You know you’re in a restaurant that is serious about spices when you enter the dining room, hear the sizzle of pans in the background and feel a tinge of heat grip the back of your throat.
That’s what happened to me when I entered Namaste, an Indian restaurant that quietly opened in the Hoover Plaza in Lemoyne in a space once occupied by a Lebanese restaurant known as the Mezza Café.
The walls of the small BYOB are painted in hues of burnt orange with vertical wood strips, adding texture, and gold wall hangings providing additional interest. A large, eye-catching back wall features a variety of ingredients like fennel seeds and peppercorns in the shape of various countries. Black tablecloths and wood flooring add a contemporary flair, and hanging pendants lend a soft glow to the space.
When we arrived last Friday night during the dinner hour, we expected a crowd, but it turns out we practically had the place to ourselves. My speculation is that word has yet to spread that a new eatery has opened in the area. I wouldn’t have known had I not stopped at the plaza a few weeks ago.
Those who enjoy Indian food will likely be delighted to have another option in the area, and Namaste does provide plenty of options for whatever you crave. As for the heat, well, that can be tailored to one’s preference.
Protein options include goat, shrimp, fish, chicken and lamb, which can be transformed into curry, Briyani or Tandoor dishes; the choice is up to you. If you’re vegetarian, you won’t lack for choices either. Just swap out the protein with vegetables on most dishes, and you’re good to go. If you’re new to Indian food, you may want to try the butter chicken, the chicken tikka masala, the lamb chops or any of the tandoori dishes.
Namaste has yet to offer takeout menus, but its website gives a rundown of what’s available, along with pictures and prices on each dish for planning ahead.
My dining companion and I decided that we would begin our meal with an appetizer and chose the vegetable samosas ($4.99). Within just a few minutes, two mildly spicy, lightly fried triangles stuffed with peas and potatoes arrived at our table piping hot. They were served with a tamarind and a cilantro chutney for dipping. My favorite is the fresh-tasting cilantro chutney, but those who enjoy a sweeter flavor may prefer the tamarind.
I was in the mood for something just a little different, so I chose the goat Chettinad as my entrée, described on the menu as goat added to a gravy made of poppy seeds, coconut, fennel, Indian spices, cardamom, red chilis and ginger garlic paste ($9.99).
My dining companion chose Aloo Gobi masala ($7.99), a cauliflower and potato dish made with a gravy of onions, tomatoes, cumin and spices. To that he added the Tandoori chicken, marinated in yogurt, ginger, lemon juices and spices and fired in the oven ($8.99). We decided to share an order of the light, puffy Indian flatbread known as naan ($1.49).
Within 15 minutes, our entrees arrived with two large pieces of naan. My goat Chettinad was reminiscent of stew, containing small chunks of goat with various degrees of tenderness. Some I had to tackle with a knife and fork, and others not. The dish was indeed different. It turned out that my dining companion ended up enjoying it very much, so guess who was happy to trade? The cardamom flavor in the dish was quite pronounced, and I discovered that I’m not a fan of the flavor.
The naan was fresh and hot, and the Aloo Gobi was seasoned just right, which, in my opinion, is enough to make your taste buds stand up and take notice, prompting you to grab the water once in a while.
The standout dish, in my opinion, was the tandoori chicken, cut in four chunks and served atop wide carrot strips and a bed of onion. It was mildly spiced, flavorful, wonderfully moist inside, with a bit of char on the outside. Why buy a bland rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for dinner when you can opt for something much more flavorful for just a few dollars more? This is what ran through my head as I planned a return visit.
For those who like to end their meals with dessert, Namaste offers sticky, sweet milk balls known as Gulab Jamun, which never fail to satisfy a sweet tooth, and a carrot-based pudding known as Gajar Ka Halwa. It’s not often you’ll find desserts priced as low as $2.99.
With its fresh food, fair prices and generous portions, Namaste should be doing a brisk business, so be sure to spread the word to your spice-loving friends that the new kid on the block is looking for more friends.
Next Up: Lunch at Hellenic Kouzina in Mechanicsburg