Lake Mary continues with its curse of inadequate Indian restaurants.
First there was Memories of India, then it was Darbar.
Now there’s Aroma, which to be fair has some very good food, but it has some other issues that give me pause.
When my companion and I arrived at the restaurant for dinner, we were shown to a table immediately. Only one other table was occupied, and another had not been cleared from a previous party, so there were plenty of tables to choose among. So why, I wondered, did the young man who greeted us take us to a table with a big yellow stain left from a previous diner in prominent display on the otherwise bright white tablecloth?
I told the fellow I didn’t want to sit there, and so he showed us to another table that was set for four. But when he removed one of the extra side plates an almost identical stain was revealed on that cloth. (Turmeric, I’m guessing.) No, I said, I didn’t want to sit at any dirty table. The inventory of booths had been exhausted, so we headed for one of the freestanding tables on the other side of the room. Stain free, so we sat. And as we settled in, I noticed the man go back to the last table and reset the side plate over the stain. Apparently replacing it with a clean tablecloth was not an option.
At this point, does it matter to you that the food was good?
We were served a complimentary basket of crispy papadum with three chutneys, including a fiery hot onion and a cooler tamarind. Our samosa appetizer featured two large turnover-like pastries filled with potatoes and green peas. The pastry was dense but flaky, too.
For my main dish I chose the aloo gobi, a vegetarian dish of cauliflower and potatoes in a multi-spiced gravy. The cauliflower was a bit too overcooked and had lost some of its identifiable traits, but the flavors were good nonetheless.
My friend got the lamb vindaloo, which had big chunks of earthy tasting meat in a rich and greasy (in a good way) sauce. We had both ordered the dishes medium hot; the vindaloo was hotter than the aloo gobi, but even so it was not too spicy. (In fact it could have been a bit hotter.)
Onion kulcha, a white bread stuffed with onions and cilantro then baked in a tandoor, was a nice accompaniment, as was the fluffy basmati rice. Portions, it should be mentioned, were ample and larger than I’ve seen in most Indian restaurants.
Decorations are minimal and not well thought out — a couple of tiny pictures on a large blank wall. Our server, though seemingly flummoxed by the request for a couple of Kingfisher beers, was otherwise attentive. At one point, after the appetizer, a young woman came by to remove our appetizer plates, admonishing us to keep our soiled forks and knives. The only place to put them was on the table, so there went that clean tablecloth, too. (Oddly, she made a conscious decision to leave the empty papadum basket.)
Despite the quality of the food, I’m hesitant to recommend Aroma. Any restaurant that would think it’s OK to reset an obviously dirty table potentially has other issues. But I won’t stop you if you want to go.
But I would advise you to get takeout.
Aroma is at 4275 W. Lake Mary Blvd., Lake Mary. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Entrees range from $8.95-$13.95. Here is a link to thearomaindiancuisine.com. The phone number is 321-283-0242.