I can’t explain why the name of this restaurant is Namaste Indian Street Food. There’s hardly anything on the menu that can be eaten out of hand while walking down the street; and, in fact, most of what’s served can be found in typical sit-down Indian restaurants throughout America.
The difference is that Namaste Indian Street Food is so much better than typical. Its clay-oven dishes, its kebabs, curries and vindaloos, even its naan and kulcha and sweet mango lassis are impeccable. Fresh, bright, cleverly (but not overwhelmingly) spicy, most of what you’ll eat bears the signature of a kitchen that doesn’t merely do things properly; it cooks with the flourish of confident expertise.
Samosa chaat, for example: At its worst, it can be doughy and lackluster. Namaste’s dumpling foundation is crunchy, almost (but not really) lightweight, and the sweet/tangy/crisp/cool chutney on top makes every mouthful a festive occasion.
Butter chicken, which originally came from India as tandoori chicken cooked in well-buttered tomato sauce, is a creamy, comfort-food masterpiece, its smooth, buttery sauce made even richer by the addition of burrata cheese. It is essential to get an order of naan bread to go with it. The bread is tender, flavorful, and pliant enough that it’s just right for sopping up every bit of the butter chicken’s devastating sauce.
“I like hot vindaloo,” I tell the a staff member behind the counter. “That’s the only way it comes,” she replies. Indeed! Vegetable vindaloo is pretty darn hot, but not so ferocious that the kaleidoscope of spice and variety of vegetables is eclipsed. It’s a beautiful balance … and another dish for which you want plenty of naan for mopping.
Coffee, tea, beer, and soda are available; and for those who want a beverage that cools pepper-heated taste buds, mango lassi is a tender wonder. Also available in the extreme-coolant category is rose milk, which has a perfumy flavor so different from ordinary libations that it is at first shocking. But by the end of a plate of hot vindaloo, the pretty pink drink had become my tongue’s best friend.
Note: Outdoor seating is available, and indoor tables are arranged for pandemic-proper social distancing.