Aroma Cuisine of India, Castro Valley CA
Zach surprised himself last night at SOMA when he fell in love with the Indian fare. Emboldened by the experience, we sought an Indian restaurant for dinner tonight so that he could further explore the cuisine. Online searching brought us to Aroma Cuisine of India, an establishment that is as small as its food is flavorful. With only 32 seats inside but an expansive variety of dishes, this restaurant hosts an intimate environment with many tastes of the great subcontinent.
To ease into the meal and test our palates, we began with two chicken samosas, garnished with chaat (a smattering of street food-style toppings). Deep fried patties shaped into irregular triangles held shredded white meat chicken. The fried dough was light and had a flaky crust, and despite being deep fried, these were not oily. A mild curry spooned over the top had a deep cumin flavor, and a tangy yogurt sauce helped to balance it. Tender garbanzo beans, crisp red onion, and refreshing cucumber added an interesting sweetness – as sweet as vegetables can naturally be.
Few Indian dishes can be eaten without naan, a traditional flat bread that is ideal for sopping up tasty curries and sauces. We tried four of the vegetarian naan, including garlic, pesto, olive, and muglai. The bright yellow of the garlic naan was attributed to the other spices blended with the garlic – what is Indian food without spices? Pesto here also had a few spices, so don’t expect Italian pesto, although Indian pesto is some tough competition for the Italian one. Minced olive was hidden inside the naan, not spread over the top; this way we could taste the naan itself and appreciate the fluffy texture, with moments of salty, bright olive here and there. Muglai was essentially another Indian pesto naan, but with the additions of spinach, cheese, and more garlic. We had to contain ourselves and hold back from nibbling these up, lest we run out before sopping up the juices of our entrees!
An Indian feast is not just for smelling and eating, but for gazing. The colors of the sauces in these meat dishes were so vivid and enticing. Zach had never tried goat before, so of course we had to order it to see if it was something he’d like. Beyond tender, the meat was easily forked off the bones. Of the three dishes this was the spiciest, although we would still consider it medium – nothing to make you shriek from the heat, as this traditional curry is onion-based. The chicken coconut curry was the favorite at our table, surprising even August who usually avoids coconut. In this trio the chicken coconut curry was sweet thanks to the coconut, but the sweetness was not overpowering and was very well balanced by savory mild spices. Our server recommended chicken tikka masala, and we’re glad she did. If the goat was spicy and the coconut curry was sweet, then this was the tangy dish among the selection, as tomatoes are the base of classic masala. The white meat chicken in both the coconut curry and the tikka masala was very tender, just like the chicken in the samosas.
If you ever lived in close proximity to an Indian family, you’re already familiar with the hypnotizing scents of the cuisine; but if you haven’t actually tried the food yet, Aroma Cuisine of India is an excellent place to try this rich food for your first time. Even the basmati rice was nicely spiced with flavors of India, proving that no detail is overlooked here.