As Sanjit refreshed my water, he noticed my lacquered Puerto Rican and Cuban flags hanging from my neck and began to speak to me in Spanish. It turned out, Sanjit loves Puerto Rican culture and cuisine. He has visited Puerto Rico several times and eaten at many of the island’s best restaurants. He loved the food so much he decided to save his money so he could apply to culinary school and study Latin American/Latin Caribbean cuisine.
We spent a few minutes chatting about New York City’s best Puerto Rican and Latino restaurants. He recommended a few restaurants in Astoria, Queens I can’t wait to visit. Ready to order, I asked him which appetizer he thought was the most impressive on the menu. He recommended the Samosa (a fried pastry filled with spiced meat, potatoes, chickpeas or lentils), Dal Papri (lentils and wafers served with yogurt and tamarind sauce), Samosa Chat (a Samosa tossed in tamarind sauce with diced vegetables, Indian herbs and spices) and the Chicken Chat (diced chicken and potatoes tossed in tamarind sauce with Indian herbs and spices). Intrigued by Sanjit’s description of the Samosa chat, I asked him to bring me one; he assured me I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Sanjit was pleased to hear that I enjoyed my appetizer. After sharing each others’ sofrito making secrets, he asked for my entrée order. I was torn between the Tandoori chicken (Chicken marinated in red chili peppers, cayenne pepper, garlic and other spices cooked in an earthen clay pot called a tandoor) and the Chicken and Mushroom Curry (Chicken cooked with mushrooms, curry powder, garlic, ginger and other spices). My drunk Mexican neighbor reminded me of Polash’s superb curries and insisted that I wouldn’t regret trying them. Despite her revolting beer breathe and pushiness, I decided to listen to her advice and ordered the Chicken and Mushroom Curry. Sanjit nodded in agreement and with a big toothy smile walked to the kitchen to place my order.
Within minutes, Sanjit returned to my table and presented me what he called “Pollo Guisado con hongos en salsa de curry” (my entrée in Spanish). By then, Sanjit and I were speaking exclusively in Spanish; he even corrected my grammar a few times. It was hilarious to hear Spanish spoken with an Indian accent. I have to admit he spoke Spanish really well and even knew some Puerto Rican sayings as well. It was so cool to have this cross cultural exchange.
After my wonderful entrée, Sanjit asked me if I wanted dessert, but I declined. Sanjit and I had a great chat about how he wants to fuse Indian and Puerto Rican desserts. His idea of a Mango Lassi (a sweet or salted yogurt drink made with fruit) flavored flan sounded amazing. Polash’s dessert menu is simple and consists of: Mango ice cream, Rasmali (fresh home made cheese balls), and Kher (Rice pudding with mango and coconut).
Appearances are often deceiving. Polash’s simplicity might give the impression that the food is pedestrian and run of the mill, but once you give this amazing eatery a try, you won’t be disappointed. They say variety is the spice of life, but I believe taking risks lets you sample those spices and therefore enrich your life. Take a risk and eat at Polash! Go taste for yourself! ¡Buen provecho!