Cinnamon Indian Cuisine, Rhinebeck, NY: Indian Food in Dutchess County (Restaurant Review)
The spice is right: Unusual regional cuisine adds a dash of excitement to the menu at Rhinebeck’s Indian eatery
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Indian treasure: Garam Halwa (carrot pudding with mango ice cream) is a cooling finale to Cinnamon’s exotic main fare
Chicken biryani, served with a refreshing yogurt and cucumber raita, was the classic rendering, with plenty of chicken chunks and excellent, saffron-scented basmati. It had a lovely fresh quality, as did all the food, and would be perfect for those who don’t care for a lot of spice. The shrimp dish, eral varuval, was more exciting. Good-sized prawns were “tempered,” as the menu says, with coriander, ginger, cumin, turmeric and other less identifiable spices. This, too, is a southern Indian dish, made with green chilies in a tomato sauce that’s traditionally fiery — and flagged on the menu with the “two chilis” warning. Shiwanti made a point of asking about the level of heat, and we negotiated it down to “medium.” The sauce was still on the hot side, but enjoyably so, and didn’t mask the taste of the juicy, super-fresh shrimp.
Our other main course, gosht masalawala, was another special of the month. The name means spicy meat; in this case boneless pieces of lamb, marinated with kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves) and dry spices, then cooked in the tandoor and served in a masala sauce. The only recipe for this that I found online during my mad, I’ll-make-it-at-home follow-up period was in Urdu, but the co-chef, Sanjeewa Hearath, told me it involves a blend of cashew paste, yogurt, mint, ginger, garlic, and coriander. I’d need more specific directions to recreate the tender and deeply flavored lamb in its deliciously zingy, gingery sauce. It was presented on a large, square white plate with curvy sides, with crossed asparagus spears anchoring a little mound of lightly spiced potatoes and cauliflower — elegant to behold as well as a real treat to eat.
Desserts are also pretty. Rice pudding is the classic favorite, but we passed in favor of a light, creamy, mango kulfi (ice cream) that makes a perfect, soothing finale for your tongue if you’ve been going to town on the spicy stuff.
Sham savera (spinach and cheese dumplings with tangy tomato-honey sauce)
Garam halwa — carrot pudding — was a “pudding” in the British sense of dessert, rather than the custardy thing we think of. It was grated carrot, sautéed briefly in ghee and sugar to punch up its natural sweetness, layered in a long-stemmed martini glass and topped with mango ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, and a sprig of mint as the final flourish. It tasted healthy and wonderfully indulgent at the same time.
The regular menu lists eight or nine seafood dishes (including a halibut curry in a tangy tamarind sauce that I’ll be back for), a selection of chicken and meat preparations, and a range of vegetarian and vegan fare. There’s a lunchtime buffet on weekdays offering mostly mild dishes, and a special buffet on Sunday nights, when the chef presents regional dishes. At $14.95, it’s a real deal for aficionados or the adventurous. Prices are very reasonable in general, given the high quality and complexity of the cooking. The restaurant is situated on a stretch of Route 9, about five minutes or so from Rhinebeck — and it’s well worth the drive to take your taste buds where they’ve never been before.
Cinnamon Indian Cuisine
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Soups and appetizers $4.25-$9.95; entreés $12-$21.95; lunch buffet $13.95; Sunday night “visesh” (special) buffet $14.50