Experience authentic Indian flavors at The Garden in Agawam

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

When my wife and I visited Scotland a few years ago, we couldn't help but notice that there were Indian restaurants almost every where not unlike the number of Chinese restaurants here in western Massachusetts.

Most Americans, I think it's safe to say, have had relatively little experience with Indian food aside from perhaps a curried dish and that's a shame. There are a wide variety of tastes presented in Indian cuisine, and The Garden in Agawam is a great place to experience some of those flavors.

Located on Main Street near the entrance to Six Flags New England, The Garden has a soothing atmosphere with Indian music playing softy in the background. Two members of the news department Sarah Corigliano and Natasha Clark recently accompanied me to check out the restaurant's lunch offerings.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu gave us much to consider. There are vegetarian dishes, and those that feature chicken, lamb, and shrimp. To buy us some time, Sarah suggested some appetizers, vegetarian samosa ($3.95) and aloo tikki ($2.95).

The vegetarian samosa was two triangular-shaped pastries stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes and peas and deep-fried. Sarah noticed that, in other restaurants where she has had them, the center was pured, but the stuffing was chopped. She thought this texture was much better.

The aloo tikki were mashed potato patties dipped in chickpea batter and fried. There were four in the serving.

Both were quite delicious and certainly were a pleasant preview of coming attractions.

We all managed to try something other than curry no offense to that dish which I love and we chose chicken korma ($6.95), shrimp poori ($7.95) and chicken tikka masala ($6.95).

The chicken korma was chunks of boneless chicken in a mild cream sauce with cashews. That was my selection and I liked it a lot. It came, as all lunch dishes do, with saffroned basmati rice.

The shrimp poori featured shrimp marinated in a variety of freshly ground spices and then sauted with onions and tomatoes. Natasha gave it a thumbs up.

All of the dishes can be served with varying amounts of heat. Being overly cautious I asked for mild spices, while Natasha turned on the heat with her selection.

Sarah ordered the chicken tikka masala. Boneless chicken marinated in ginger, garlic, yogurt and spices and then baked in the traditional Indian tandoor oven and sauted with tomatoes, butter and cream.

Sarah, being unsure about heat levels, asked for some chili paste on the side. She also was quite enthusiastic about her meal.

Bread is a traditional side dish for Indian meals and there is a large selection of freshly baked bread from which to chose. We chose garlic nan ($2.95), a savory bread featuring chopped garlic and fresh coriander.

I know I'll be coming back to The Garden as my wife also enjoys Indian food.

The Garden is closed Mondays. For more information, call 786-6969.