Friday, January 15, 2010

Namaste In Portland

I read somewhere that most new restaurants don't make it past their third year. They have to build enough of a steady clientele to cover costs, and eventually make a profit, and, for whatever reason, many worthy ventures can't build momentum quickly enough to keep their doors open over the long haul. Knowing this, whenever Ked and I find a new local restaurant that we really love, we try to give it a boost along the path of longevity. We don't eat out that often (honestly we can generally cook better food at home that we find in many restaurants, and for far, far less money), but a promising start-up will lure us out to part with our dollars more readily than most eateries, because we want to make sure the place is there later when we want it. We see it as a symbiotic relationship.

Funny thing is, we often rapidly fall into a rut when we discover a new favorite. Whatever dish we loved first becomes the thing that draws us back, and a craving for specific foods, rather than places will be what calls us to dine there again. We want to be adventurous, but somehow always manage to cling to the familiar, because the familiar is so very tasty. In Namaste (at 8303 NE Sandy Boulevard, in Portland), open for only six weeks now, we have found the perfect motivator to break our pattern of culinary fidelity. Last Sunday afternoon we stopped by for an absolutely divine Indian buffet, so well prepared that all of the lovely foods we associate with India were given new standards to meet, because now every time we eat Indian food we will be comparing it to this Indian food. From the chana masala, to the lamb curry and goat, to the vegetables in curry cream sauce, to the eggplant pakoras, there wasn't a thing we ate that wasn't amazing. (The spinach was definitely the best I've ever tasted.) With such mouth-watering, delectable variety set out before us, offering instant gratification, and the opportunity to taste everything that strikes our fancy, even Ked and I can manage to stay out of a rut--or at least make the rut a whole lot wider than usual!

What makes this discovery especially exciting for us is how hard it's been to find really good Indian food in Portland, that doesn't cost so much that a trip to India to pick up a snack would seem almost as reasonable as dining here in the City of Roses. We learned to love Indian food in England, where it is as common and inexpensive as Chinese food is here in the States, and have been disappointed time and again as we've tried to repeat the experience we loved in Britain. Delicious, plentiful, and inexpensive seem to be mutually exclusive terms when is comes to Indian food here at home. When we have found well-prepared food, it has been prohibitively expensive, or left us hungry at the end of the meal. I remember one time downtown when we ordered a lamb dish which gave us three small chunks of meat in a serving dish full of sauce for somewhere in the neighborhood of $18. $18!! Seriously, we left that restaurant hungry enough to immediately go eat somewhere else. For the money it cost for that one dish we could have both dined happily and repletely at Namaste, where the lunch buffet is $8.95 per person, and dinner will cost you around $12.

Remember that three-year rule with restaurants? I expect Ked and I will be doing our part on many Sunday afternoons to come, to ensure that this wonderful gem stays open long past its third birthday. We're already planning our next Namaste outing. If you're from Portland, I suggest you do the same!