Monday, November 9, 2009

Rangoli Indian Cuisine: Off the Hookah

Why, what’s this? Could it be… a blog entry?

I’m back everybody! Sorry it’s been so quiet over here. My 8-5:00 has been more like a 6-7:00 this past week, and the focus has been getting that work done for quite some time. However, to celebrate the end of a hectic week, I got the peeps together Saturday evening for what turned out to be just about the coolest get-together ever. All I can say is, my apologies for not alerting you of this event ahead of time. Because this was a classy affair: unbelievably entertaining and an insanely good value.

The venue was Rangoli Indian Cuisine in New Rochelle. I’m always up for Indian, but the restaurant was having a special affair to commemorate Diwali (an Indian holiday celebrating the festival of lights). For $50 per person, guests got to experience: an Indian buffet, open bar, bellydancing, live Sitar and Tabla music, and a bazaar downstairs offering Henna tattooing, Indian jewelry and clothing. The event was brought to my attention by my bellydancing instructor Bina (yep, you heard that right …and we’re moving on), who said she would be performing.

So, while the event has passed, and I realize some of you might’ve appreciated a heads-up as opposed to a re-cap, I’ll try to paint an accurate picture of what we experienced, and be sure to post the next event when it is announced. (I’m told Rangoli hosts live events often).

I arrived at the restaurant at 7:00 p.m. with friend Todd and bellydancing partner-in-crime Tia. There we met my brother Bill and his girlfriend Lori, and friends Erin, Pete, Christina and Chuck. A table had been reserved for our party in a festive-looking dining room, but the real action of the hour was happening at the open bar. Yes! Open bar! $50 per person was the golden ticket to Indian apps, buffet, live entertainment, culture, and ah-ah ah-ah ah-al-co-hol. Of the copious amounts of beverages consumed that evening were: Jack and Coke, Seven and Seven (both were very strong), good quality Pinot, Kingfisher, Heineken …. and cranberry juice for the designated driver. Next to the bar was a generous portion of appetizers, none very recognizable to me. There was a tandoori-looking chicken that was bright green in color instead of red, some type of cake made from grits, something resembling sausage, steamed lentil cakes, and an assortment of chutneys and sauces. Everything was quite tasty.

After a few rounds of drinks and more finger food than necessary, a group of us wandered downstairs to scope out the bazaar. Lovely clothing and jewelry were on hand, but I was immediately drawn to the Henna. I pointed to an intricate design and asked the woman behind the table how much and long it would take to paint. “Ten dollars,” she said. “And only about five minutes.” My girlfriends and I exclaimed over the deal and we all agreed to get tattoos. Sisters forever! I sat down first, and the woman began applying henna paste to my hand using a device similar to an icing tube. Within minutes, a lovely floral pattern emerged. But I was confused. The henna sat on my skin like little raised dots. The woman saw my expression. “Leave it on for about 20 minutes, and then rinse your hand with water,” she explained. “It will be dyed underneath.”

I eyed the delicate, wet dots. “Good luck trying to eat tonight,” I thought to myself sadly, but cheered when the woman added a few more swirls. My girlfriends began to shift uncomfortably, also thinking how difficult it would be to eat. As if on cue, we heard the host upstairs introduce the bellydancers; the excuses followed soon after, then a mass exodus of sisters sans tattoo went up to the dining room.

So whatever: I was the only one with a beautiful semi-permanent Henna tattoo. Monte from the mailroom made me feel a lot better about it at work two days later. (“Good Lord!” he exclaimed when he dropped off the mail. “What happened to your hand?” I told him. “It …looks kind of gross,” he said and then walked away.)

Anyhoo, I rushed back upstairs shortly after my tattoo-less sisters, and took my seat just in the nick of time to see the beautiful and mesmerizing Bina dramatically emerge in full bellydancing garb and Isis Wings.

Talk about a performer. Every eye in the house was on Bina. Watching her dance was reason enough to visit Rangoli. She moved in and out of tables with energy and spirit, captivating and inspiring all. Later, two of Bina’s students joined her on the dance floor.

“This is awesome,” Pete said, smiling from ear to ear, recording every second with his cell phone. “Todd, duck down,” he said, positioning his phone over Todd’s head to get a better view of undulating torsos. I noticed a growing crowd of people outside the restaurant, hands cupped to the window, also trying to get a glimpse of the show.

Then I noticed one of the dancers move toward me. But her hands were outstretched in a beckoning-motion.

Before I even had a chance to panic, I was swaying back and forth with the dancers on the floor, moving to the music, amidst cheers and encouragement from my friends. Next it was Todd’s turn to bust some crowd-pleasing moves, then Lori and Christina’s, followed by other diners who were more than happy to be coerced onto the dance floor. It was amusing to see some of the more timid and reserved-looking guests boogie down. Open bar must’ve really helped with inhibitions because there wasn’t a wet blanket in the room. Just happy, slightly glassy-eyed faces.

Still, the star of the show was unequivocally Bina. There was veil work, there was a cane, there was a sword. That she balanced on her torso. Unbelievable.

“Pete,” Erin said, nudging her fiancé. “Can we come here for my birthday?”

“Absolutely,” he said, still recording. “It’s better and cheaper than Atlantic City.”

After the dancing portion of the evening, the buffet opened. While I realize that this here is a food blog, there was just too much going on to take pictures or really take note of what I was eating. And it all moved fast—by the time I got to the buffet table, the naan was gone, and shrimp and lamb had been strip-mined out of two main dishes (if you were patient enough to wait, all was replenished). I remember enjoying the chicken tikka masala very much, and exclaiming in joy when I saw a bowl of galub jamon balls for dessert.

The restaurant was also very warm, and there was only a small pitcher of water for our table of nine. Factor in alcohol, spicy, unfamiliar food, and our rowdy bunch soon got very quiet.

“My stomach’s angry,” Pete murmured, taking a bite of eggplant.

“Mine too,” said Todd. He loaded his fork full of spicy lentils. “Let’s see if these help.”

Naan somehow found its way to our table, which was wonderful. I also loaded up on a dish that resembled Paneer Saag, but contained baby corn instead of paneer cheese, which was a bit of a disappointment. Still, the food ranged to good to very good, and made me want to come back to Rangoli and have a proper dinner.

Live Sitar and Tabla music carried us through the rest of the evening, as did the restaurant’s extremely gracious hosts. It wasn’t until very late at night that we left the restaurant, tired, full, and exceedingly satisfied.

I was amazed at the care and consideration that went into planning such a special evening. And the value was unmatched. A gratuity was added to our bill (despite the self-service buffet) to make the total about $65 per person, yet I still found the amount under-priced for what we experienced.

I hope to see you at the next celebration!

Rangoli Indian Cuisine
615 Main Street
New Rochelle, NY 10801
(914) 235-1306

1 comment:

  1. No shots of the bellydancers? =(

    Seriously though, great write-up! Sounds like an excellent deal.