There’s a reference book that sits on my desk, “The Indian Grocery Store Demystified” (Renaissance Books, 2000), by Linda Bladholm. I remember buying it when it first arrived on shelves to guide me as the new dining critic for the Providence Journal.
Its pages are mystical enough, in spite of the name, and I recall poring over it like I was eating through a huge serving of sticky sweet gulab jamun, my favorite Indian dessert.
I learned a good deal of what I know about Indian ingredients and cuisine from this book, but it seems odd to me, so many years later, that any of these dishes — from that hot, syrupy gulab jamun to the lentils in mulligatawny — would have ever seemed mysterious. Indian food is everywhere, and small street bites such as samosa as well as classic curries such as vindaloo have become as familiar to most of us as tacos, lasagna and sushi.
Decatur has long been an enclave for Indian restaurants and groceries, but just as many, if not more, Indian shops and eateries dot the landscape of Gwinnett and Cobb counties as well as Alpharetta.
Moksha (which in Hindi means something similar to nirvana) in Roswell (but just as close to Alpharetta), is trying hard to cater to its community, even though road construction has put it at a disadvantage when it comes to the community catering to it. Set far back from what was once Old Roswell Road, Moksha’s quaint little house is not that easy to find (and takes up space in the comfortable confines that was Lickskillet), but it’s worth the effort.
The owners, husband and wife team Suresh and Shyni Sheregar, are no strangers to the Indian restaurant landscape in Atlanta — they own Udipi in Decatur and Duluth and Bay Leaves in Decatur. They’ve hired Satishan Nair as chef, and the tiny house, although adorned minimally, is a lovely backdrop for his food, from statue fountains of Buddha to a jewel inlaid partition on one wall.
Touted as the area’s only “upscale” Indian restaurant, Moksha’s menu boasts a familiar mix of North and South Indian dishes, with a few subtle surprises such as gosht, a spicy goat curry, and lasooni dhania murgh, a deliciously spicy, cilantro-laden dish of crispy fried chicken strips with heavy hits of garlic.
Jinga Manchurian is a more modern fusion dish of Indian and Chinese influences similar to murgh, but shrimp replace the fried strips of chicken and the dish rates higher on the heat scale. Both are wonderful alternatives to samosa and papdi or bhel puri as appetizers.
Past these often unseen specialties, the menu lags into the ordinary, though everything from bhindi masala to saag paneer are anything but mundane. The kitchen has a way of spicing things up, just a notch (as with that jinga Manchurian) or offering a not-so-common version of the usual: Peshwari naan is a fluffy carb load of the familiar flatbread dotted with raisins, nuts and dried cherries. It’s almost dessert.
The coconut-and-cardamom-laced curry of fish Malabar is a sumptuous as curry gets — part sweet, part creamy spice, part curry, though the fish has a texture more like chicken. It doesn’t matter. The kitchen could have curried a shoe sole and it would have tasted good in this version of this rich sauce.
And the gulab jamun — my favorite — is a warm, sweet ending to a meal that proves spicy, a little unconventional (yet traditional) and definitely off the beaten path.
Food: North and South Indian
Service: Attentive, prompt, polite, unintrusive
Price range: $$-$$$
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Hours of operation: Open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Best dishes: Jinga Manchurian, chicken murgh, fish Malabar, adu ishtu (a lamb stew)
Vegetarian selections: Hara bara tikki (veggie cutlet with paneer), bhindi masala, vegetable curries
Parking: Adjacent lot
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise level: Low
Patio: Yes, plus a pavilion
Address, telephone: 1380 Old Roswell Road, Roswell, 678-205-5799
Web site: www.mokshaatl.com
Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.
Key to AJC ratings
Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.
One of the best in the Atlanta area.
Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.
A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.
Food is more miss than hit.
Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.
You can write your own review here .
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