Nope. That’s not a typo.
Mr. India. Of all people it was pale, skinny, chinky-eyed, siopao-faced, far-cry-from-Mughal featured me. My high school sophomore class had me represent the homeroom for the male half of the testosterone-inclusive twist to what was usually a female-only annual United Nations pageant. Gamely, I took to the stage with swathes of my grandmothers textile stocks artfully draped by the pre-Dressmaking girls around my legs and around my swollen head. Two weekends of baking myself on the quad to a more believable tan only managed to legitimize me more as the Chinese counterfeit. Documentary proof of all this ever happening have been destroyed. I hope.
I love Indian food. There is always that down-to-earth, real food simplicity in it along with the vibrant complexities of spices and flavors. I’ve always wanted to go to India but definite plans have never materialized and I have so far just contented myself to the cuisine wherever I can access it. Indian sectors in cities around Asia have always been part of what’s usually a meal-based itinerary for my jaunts. Local Indian restos on The Island have also been part of my hunts.
Having had some Little India, my expectations were really high for the much recommended big brother, Mr. India. It took a while to swing around here with The Gaisano Country Mall location generally out of my regular loops. Taking the chance when a promotional held nearby took us to the area, we excitedly walked into the well-decorated space. The sign outside promised “Authentic Ind an Express Cuinise“. Walls were banded in their national colors of orange, white and, green, cut by decorative gilding and framed prints of Indian cultural performances and architecture. It seemed like a slow Saturday night with only our party of four present at dinnertime.
I had a Thali by default with what was labeled on the menu as Non-Veg — chicken. The standard sectioned food tray arrived looking a little Spartan with a scoop of Tarka Dal, Chicken Curry, a serving of non-Basmati rice, a Lado and just a single Roti. The Roti was as Roti’s are everywhere, slightly chewy with a lot of toasted, smoky flavor from where it was scorched. The Tarka Dal was on the watery side with a lean to the salty but bearable. The Chicken Curry had enough chicken chunks in it to be filling. I would have loved the sauce to be thicker and wondered how the mild option would taste if that order was already what they called spicy. The dry dessert Lado is possibly the Indian polvoron with its make of paratha flour, sugar and some spice. While that was new to me it didn’t quite sell itself.
A side order of Chicken Paratha would have been that Thali’s parachute. The Paratha itself was fine but I had a hard time getting the chicken element. Still, it was okay but the yogurt dip was rather watery with a texture and taste a lot more like skimmed milk.
It wasn’t available as a lassi but the Rose Milkshake did its trick. I’ve always liked that heady flavor since I first had Gelato Eliseo’s Rose Petal Ice Cream. More of a suggestion of the fragrance than an actual floral taste, Rose syrup takes the milkshake game up a notch from the usual.
The PussyKat’s Chicken Masala came in a single-serve bowl for what would usually be a to-share price at other Indian places. Though the chicken pieces in it were sizable and the entirety wasn’t at all bad, it had the same watery quality as in the other dishes and we’ve definitely had better.
No different from roadside chicken barbecue in appearance, the Tandoori Chicken was a very Mars landscape red-orange with a lack of moisture to match. I’d digress on account of the accompanying condiments but the Chatni also came terribly flat. The Chai Masala was also sadly off with an sickening rancid aftertaste in the spice. Considering the world’s hungry (or the thirsty) I chugged the rest of the cup to a pronounced wince.
We’ve always wanted to come here. There must be a reason to all that buzz. They have been around for quite a while, after all. Bad night perhaps? Whatever it was just had us doing head bobbles more to shakes than nods. While picture stickers on the wall had some chick decked out in cultural regalia with “Namaste” in boldface bidding us goodbye, we all couldn’t help but feel somewhat “napeste”.
Napeste. adj. translated from Filipino: bummed out