Indian spot in Little Italy


Glancing up High Street, without looking all that carefully, you might think the sign reads "Italy Rosa" or something close to that, something that would be right at home there in the heart of Little Italy.

But look more carefully and you'll notice that the modest sign actually proclaims "India Rasoi," and refers to, in fact, an Indian restaurant - a saffron outpost amid the basil-and-garlic-infused eateries.

On a steamy afternoon, we walked into India Rasoi and up the carpeted steps to the small, low-ceilinged main dining area. Indian music played over the sound system, competing with an unwatched television in one corner. The walls were lined with nice prints of Indian lovers and scenes of the homeland. One sign, which hung near an American flag, proclaimed, "Proud to be a Sikh and an American."

Carryout orders are handled from a little cubby just off the kitchen in the back. We had found India Rasoi's menu on its Web site and had ordered ahead. Our large order, as promised, was complete and ready to go when we arrived.

To summarize, the food was prepared competently but produced few oohs and aahs from the assembled tasters.

Of several appetizers we tried, the best was murgh pakora - marinated chunks of sauteed chicken. A none-too-delicate samosa ($2.25 each) was stuffed with plenty of mildly spiced ground meat and peas. Vegetable pakora ($3.50) - deep-fried vegetables - were a little mushy after the long ride home in a Styrofoam container. They would surely have been better coming straight to a table from the fryer.

We enjoyed picking through an enormous Rasoi grand platter ($17.95), which included a wide range of meats, shrimp and vegetables. The chicken chunks, red with spice, were the best, along with spicy ground lamb rolls that had been grilled. The shrimp, though, were far too dry and the lamb chunks were a bit chewy. Again, some of the problem may have been because of the delay between cooking and eating.

Finally, chicken tikka masala ($13.95), a house special, was a winner, with chunks of meat in a savory tomato-based sauce, served over basmati rice. We used tasty pieces of naan and roti (white and whole-wheat breads) to dip in the sauce.

India Rasoi makes several traditional desserts, including kulfi (pistachio ice cream), kheer (a sweet rice delicacy) and mango ice cream. We tried the gulab jamun ($2.50), golf-ball-sized concoctions floating in a sea of honey. No complaints there.

One tip for evening carryout orders: Be sure to go to the restaurant's Web site, www.india, and print out a coupon that will save you 15 percent on your meal.

One other tip: Parking can be an adventure.

Know of a good carryout? Tell us about it by e-mail:

India Rasoi

Food: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 STARS)

Service: ***1/2 (3 1/2 STARS)

Waiting area: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 STARS)

Parking: ** (2 STARS)

Where: 411 S. High St., Little Italy

Phone: 410-385-4900

Web site: www.india

Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Prices: Indian appetizers, grilled entrees, seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes, $2 to $17.95; credit cards accepted.

Outstanding: **** (4 STARS)

Good: *** (3 STARS)

Fair or uneven: ** (2 STARS)

Poor: * (1 STAR)

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