KHAN’S INDIAN GRILL – FAYETTEVILLE, AK
Anyone with a love of dining sufficient to read a food blog will no doubt have a most memorable meal. It will probably be stored somewhere in the subconscious, adjacent to losing one’s virginity in the case of males, or the first pleasurable erotic experience, in the case of females (the author is cognizant of the fact that the two do not necessarily go hand in hand). In any event, last weekend found Mrs. C. and me in Huntsville, Arkansas (population 2,400) for the occasion of the Misty River Hounds opening hunt. That Friday evening we decided to try the new Indian restaurant in Fayetteville (the nearest fine dining spot approximately 30 miles away) and called to make reservations for our party of six.
Arriving there we pulled into a repurposed Wendy’s and walked in, only to find that we ordered at the counter, at which point I came to the realization that we were probably the only party that had ever made a reservation, and then took our seats to await the arrival of our food. Lurking in the kitchen was the Indian chef, a woman, and in the front of the house was, I assume, her husband. The rest of the staff appeared to be a group of cheerful students from the University of Arkansas. The restaurant had been open two weeks, and the menu consisted of five appetizers, five entrees and one dessert. Mrs. C. and I first split a “salad” consisting of puffed rice, onions, lettuce and a nicely balanced amount of cilantro, with a mildly spicy dressing. We next split a thali plate, the Indian equivalent of our meat and three, but given that it contained rice, chicken tikka masala (the dish that has replaced roast beef as the English national dish), hummus, naan, a potato dish and another small salad, it was, in reality, a meat and five, with the six components meant to offer sweet, salt, bitter sour, astringent and spicy on a single plate. It worked well. Each dish was expertly and apparently lovingly prepared from family recipes, and each of them sung with freshness.
Midway through the meal the entire staff came out singing and in a single file, and I was terrified that we were about to be exposed to the worst that Bollywood had to offer and be asked to join what appeared to be an Indian Conga line. To my delight they stopped, however, at a table occupied by a young couple, at which point the gentlemen dropped to one knee and proposed to his date (not something I would have tried in public with Mrs. C. given her sometimes mercurial nature), who, when she quit crying, readily accepted. Before we left I went to their table to offer him congratulations and offer her best wishes, and told them that while I thought the food was very good, it was not memorable, but because of them I would now never forget it. They reminded me that many things go into making a memorable meal, and the food is only one component. And by the way, dinner for six, including beer, wine (red, white or pink) and tip – $117.00. Student pricing prevails.