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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Good News and Bad News at New Karma Cafe

In only four months, Monterey's number of quick Indian spots went from zero to two, with the Ambrosia folks opening a tiny turbo version of the place our readers vote Best Indian on Cannery Row near El Torito, and Indian Summer's owners opening Karma Cafe (920-1310) on Alvarado.

That's a good thing. The stretchy and spongy vegetarian meat in the chef special I had at Karma yesterday (above), though, was not.

Good news: the appetizers are both burly and tasty. The assortment plate is only $4.95 and includes tasty samosas stuffed with peas, potato, herbs and spices (above); paneer pakora, deep fried homemade cottage cheese; papad, crispy roasted lentil wafers; and vegetable pankora, a dynamite wad of ground chickpea and onion deep-fried like a fritter.

More good news: The zippy mint-tamarind sauce that comes with the assortment is excellent, particularly for dipping samosas. If you go here, ordering a side (or five) of this sauce is a must—and thankfully it comes with many of the apps.

Good news: The tandoori chicken is a tasty and affordable treat at $5.95. By design, the entire menu is under $10. A one item combo with rice and naan is $5.95; two goes for $6.95; and three items runs $7.95, with a little extra charge for lamb.

Bad news: The decor is a little depressing inside (kinda like the plastic utensils and paper plates). Once local artist Amanda Burkman's beautiful outside murals spill onto the walls past the glass doors, though, that should change.

Good news: The garbanzo beans are good. The stewed spinach (below left) is event better—rich, creamy and outright excellent. I'm told the wraps are also solid ($5.95-$8.95).

Bad news: The lamb curry could have been a little more moist, though the chicken curry came tender and flavorful. Strangely, the actual curry sauce was much thicker, tastier and more savory with the lamb than the watery chicken treatment. I don't know what the smart play would be there—maybe steel yourself for strange looks and ask for the chicken curry with the lamb curry sauce?

Good news: The advertised hours that had many locals excited by how late they extended (midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 3am Thursday through Saturday). Bad news: They haven't followed through. "Karma Cafe's crying wolf," one of my late-night sources informed me. Ownership admitted they frequently close up shop at 10pm. Calling ahead (the number one more time: 920-1310) is key.

Good news: The owners are eager for feedback. "We like complaints," one attendee told me. "They help us serve people better."

Hard to bitch about that open attitude.