Outstanding and innovative Indian Food
Second visit: November 9, 2012
First visit: November 7, 2012
There are 12 Indian restaurants in Albuquerque that are listed in Urbanspoon. Most are good, and three are excellent: Namaste, India Kitchen, and now Paddy Rawal’s OM - Fine Indian Dining, which just opened last week, completes this exalted trio.
Pramod “Paddy” Rawal grew up in a family of seven in Bombay (Mumbai) India. In 2001 Paddy arrived in the United States with $100 in his pocket and immediately became indispensable to his food service employers. Following his father’s advice to “do whatever you do with commitment and passion,” Paddy has always been a focused and diligent entrepreneur. He started two restaurants —Raaga in Santa Fe (on Urbanspoon) and Mumbai in East Lansing, MI (now closed).
His new restaurant on 4th street occupies the space formerly filled by Annapurna. Fans of Annapurna (and I am a serious one) will find Paddy’s place when they head for Annapurna, and if they are wise, will try Paddy’s. That’s how we found it. Good karma.
The space is what I call “Industrial Chic” with some little emphasis on the chic. This is a comfortable space. The aromas emanating from the kitchen are heavenly. I knew at once that I was in the right place.
Paddy spent a lot of time with us explaining his culinary philosophy. He is a charming host and, as we were soon to find out, a fine chef.
The menu, which is quite similar to that at Raaga, lists many of the usual favorites as well as some unusual and delightful creations There are many gluten-free and vegan items. All items can be prepared to whatever heat level you may desire —mild, medium, hot, and very hot. This is pretty subjective and if you are a chilehead (I am), you may be surprised, as will become clear as I describe our meal.
Think of a Samosa. Noe imagine the stuffing (peas, mashed potatos, and spices) stuffed inside a tasty poblano chile, and immersed in a gluten-free chickpea flour batter, and gently fried to a crispy golden brown, and You will have dreamt up Paddy’s Stuffed Poblano This is Indian-New Mexican fusion at its very best. It is served with a smattering of very fresh field greens and a slightly acidic sauce-dressing containing coriander leaves. Pour this dressing on the greens and the poblano. This is an utterly amazing taste treat. I could easily make a fine lunch of these gems.
Tomato and Fennel Soup
Crushed Roma Tomatoes, Fennel and Cumin.
Many Indian soups are boring. I get really tired of the usual trite offerings. This soup, on the other hand, is an absolute must for serious soup lovers. It is simple, delicate, and complex all at the same time. The flavors are subtle, and nothing dominates.
Ginger Mint Naan
Naan is among the most popular flatbreads served in Indian restaurants in this country.
At OM, there are nine flavors on the menu. The versions prepared here are not the round, dry, puffy things served at lesser places, but free-form shapes pulled thin and cooked in the tandoor. Not too crispy not dry, but slightly (and beautifully) charred and then brushed with ghee, these breads are perfect for sopping up the sauces in the entrées that you will get. Perfectly done. The ginger and mint are subtle.
Grilled Chicken Supreme, Fresh Saffron, Cashew Cream Sauce .
Jane ordered this dish and requested the beat level to be between medium and hot. When the dish arrived, the taste was great, but the heat was almost nonexistent. Paddy asked her how it was, and she commented that the heat was just not there. He grabbed the dish and returned it to the kitchen from where it reappeared at our table. One taste, and Jane agreed that the heat was perfect.
This dish is composed of grilled chicken in a highly complex sauce with saffron, ground cashews, and other spices in a rich cream sauce. Incredible tastes filled our mouths. This is, simply, unbelievably good.
Scallops, Shrimp, Mahi Mahi, Cashew Cream Sauce.
I ordered this dish at medium heat level because, knowing korma, I didn’t want to overpower the delicate blend of spices in the sauce. It worked. I could taste all of the components of the sauce (including a hint of fenugreek). The taste of the chiles came on slowly and gently filled my mouth. This is as it should be. The shrimp, scallops, and Mahi-Mahi were perfectly done, and this dish is possibly the best seafood korma that I have had.
The Lunch Buffet
I returned two days after my first visit to sample the lunch buffet. Good move. I brought Deanell Collins, my wife’s business assistant, because she loves Indian food. Another good move. We were both blown away.
If you think buffets are a waste of calories and present stale subpar food, then this buffet will completely change your mind. You may choose from eight entrées, some vegan, some vegetarian, and some with meat. Naan, soup, a small salad/condiment bar, and a tub of rice pudding complete your choices. At the lower left corner of the image to the right, there is a red hot sauce that Paddy makes himself. Fantastic.
I loaded my plate with a little bit of most everything. I forgot to take notes, but here’s what I remember:
Vegetarian Hakka Noodles — Paddy;s version of a classical Indian/Chinese fusion dish. I was going to pass on this, but Paddy grabbed the tongs and tossed a large portion on my plate. I’m really glad that he did. Downright superb.
Chicken Tikka Masala — Grilled Chicken, Pimientos, Onions, Garlic, Tomatos. This classic dish is another of my favorites, and it didn’t disappoint.
Surmai Kofta — Dumplings, spinach and fenugreek in a cashew cream sauce. This sauce is the base for the sauces in my entrées two nights ago. Fabulous.
Pakora — पकोड़ा pakoṛā. Vegetables coated with a chickpea flour batter and deep fried. One of my favorite Indian snacks. Perfectly done here.
Lentil And Coconut Soup (vegan) — Yellow Lentils, Coconut Broth, Cumin and Garlic. This puts the lie to the idea that Indian soups are boring.
Paddy changes most of the buffet dishes daily, but the Surmai Kofta is almost always there. Good thing, because it was my favorite this day.
Indian Food Heat Level
And now a few words about heat level in Indian food. Yeah, I know: We’re from New Mexico and can handle excruciatingly hot chile. Well, that level of heat may be fine for New Mexican red, but it can be death for most of the delicately sauced Indian dishes. Let the chef do his or her job correctly, and leave your macho fireeating for other places. The richness and complexity on Indian cooking is, to this educated palate, second only to fine French cooking. I would never think of dousing French cuisine items in macho hot. Paddy has a collection of eight different sauces. Let each one talk to you the way that he intended.
Except for vindaloo. I want that really hot. No-holds-barred-Indian hot, like I got in India.
So far, Paddy Rawal’s OM is the leading candidate for mu 2012 Newcomer Restaurant of the Year award. It’s that good.
What others are saying
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“With the November 1st, 2012 launch of Paddy Rawal’s OM Fine Indian Dining Restaurant, Duke City diners have begun to experience for themselves what Santa Fe diners now know and what East Lansing diners have been missing since Paddy closed his two Michigan eateries. OM may be in a class of its own in New Mexico when it comes to fine Indian dining! A number of infatuated patrons, including Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, have already become confirmed habitues. In short order, OM will have legions of pleased patrons.”
Urbanspoon — caninechic (4 reviews)
“Outrageously Good Food”
“Fresh, flavorful authentic Indian cuisine with inventive touch. How wonderful to have a chef of this caliber creating in Albuquerque…and he comes out and visits! He is warm and welcoming and has food all over his chef’s jacket – so you know he is really cooking. Generous portions, excellent value. VEGAN and GLUTEN-FREE dishes clearly marked on menu – and there are tons of them to choose from. My dinner partners ordered several meat dishes which were excellent. Naan -WOW – with garlic and chives and the subtle one with ginger and mint are now my favorites. This will be a regular stop for us. Yay!”