Hot weather, hot food

I’ve often admired people who do things differently. Case in point: I had a cadre of Columbian friends in college who, every time the weather heated up, immediately began to drink coffee in copious quantities—not iced coffee, but steaming hot and dense coffee of Columbian origin. While a cold drink might seem more immediately refreshing, they explained that by raising their body temperature, they were counteracting the external heat.

I tried it a few times, and while I can’t say that the hot coffee made a dramatic difference in my temperature, it certainly wasn’t horrible. It might even have helped a little bit.

When I thought about their equatorial theory more recently, I realized that most of the world’s spiciest cuisines originate in lands where the weather is, on average, very, very hot. I’m sure a culinary anthropologist could explain this in more detail, but this insistence on heat must have some connection with the climatic intensity.

In the interest of testing the theory in a broader context, I decided to eat some Indian food in the midst of our early August spate of fire, heat and old-auto exhaust.

Diamond India Restaurant occupies the space of the old Sapna Indian Restaurant, across from Target at the intersection of Moana and Kietzke lanes, and it doesn’t look too different inside. If anything, Diamond India is a little more austere. Other than some wall hangings and a divider screen on the far side of the cash register—which has moved back towards the kitchen—the place is pretty bare.

Diamond India still offers a lunch buffet ($5.99), which my friend Milan and I both decided on. The nice thing about a buffet when it comes to foreign food is the opportunity to try things that might go unordered because of pronunciation difficulties. The day we ate at Diamond India, the dishes were as follows: nav rattan korma, mutter paneer, chicken tandoori, chicken curry, a dish simply labeled “cabbage,” some appetizers and bread.

Milan grabbed the nav rattan korma (which consisted of vegetables and nuts in a creamy sauce) and the chickens curry and tandoori, as well as some rice. My first pass through the buffet consisted of the appetizer, a deep fried potato slice—a dish that I think is known as pakora—nan (bread), mutter paneer, the “cabbage” and some chicken curry.

The curry was a nice mix of spices with perfectly tender pieces of chicken. If any Indian dish is assimilated and overdone here stateside, it must be curry. The mysterious cabbage and mutter paneer were my favorites. The shredded cabbage had a tart, vibrant taste that made me forget the bland horror of corned beef and cabbage. The mutter paneer, described on the menu as “fresh green peas cooked with homemade cheese and a variety of herbs and spices” seemed much more exciting on the palate than in description. Milan said his plate of food was great, and his return for seconds was an indication of his enthusiasm. The only problem is that we were too full to visit the small dessert table.

No expert on Indian food, I can only compare the food at Diamond India with what I’ve had in various cities. It is a positive comparison in favor of the new Reno restaurant. If people complain, it will be because the space is extremely dark. I know that people like to see what they’re eating, especially when it’s something they are unfamiliar with.

I understand that Diamond India is a young business, and cost savings are essential, but some light might go a long way towards cheering up the restaurant’s already bright, tasty food.