As I mentioned in my last post, my book club met last Thursday. We planned to meet at Darbar in Baltimore to discuss Ender's Game. Darbar is an Indian restaurant, which is usually a good bet for finding vegan food, but since I'd never been to the place before I decided to practice being a little more proactive about my dining experiences. First I checked out their menu online, and was happy to see they had a vegetarian entree section. There were a lot of choices, and some I was unfamiliar with, so I went a step further and e-mailed the restaurant ahead of my visit.
My e-mail and the wonderful and prompt response I got from the staff are below:
I will be dining at Darbar tomorrow evening, and I see that you have many delicious looking vegetarian options on your menu, but I was hoping to find out more about which of those items are vegan - meaning no butter, yogurt, dairy milk, etc. I hope that by planning ahead I can order quickly without too many questions for your servers.
Thank you for your help,
Thanks for your email
We do have lots vegan items
Please ask the waiter when you arrive
Some of the dishes
and many more
(Punctuation - or lack thereof - from original response e-mail.)
Armed with this list, I thought I would have no trouble finding a great vegan dish. Unfortunately, the names of most of the items above didn't actually appear on the menu. A few, like "Bharta Eggplant", were easy enough to figure out - on the menu, it was listed as "Naingan Ka Bhurta". But others, like "Zeera Alu" were too difficult. Since I didn't want to waste everyone's time Googling items from the list, I ordered one of the decipherable options - Bhindi Okra (aka Bhindi Ki Sabzi).
This isn't the kind of dish I really expected to be wowed by ... and I really wasn't. I wouldn't bother ordering it at Cafe Spice, where I know there are so many more wonderful options, so maybe I really messed up ordering it here. But I suspect I would have been equally underwhelmed by anything else I ordered.
Beyond the lackluster food, I was also really put off by the server, who acted quite rude when I requested my food "spicy". Many people at Thai or Indian restaurants question a white person who asks for spicy food, as though we have no clue what we're doing, but when I assured her I would be fine she acted as though I was just clueless and would later throw the food in her face. Note, the food that came out was definitely not too spicy. In fact, I would have preferred it spicier, but I'll take what I can get.
I guess my evening at Darbar just proves that if I'm looking for great Indian food in Baltimore, there are definitely much better options. Other than Cafe Spice, there is: Akbar, Mughal Garden, or Indigma (which even has a vegan/gluten-free section on their menu!). But then again, I suppose I wasn't really there for the food, I was there for the company ... And good company beats good food almost any day!