Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little India - in Detroit?!?

I'm on the last night of a 4 day business trip in Detroit, and this evening I discovered a little oasis of concentrated Indian culture nestled among the 'burbs of Detroit. Just south of 13 Mile Road, on either side of Orchard Lake Road, are some decidedly atypical suburban strip malls containing Indian restaurants, clothing stores and grocers.

I ate dinner at Udipi, a pure veg restaurant on the eastern side of Orchard Lake Road. It was without a doubt the finest Indian food I've had since I left Hyderabad. My dinner companion and I had channa chatt, vegetable samosa and papadam for appetizers. These arrived with a small dish of tamarind sauce; I asked for coriander chutney and was given a generous dish of delicious coconut-coriander chutney. The chatt contained delightfully fresh and intense cilantro, and the chick peas were carefully prepared to be easily edible but still have some tooth. The papadam must have been roasted, as it was crisp and oil-free.

My main dish was malai kofta with plain naan. It was intensely spiced, but not burning hot -- exactly the way I remember the best food in Hyderabad. My companion had vegetable curry with rice; it looked and smelled delicious. We were too full to try the desserts. If I ever go back, I plan to try the dosas; in retrospect, I was crazy not to do so on what's likely to be my only visit.

The only disappointments were the usual ones I encounter in America's Indian restaurants: I could not get a fresh lime soda with salt (although the waiter smiled and clearly understood what I wanted), and we were not brought fingerbowls after eating. These omissions really stood out, given the otherwise stunning degree of south Indian authenticity.

After leaving the restaurant we turned south on Orchard Lane Road and pulled into the next strip south, on the west side of the road. The Indian stores there were closed, but I looked in the windows of the "House of India." The clothing inside was gorgeous, and if I find myself with time tomorrow afternoon I plan to go back before heading to the airport.

Sigh. I've just made myself homesick for Hyderabad...

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