Neighborhood Joints

House of India: House Specials with Kick and Nan Like Crack

House of India in Coral Gables has been welcoming guests since 1975; it probably hasn't been remodeled since. Light Indian music adds a nice, authentic touch. Burning incense welcomes you. The lights are bright in an otherwise tranquil atmosphere of maroon linen under glass tabletops with Indian themes displayed in art on the walls.

The menu is a fair-priced litany of traditional Indian cuisine and Americanized versions that make it a little easier for the average diner. The sambar soup ($4) is a south Indian accompaniment made from dal tamarind, then spiced and served with vegetables including peas and carrots. The spice of the soup, which clears the sinuses, comes with nan ($2.95). The bread, baked in a clay oven, is addictive. A basket is presented with four servings that should be enough for two people...that is unless you fall for its crisp crust and chewy inside.

There's an extensive list of curries ($12.50 to $20.95) -- chicken, lamb, shrimp, and fish -- so extensive that the curry dishes are presented in a chart. We chose the simple chicken curry ($12.95) with medium spice that seemed hot. The scale is hotter than you might think.

Also ordered medium, Maharaja Patiala Korma ($14.95) is an ancient Indian recipe. Boneless chicken blended with almonds, cashews, and a mild cream sauce. The menu claims it was first prepared for the maharaja of Patiala in 1767 AD. The cream sauce can be a bit overwhelming, but rice helps balance things out.

For dessert,the gulab jamun ($3.95) is spongy milk balls of fried dough soaked in sugar syrup and lightly flavored with rosewater. The result tastes a lot better than it looks.We also tried the rather bland Firni Indian custard ($3.95), rice pudding flavored with cardamon, cooked in sweetened milk with almonds. It was very light and almost flavorless until you let all the flavors develop in your mouth. It was a good combination of desserts to order and share because of how sweet the balls were.

Clam-shell to-go containers didn't work. We eventually received suitable plastic stuff with snap-on lids. Be careful, though. Curry stains.

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John Zur