Enjoy flavorful cuisine at Aroma Indian Kitchen
Knoxville News Sentinel
I surely do love me some Indian food. So when I heard a new restaurant specializing in that cuisine was opening in Knoxville, I got giddy. I waited until they had been open a couple of weeks before I gave it a try. Last week was when The Grub Spouse and I finally set out for Aroma Indian Kitchen, which is on Cedar Bluff Road near Kingston Pike.
Upon our entering, an employee showed us to a spacious booth that, for us, was sufficiently far away from other patrons. The dining area itself didn’t seem to be marked off for social distancing, but the staff did wear masks. We placed our beverage order and were served a complimentary basket of papadum — thin, crisp flatbread — which was accompanied by a variety of flavorful dipping sauces.
The menu starts with a number of non-vegetarian and vegetarian appetizers, including samosas (stuffed pastries), pakoras (fritters) and kebabs, to mention a few. We also spotted several different soups. Instead, we kicked the meal off with a selection from the Mumbai Street Food part of the menu, the banarasi chaat ($7) — grilled potato patties served over flavored yogurt and pureed kale.
One page of the menu is devoted to vegetarian entrees, many of which are variations on paneer (cottage cheese), lentils and vegetables such as chickpeas, okra and cauliflower. Chef’s Specialty Entrees include butter chicken, masala dosa and kalimiri dahi chicken. Another section features biryani dishes made with chicken, lamb and goat or prepared vegetarian.
The Spouse ordered from the tandoori selections, a dish called chicken malai kabab ($14). It’s prepared with cashew paste and spices and cooked in a traditional tandoori oven.
I focused on the part of the menu where you get to pick your protein (vegetables, paneer, chicken, lamb, goat, shrimp or fish) then pick your sauce style (vindaloo, curry, masala, korma, palak or kadhai). I got daring and decided to try goat ($15) for the first time. After all, how often does one get the opportunity to order goat? Our server said it was similar to lamb in flavor. I paired my goat with korma sauce, which I love and which our server said would be an excellent choice. Entrees come with rice, but we also added an order of garlic naan for $3.
Our chaat was served first. It was awesome. The two potato patties had been deep fried, and they were served atop a bed of chickpeas and a creamy swirl of yogurt and pureed kale. The savory spices and sweetness of the yogurt were a fantastic combo.
The entrees took a little longer than average to wind up on our table. Also, there was some confusion on someone’s part about The Spouse’s chicken. The name of the dish implied that it would be a kebab, but it was not. It was essentially a small whole chicken laid out on a plate. Our server had read our order back to us when we placed it, so either we fundamentally misunderstood what this entrée would be or perhaps there was a mistake in the kitchen. Either way, we forged ahead, because we didn’t have time to wait on another entrée to be cooked. And that’s assuming it was their mistake and not ours. The good news is that the chicken was very tasty.
As for the goat, the meat itself and the korma sauce were both wonderful. It does have a somewhat gamey, lamb-like flavor that was a welcome change of pace. My only issue with it was that large chunks and even smallish slivers of bone were served in the dish along with the sauce and the meat. I had to chew my food very carefully to make sure I wasn’t swallowing the smaller pieces I hadn’t picked out already. For that reason alone, I will caution all you goat fans in advance, and I will probably not go back to that dish again in the future.
The garlic naan was fantastic, as naan often tends to be. For dessert, I was on my own in ordering the rasmalai ($8), which the menu says is a soft cheesecake served in saffron milk. It’s not cheesecake as the typical American diner understands it; it’s a softer, curdier, dairy product. The cake and the milk were both lightly sweet, but I actually enjoyed this treat a good bit.
Ideally, there would have been no confusion over the chicken malai kabab and no goat bone issue, but I accept both as the nature of the cuisine itself and my limited understanding of it. In the execution of what they offer, however, Aroma Indian Kitchen did an excellent job, and the service — long cooking times notwithstanding — was superb. All you Indian-food fans will want to take this place for a test run in the near future.
Aroma Indian Kitchen
Address: 138 N. Cedar Bluff Road
Alcohol service pending
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays
This brand-new Indian-food restaurant delivers on all fronts when it comes to flavorful cuisine and attentive service.
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