The dining room at Kirane’s.
I love Indian food but long ago despaired of finding a really good Indian restaurant in Paris. When I made a new Indian friend, Abhinay, I thought I’d give it another shot. He promised to take a group of us to one he considers “a safe bet for good Indian food.” So the other evening, five of us trooped into Kirane’s, which, according to its business card, means “ray of sunshine.”
My first visual impression was that it resembled many another Indian restaurant, with statues of divinities in niches and kitschy bouquets of fake flowers. My first sensory impression was of an overpowering scent of perfumed incense – not the way to win my heart (as the evening wore on, I stopped noticing it, either because the flame had gone out or I had gotten used to it).
We asked Abhinay to order for us, and he wisely suggested that we skip the starters and order several dishes to share. Terry put in a special request for one of her favorite dishes, palak paneer (curried spinach and cubes of cottage cheese), and there was a strong demand for plenty of naans – both garlic and cheese – but otherwise we left it up to him.
Here’s what he chose: dal tadka (yellow lentils cooked with tempered spices), chicken malai masala (tandoori chicken with a sauce of tomatoes and ginger, topped with fresh coriander), mutton rogan josh (lamb curry), jinga masala (Madras-style shrimp in a spicy sauce) and one dish of rice for all of us. We also ordered two cheese naans and two garlic naans. I detected slight disapproval here from Abhinay, but he willingly went along with our craving for hot flatbread filled with La Vache qui Rit; he would have preferred them with grated Comté, Emmental or Gruyère. Although putting cheese on naan is not exactly authentic, he says they are now very popular in India.
To end the meal, Abhinay chose three desserts that were new to me: hot gulab jamun, deep-fried balls of condensed milk in a sugary syrup (very slimming); gajar halwa, a pudding made with sweetened cooked carrots; and pista kulfi, a kind of pistachio ice cream.
Although we had ordered what would normally be only enough for about three people, all five of us were satisfied (there was, however, a call for another one of those popular cheese naans), and there was no waste, as there so often is when we Westerners over-order (thanks for that, Abhinay). The service was prompt, friendly and professional.
I found each dish to be of high quality, but a bit standardized and lacking in the extra inventiveness I remember from a few outstanding meals in London and even, strangely enough, Glasgow. Since I have never been to India, I have no basis for comparison there. So the hunt for a sublime Indian restaurant in Paris goes on. Abhinay? Anyone?
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