I met up with my BFF and another high school era friend (wow, we’ve known each other a long time) for lunch the other day at Amber Indian in Castleton. I have been to the Amber in Carmel, and for some reason did not think the two restaurants were related, but as it turns out, according to their carry out menu and website, they are. So there you go, mystery solved.
I normally don’t get buffets but since I was in the mood for chicken tikka masala, and it was available on the buffet (it’s just under $7), it seemed silly to order it from the menu. Plus, this way, I could try some other things. The chicken tikka masala was good, although seemed less seasoned than when I had it at Amber up north. My guess is they do it on the milder side to appeal to the masses, and I like it a bit spicier. The creamy sauce, flavored with some tomato and coconut, just didn’t have the same dimension as the other. It was still good though, with pretty tender bits of chicken.
I also tried the chicken do piazza—more of a tomato based sauce with a little different seasonings—garlic and ginger as well as some flavors like cinnamon and cardamom giving it that slightly fallish taste. There were definitely similarities between the two. They both had a creamy taste, but the tikka masala more so. My one piece of tandoori chicken was kind of dry, which was probably to be expected from a buffet (hence another problem with them). I also had a bit of palek paneer—the creamy spinach with hunks of cheese in it. As always, I don’t eat a ton of it, but I like it as a sort of vegetable side.
They had a couple versions of pakora on the buffet as well (pakora is a fried batter made with seasoned chickpea flour)—a mixed vegetable version and then one that was all mushrooms. The mixed vegetable version wasn’t bad—seemed like it had sat a bit too long, but I really liked the mushrooms. This was something I went back and got more of. I don’t know if the moisture from the mushrooms kept them from drying out, or if they were cooked more recently, but the inside was moist and the outside still crisp. These were one of my favorite things. And I liked the way the chickpea flour gives it a bit of nutty flavor.
Interestingly, I felt like their naan was different from the Carmel location too. I really liked it though. The version here was a little thinner and less dense. We had the garlic version—it added a nice garlic flavor without being overpowering. I easily could have eaten a whole basket on my own. One friend ordered the chana masala and my quick bit of this chickpea-based dish was that it was comparable to the one I had at the other Amber and was tasty.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but other than the naan and mushrooms, nothing really stood out for me. Again, maybe it’s a buffet thing, and they just season things more moderately for mass appeal. What do you guys think?
5929 E. 82nd Street