Here’s your summer assignment: Head to the unassuming Indian restaurant Umiya Chaat House and try some foods you’ve never tried before. It’s not necessarily the best Indian food in town, but at these prices, if you don’t like what you ordered, just try something else.
In India and the rest of south Asia, chaat is an everyday kind of food that everyone eats. Think of it as the Indian version of hotdog-stand food. A chaat house is just a local hangout that regular people would go to for a quick but filling snack.
Everything at this chaat house is 100 percent vegetarian, so if your doctor says no meat for you, then you’ve got a whole menu to choose from. Everything they make can be custom ordered for spiciness or lack thereof.
Just remember that what might be mild for them could put fire in your particular stomach.
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The dish that made me smile the most was the masala dhosa. There are pictures of each dish, so I picked the one that had this crepe-looking thing extended over a small plate of vegetables. I ordered at the counter and waited for it to be delivered to my booth. When it arrived, I laughed: The plate wasn’t small at all, and the crepe-thingy was about two feet long! Inside the roll was a mixture of mildly spiced potatoes and onion, so I tore the unfilled portion off and dipped it in the accompanying soup and coconut chutney, then took a bite of the filled part and alternated until it was gone. If you’re new to Indian food, you have to try my favorite drink, the mango lassi. The mango should be every human’s favorite fruit; part peachy, part citrusy, it makes a very refreshing accompaniment to spicy food when mixed with thin yogurt. There’s another version called the salty lassi, but I wasn’t quite adventurous enough to try it yet.
We also tried their samosas, spiced potatoes and peas inside a fried turnover; paneer butter masala, a homemade cheese cooked in a tomato sauce — not my favorite; and medu vada, deep fried savory doughnuts made from rice and white lentils (not as unusual as you might think). Naan bread is good the world over, so try some of that. Items we haven’t tried yet include the bhindi masala, the dal fry and the malai kofta. The bhindi masala is a north Indian dish made from fried okra sautéed with onions, tomato and spices. The dal fry is a sauce made of split moong beans and masoor lentils served over rice. And the malai kofta consists of vegetable balls in a bowl of creamy tomato sauce. The décor may be nothing to write home about, but you can’t beat the price, especially if you want to experiment to find out what Indian food you like or don’t like. With about $50 you could become an expert that knows his vada pav from his ragda petis, and who doesn’t want to be able to say that?
Umiya Chaat House3720 Bloomfield Village Drive(478) 781-81002 1/2 stars
Hours: Tues-Sun 10:30-9:00Payment: cash, credit cardReservations: noDress: casualChildren’s menu: yesVegetarian selections: yesWheelchair accessible: yesNoise level: lowHealth code: 100Alcohol: noPrice range: $3.25-6.99