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Desi Kitchen lives up to its name. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Desi Kitchen

1515-D S Cooper St, Arlington. 469-677-7747. 11am-9pm Sun-Wed, 11am-10pm Thu-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

 

In Hindi, the word Desi roughly translates as someone or something hailing from the Indian subcontinent –– a slang term meaning “truly authentic.” So naming an eatery Desi Kitchen sets a fairly high bar. Just the word evokes a certain exclusiveness, the kind of obscure reference that makes you feel well traveled and in the know. The new-ish eatery, which sits in an unprepossessing strip mall near UT Arlington, meets its own lofty standards and then some.

On the plentiful list of tapas-sized appetizers, the pepper goat was gloriously zesty (even at the “medium” spice level). The meat was soft and not the least bit gamy. The ingredients tasted as if they had been simmered for a day until the protein softened –– the bright curry spices all tenderized the goat a little. There were bones to pick around, but they were large enough as to not sneak up on any of my fellow diners or me.

A great way to judge an Indian kitchen’s authenticity is by its selection and preparation of vegetables. Desi’s pakora was one of the best takes on fried vegetables I’ve eaten in a while. Carrots, green and red bell peppers, and onions had been fried in a mildly spiced tempura-style batter that wasn’t too thick. Accompanying the dish was a delightful duo of sauces: a delicious, piquant green mint-and-cilantro dip and a thick red sauce that looked and tasted like fancy ketchup. The crepe-like onion dosa was so big that the ends hung over the plate. Chunks of chopped red onion flavored the fairly plain cross between bread and a pancake.

The kitchen’s combo plates are a good way to sample a variety of the menu’s options – you can pick your choice of vegetable or meat dishes from a warming counter. On my visit, there were only about four meat and four veggie choices. The palak paneer was similar to creamed spinach, if the spinach was bathed in curry spices and served with dainty squares of paneer cheese The cream-heavy dish was a decadent take on the leafy green veggie. By contrast, the karela, a vegetarian plate revolving around a bitter melon, was acrid and bland. The combo plate was served with naan, the glorious Indian version of pita bread. The plain naan tasted a little like crunchy sourdough bread, while the butter naan, as the name suggests, had an almost French-level decadence.

Chicken tikka turned out to be the best, creamiest, richest of the dishes we sampled. Small cubes of bird arrived floating in a vibrantly yellow-orange gravy. At first taste, the neon sauce tricked your palate into thinking it was fairly mellow, but the spice crept up after you swallowed. Unlike other curries, this was simply chicken in sauce. Like the palak paneer, the dish was heavy on the cream and yogurt, and a small portion was more than enough.

Entrées come with either naan or plain long-grain rice. Diners can upgrade to lemon rice for a small additional charge, and the gloriously golden, mildly spicy long-grain rice was worth the splurge. It was flavored with cardamom and a generous amount of tiny black peppercorns and topped with whole peanuts.

Save room for dessert. Gulab jamun, the little round sponge cake-like treats, are possibly the most recognized dessert from Indian kitchens. Desi’s golf ball-sized goodies lived in the sinful space between a donut hole and angel food cake in taste and texture. Three little gems came soaking in a cup filled with sweet rose water.

One of the problems with Desi Kitchen’s menu is that there aren’t any subtitles, so if you’re not familiar with the cuisine, you’ll be asking a lot of questions. The staff was pleasant, but they didn’t volunteer much in the way of navigating the seemingly endless exotic choices. Still, everything was housemade, fairly inexpensive, and truly Desi.

Desi Kitchen

Chicken tikka……………………………………………………… $7.99

Veg combo plate…………………………………………………. $6.99

Lemon rice…………………………………………………………. $3.99

Pepper goat……………………………………………………….. $7.99

Veg pakora…………………………………………………………. $4.99

Onion dosa…………………………………………………………. $5.99

Gulab jamun……………………………………………………….. $2.49

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