Dinner Out @ Amol India

I have found that in Cincinnati there are 2 kinds of people: Amol people and Ambar people.  If you eat Indian food and live in Cincinnati (and probably frequent Amol) you know exactly what I mean.  If not, read on...

The Food: Sarah gets malai kofta (orange dish on the left).  Every.  Single.  Time.  And we go quite frequently.  It is a tomato base with spices, then chickpea flour fried falafel-esque balls, almonds, raisins, and cilantro in it.  And cream, lots of cream.  It is delicious.  I have a much more diverse and refined pallet at Amol - I get saag paneer (green dish in background on left) 90% of the time, and tandoori chicken 20% of the time.  The saag is a spinach base with spices (garam masala, tumeric, etc.), then cubes of paneer (Indian cheese) in it.  And yes, lots of cream too.  Recently we were thinking of going for take out at Amol, Five Guys, or Chicago Gyros and we decided that with all the cream and white rice (it has about 7 green peas in it too), Amol is probably the least healthy of the bunch.  But, the food is packed with flavor!  I get a 4 or 5 out of 10 spicy level, which gives it a kick too.

On top of the main dishes, we typically get garlic naan - an Indian flatbread that is a bit crispy on the outside and then soft and chewy on the inside.  This is actually one of the very few substantive reasons I recall appreciating Amol's food better than Ambar's - Ambar is all about the crispy naan (or at least they were 9 years ago).  And finally, veggie pakora.  Pakora are battered and fried fritters of vegetable (mostly spinach I think), and they bring you 3 chutneys to put on them.  I usually load on the spicy onion, tangy/sweet tamarind, and refreshing coriander.  They're all too good to pass on.

Amol has a great lunch buffet every day of the week, and plenty of other great dishes - but these are our regulars.

The Ingredients: Nothing notable on the ingredients in the restaurant.  Jagdeep's, the grocery behind the restaurant has just about anything you might want so you can make what's on the menu.  We've price checked many items on Jungle Jim's trips and they're comparable or better at Jagdeep's, without the drive to the burbs.

The Story, Setting, &Service:  As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are Amol people and Ambar people.  I have even been warned not to write this by friends because of the concern of starting a fight.  You see, there is lore in town about the two warring Indian restaurant factions separated by only short fence posts.  I have no idea if these rumors are true.  I do know that the owner at Ambar was shot this past fall, and some immediately jumped to conclusions.  For the purposes of this blog, let's just acknowledge there are at least widespread rumors.

In simple terms, the general Amol/Ambar split is this:  Amol people tend to think of themselves as more down to earth (mostly, in my understanding, because they are going to restaurant that has nearly the same food for $1 less per entree and without a clean bathroom).  I don't really know what Ambar people think, as I've never been one.  As I mentioned above, I think it is mostly Amol people who believe a divide exists.  Got a different opinion?  Let me know.

Before I forget, you must know about the coupons.  Near the back of Citybeat they have coupons for many of the Indian restaurants in town.  I believe the current offer is a whopping $7 off your second entree at Amol.  You must not miss this opportunity!

In other news, back when Jagdeep's grocery was still a laundromat that owned a much used Double Dragon arcade game, Amol India was an eclectic restaraunt called GJ's Gaslight. According to long time Clifton resident Dorothy Lauch, 90, GJ's "had a little of everything", as long as everything was hamburgers or Italian. When the restaurant became Amol, the booths remained, but the red brick wall was painted white and the signature faux gaslights were removed.  A little history for all you foodies out there.

I believe I will be an Amol guy until the day I die.  I've been to plenty of other places around town, and most of them are just fine.  This is simply what I'm used to now, and I like being a regular.  I know Sarah agrees, because when they picked up on who she was and started calling her by name, she told me with a very big smile.

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emmy said...

Well, Gavin, I am with you on the saag paneer thing. I just can't get past that dish!! It's always my first pick and favorite but I always feel concerned about the "bad for you" fat content. Since I am not a Cincinnatian, I can't comment on the divided camp thing. I have been to both Amol and Ambar and have liked them both. Having fun reading your blogs! Emmy

Sam said...

re/ amol-ambar feud, I can only say that all my Indian friends prefer amol. They say it's more authentic. I prefer it too, but because it tastes better.

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Sam - I agree Amol tastes better. Interesting to hear its more authentic. I hadn't heard that. Thanks for the comment!

Sara Leah said...

I am definitely an Amol fan as well. When my husband and I first moved here from Alabama we were a bit overwhelmed with the multitude of Indian restaurants in our neighborhood and tried them all. Amol was the clear winner.

We also go to Amma's kitchen on Reading for the vegetarian selection (the dinner for two with 5 courses is awesome. coconut chutney.) But Amol is our fave.

Gavin DeVore Leonard said...

Thanks for the comment, Sara! We'll have to try out Amma's sometime - appreciate the tip...