Cuisine With Claire: Paradise Lost in India
By Claire Jen '10, Staff Writer
Scene: Five months ago, a rainy, cold day of doom, schoolwork and hunger.

Angela Coombs ’10 ventured out of Seelye, making the treacherous shuffle past Mango Mango (reviewed last semester) and Black Sheep (also reviewed last semester) to Paradise of India, the only Indian restaurant in Amherst. She ignored the freezing rain slapping her face, intoxicated by the anticipation of sweet gulab jamun and chicken tika (two of her personal favorites). Distracted by the thought of food, she failed to notice some uneven concrete, stubbing and breaking her pinky toe. While some would argue that the injury was perhaps a sign to never visit the place again, Coombs relishes the moment as an example of perseverance, dedication and triumph. She got that gulab jamun, and it tasted good.

Coombs’ passionate love affair with Paradise of India, however, is overshadowed by the opinions of fellow students Dee Mandiyan ’10, Neil Mehta ’11, Maryam Khan ’10 and Gabriela Acero ’10. For example, while Dee says that chicken tandoori is supposed to “explode in your mouth like heaven,” our order looked more like lukewarm chicken covered in pink food coloring. While it tasted fine, it’s apparently not much like what good tandoori looks or tastes like. On the other hand, the chicken tika masala and saag paneer were not bad but not the best I’ve ever had, while Khan really liked their pakora (deep fried potato fritters). It all depends on your expectations: Mandiyan argued, “If I’m paying $36 (for four people) in a college town, it better blow my mind,” while Khan said, “I mean, if I’m really craving some Indian, it doesn’t have to be the best.” Admittedly, the Indian food at Paradise may not taste that authentic, but as long as you aren’t super picky about what you eat, it’s pretty good.

Coombs’ favorite dish there is a dessert called gulab jamun. It’s a doughnut-hole looking substance soaked in spices and oil. She says she likes it for its “bite-sized goodness.” While the rest of us watched her eat an entire dough ball in five seconds, we all agreed that the dessert was NOT delicious. This one serious mishap aside, however, I don’t dislike Paradise of India. On the bright side, they are at least a LOT better at serving you in a timely fashion than India House of Northampton (it IS a trade off though — India House is MUCH more delicious), and the lunch menu’s lower prices can potentially save a few bucks.

Still, I’ll have to go with Mehta’s recount of our meal there: “I mean, it’s fine — it’s not like, horrible...” (grits teeth and trails off). If you try it and happen to find yourself in the Angela category (which I will call the “I-will-break-my-toe-for-them” camp), then great. But don’t say I didn’t tell you so if you wind up in the Dee category (the “heck-no-I-refuse-to-eat-it” camp). Happy eating!

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-15 18:43:02