Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food for the exotic taste bud

Americans love meat. Whether it’s bacon in the morning, ham and cheese at lunch or the traditional steak and peas for dinner, the average Americans consumes meat at nearly every meal. Even the innovative ‘veggie burger’ still uses artificial food flavorings and imitation meat. “Everything tastes better with meat”, one of my carnivorous American friends once said to me, “I just can’t live without it!” In America, the average person consumes 63 lbs of beef, 27 lbs of chicken, 54lbs of pork, and 6 lbs of turkey per year. That’s a grand total of 168 pounds of meat a year! And that number is still growing!

Perhaps meat is deeply rooted in American culture, but luckily for vegetarians, that is not the case in most countries around the world. In fact in India, 1 out of 3 people are vegetarian! Because their religion prohibits the consumption of certain animals, they have developed an extensive list of recipes suited for the herbivorous palette. Here in Charlottesville, we can get a little taste of their culture from the local Indian restaurant, Milan Indian Cuisine.

Milan (pronounced mih-luhn) is an Indian-owned, Indian-operated, authentic Indian restaurant on Emmett Road. When you walk into this decorative restaurant, the first thing you will notice is the sudden explosion of the smell of cumin that fills the entire restaurant. Quickly, you will be seated by their prompt and courteous staff and presented with their extensive menu of vegan and vegetarian selections.

At Milan, each entrée comes with their homemade Naan, a leavened and oven baked flat bread, and herb infused Jasmine rice. You’re also given a choice of spiciness from mild, medium, medium-hot, hot, or Indian hot for your meal. If you do choose Indian hot, I suggest saving some of that Naan and rice until your food comes to help because the food is quite spicy.

The last time I went, I ordered the Baingan Bahaar, a vegan
dish of eggplant cooked in zesty tomato sauce at an Indian hot. This sweet and sour dish made with roasted eggplants is heavy on the spices but has a tinge of sweetness underlying the top flavors. The chefs at Milan roasted the Eggplants to a golden brown, creating a crispy outer shell encasing the soft inner layers of the eggplant.

The only downside to this restaurant was the price. Although it is not an ‘upscale’ restaurant it is a little pricier than the cost of an average entrée. Be prepared to spend around $20 if you plan on ordering a drink as well. However, they do give generous servings so you can always take home the leftovers and eat it for lunch the next day. Or, if this is your first time in an Indian restaurant and just want to try a little bit of everything, they have a pretty good lunch buffet deal during the weekdays that’s worth investing in. Overall, the food lived up to my expectations and was overall an enjoyable dining experience.

Eating at places like Milan make me appreciate how wonderful this (pardon the pun) big melting pot called America truly is. Even if it does have one of the highest meat consumption ratios in the world, America is still the land of the free, open to new ideas and to new cultures.

Happy Dining!

Celery rating: 9/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Quality of food: 8.5/10

Pricing: $$/$$$

Most photos are from Eppie's website. no copyright infringement intended