the Sahara's eating something bbq'd in dung & other questionable ingredients - I do love to try things that are out of the ordinary.

Thus, my current affection for Indian food.

We went to Flavors Essence of India Indian restaurant for lunch the other day.

Yes - in another Jacksonville strip mall located off Baymeadows Road.

It was formerly Souper Salad - which was one our *FAVORITE ORDINARY TRIED & TRUE* haunts for Sunday brunch.

Flavors has only been open for about a month and garnishes food from various regions of India. Regional cooking from southern to northern India; as well as 'Indochine' variants as mentioned by one of the restaurant partners Venkata (Venny) Koganti inspire many of their dishes. They specialize in the use of fresh traditional Indian produce, spices and ingredients that bring a power punch in their *flavors* - literally!

We enjoyed their weekly lunch buffet at only $7.99 per person! A regular dining menu is also available. You can visit their website for dining details.

A variety of chicken, goat & vegetarian dishes included curries, masalas were supplemented with fragrant offerings of Basmati rice.

There were also sweet, sour, spicy relishes to compliment your dish. Some lovely relishes included the mint chutney, tamarind spice and nutty coconut chutney.

During our lunch we enjoyed the Vegetable Pakora made with spinach and onions that were rolled in delicate spices with a light chickpea flour batter then deep fried to delectable madness.

There was also the usual Chicken Tandoori that is often served too dry and bland for my taste. Yet Flavors opted to present a tender, moist and extremely well seasoned version of this traditional clay oven dish.

We also enjoyed the creamy Chicken Curry, Goat Masala, Palak Paneer (spinach blended with delicate cheese and spices) and also the Channa Masala (chickpeas).

Some of my favorites include: The Sambar which is a very light stew made of vegetables which is another Indian staple. Another repeat for me was the Squash Fry they had that day. The first bite is delicate but keep going and you'll taste the curry leaves I was talking about during my rant about Cilantro Indian Cuisine weeks back.

The welcoming wait staff brought us baskets of chewy nan to go with our buffet lunch.

Flavors also has a full dinner menu which I'm sure will please timid and adventurous diner.

What I enjoyed so much about the restaurant FIRST is service & cleanliness; which is often an after thought in many places.

Yet alongside - I enjoyed their use of FRESH & HIGH QUALITY INGREDIENTS.

This is so essential in cooking that I cannot fathom why restaurants opt to go beneath the food chain often times to make an extra buck by use of questionable ingredients.

Another stand out for Flavors is their cooking is quite traditional.

I was immediately drawn towards their refreshing yet exact use of seeds. Yes seeds: coriander, cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds to be exact!

Gone are the goodness sake awful bland and FLAT flavors to treat the American palate. What is noticeable is the outspoken blend of delicate with feisty spices that accentuate the broad colors of Indian cuisine.

which one....which one???

Bought a handful of these babes via top shelf: my replacement for lean cuisine to spice up the daily grind

More babies....

After our feast we walked a few doors down and visited their grocery store Flavors Indian Grocery.

You see top ramen (bottom left) in this mix!!??

Support your local grocer - says this *girl about town*

I love supporting local ethnic grocery stores. This is a small one but their inventory is growing and you can pick up many items there that are extremely reasonably priced.

We left with a semi-contentness that Jacksonville's dining is slightly escalating away from it's sorry unidentifiable deep fried haze of a state to a hopeful directional route to something inspiring.

As I was signing the restaurant's guest book upon leaving; I met 'Venny' and mentioned to him not to change a thing.

Restaurants in Jacksonville have a tendency to OPEN with a punch then fall to the side of mundane to please bland palate's (*yawn*) that fear anything different or spicy . What's wrong with a little tongue tingle?

Anyhow, I left with a smile as well as a bag of fresh curry leaves.

Essence of India
Tel 904.733.1525

Flavors Indian Grocery
Tel 904.733.1523

9550 Baymeadows Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32256

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this...