Hot From The Kettle: Montclair’s Aroma Palace

When I was in college I worked for a man who came from Southern India, his name was Desai. His wife, Lhata, would send us all kinds of southern Indian fare to snack on.

We received packages of spicy naan flecked with fenugreek, yogurt that was sweet and thick and topped with crushed pistachios, and tiny spicy balls. . . . I don’t know what they were, but they were good too.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed all the Indian food I had shared with Desai, I never attempted making it myself. In recent years I have purchased the ready made jars of Maya Kaimal Vindaloo or Coconut Curry from Whole Foods, but I never created an authentic Indian meal.

A few months ago, Hot From The Kettle visited Aroma Palace, 379 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ. When we arrived the lunch buffet was set out, and the diners were filling their plates, for a very reasonable $7.95. The staff were very welcoming and hospitable.

We walked back to the sizable kitchen where we met the chefs, George and Alex. They prepared two Indian dishes, one from the north, Chicken Tikka Masala, and one from the south, Masala Dosa. It was remarkably simple, and quite delicious.

Take a look:

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  1. This was my favorite local Indian restaurant when it was in Bloomfield & when it first moved to Montclair. It has gone downhill so tremendously, I will not go there anymore.

  2. I’ve only eaten there once and it was by far the best Indian food I have eaten outside of Chennai (Madras) and north of Edison. With that said, their service was deplorable. And I’m not just talking typically understaffed, Indian restaurant deplorable. It’s a shame, as their food was quite authentic and they had a lot of dishes in their buffet that you don’t typically find among the more common Aloo Gobi and chicken tika masala fare. Needless to say, we haven’t gone back. We used to enjoy Satish for what it is, but when the owner spends so much time at Jyoti in Wayne, it’s no surprise that the quality there dropped.

    Mehndi in Morristown is really good too, but crazy expensive! Liked Rasoi in Iselin, but their quality has dropped as well, I’ve read.

  3. I was told that Aroma Palace is the best local place to sample cuisine from Kerala India (Kerala is a state in South India with a very distinct identity, think Ayurveda & herbal food). It is on my list of places to go to (I just moved Xian Famous from that list to the list of places to frequent regularly).

  4. When I was in college in Montreal, I waitressed for a restaurant run by a guy named Basem, who passed himself off for French, as in European, not Canadian, even though he was from Algiers. To the clientele, he was always Pierre. He wore fancy suits and nursed a thin mustache. The chef, Alberto, was a stocky Mexican who could hardly speak a word of English, but he made a terrific filet de boeuf en croute that was all the rage. One night, an elderly couple, who were regulars, insisted on meeting the chef and delivering their praise personally. Silly me, I went and fetched Alberto from the recesses of the kitchen and dragged him, somewhat against his will, out to the table. You have to understand that Alberto had a big moon face and meaty hands and a pot belly. I don’t know what that elderly couple were expecting, but it wasn’t this, and they actually recoiled. Basem came scurrying over, gesticulating like a heart attack, and ordered Alberto back to the kitchen.

    I’ve always been partial to that dish.

  5. Enjoyed a family dinner at Aroma Palace a couple of hours ago as a matter of fact. The service was friendly and efficient. The dosa was excellent–even the kids liked it–and the chicken vindaloo was scrumptious. However, I did not like the music. Hip hop is all the more annoying when it has a Hindu flair.

    But really, the food is quite good.

  6. Tudlow, I was seated only a few tables away from you, and I must say that I’m quite disappointed.

    Your husband never got off his I-Phone, your son with his constant running to the bathroom was irritating, and quite frankly who needed your daughter’s attitude?

    As for you, it is quite clear to all that SOMETHING is going on between you and Rajneesh the manager.

    In future, let me know so that I might be spared the experience, thank you very much.

    By the way, did you enjoy my son’s Hindu rap max?

  7. Holy shist, croi, that was YOU demanding a Guinness lassi? Good Lord.

    My husband uses a blackberry like all traders do. Bloomberg is just not as good on the iPhone. My son is like a camel, he can drink a gallon of water and hold it for days. But my daughter did have an attitude problem tonight. She was not getting along with her American Girl Doll. Those two, sigh.

    Really, though, I thought we were friends. Why didn’t you come over and break naan with us? Very disappointing.

  8. I didn’t want to intrude, acushla! You seemed overwhelmed as it was.

    As for your daughter well, I have a few. They’re God’s reminders that we CANNOT handle everything.

    But I thought YOU were aces throughout. Next time, I’ll send a big bottle of Taj Mahal your way.

  9. Well, don’t be so shy next time, croi! Come on over and while you’re there, please do give us some tips on how to raise a girl who is quite precocious in the attitude department.

    Acushla-nice word, I like it.

    Dag, next time I call Ethiopian! See you there. But I will be abstaining from the bread, it reminds me of a wet washcloth.

  10. Our language, which is older than English and which sad to say I am not as fluent as I’d like to be, offers glimpses into unexplored areas, Acushla means, literally, heartbeat or pulse. My mother used it for me, and for my brothers and sisters. And it always sounded so sweet, so beautiful.

    So your daughter, who is as mine were, enormous pains in the ass, remain the pulse of our hearts. Don’t they?

    You’re the good sort, Tudlow. You and she will be clinking glasses of pinot years from now, and wondering what all the fuss was about.

  11. Well Hildy you are of course welcome as well.

    Perhaps you two young scamps can help me to my car following the festivities?

  12. Pulse of my heart–yes, ’tis true, croi. Perspective is a good thing, though–thanks for offering it up. Any advice for crazy boys?

    Hildy, you are more than welcome to the table, especially if you have any sage words re: raising a spirited girl.

  13. On a more serious note, I thank you both for including me in your imaginary tryst. It would be hard to imagine a more pleasant evening than one spent in your company.

    Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo aris!

  14. We just scarfed down take-out from Aroma Palace. It has been a few months since we’d been there and I have to tell you the meal was really, really delicious! We ordered Chicken Korma, Sag Paneer, onion kulcha and a veg samosa. The Chicken Korma had the most amazing flavors! I now need to try the weekend brunch, it sounds like a good deal and an opp to try many more items. We will be back!

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