You can find almost any type of culinary fare within the Smithtown border, most of it right on the Main Street shopping district. However, sadly lacking from this cornucopia of diverse cultural offerings is an India restaurant.
Thankfully, you don’t have to travel far to find two of the best. Just five minutes up Middle Country Road, just beyond the Smithhaven Mall, is The House of India.
The establishment is quite large, but unassuming and easy to pass despite the large sign. Situated in a small strip mall the outside decor is plain and simple, and the inside is sparsely decorated. However, while decor is nice, it is the taste of the food that ultimately counts.
Offering a modest range of appetizers, the traditional Indian starters are all found here. Meat and vegetable samosas, deep fried vegetables, deep fried shrimp, and marinated chicken, among others. To be honest, I have not been a big fan of any of the appetizers. The flavors are either mild or barely noticeable, and the food servers only to fill your belly some before the main course. A better option would be a steaming hot bowl of Mulligatwany soup, or a tantalizing Coconut soup.
For the main course, there is an extensive list of plates, covering seafood, chicken, lamb, vegetarian, rice, and clay oven (Tandoori) specialties.
To accompany your meal, there is a sizable selection of Indian breads (Naan), my favorite being the Garlic Naan, which arrives warm and boasting flavorful spots of both crispness and soft doughy goodness saturated with garlic and a thin sheen of butter. For those with a larger appetite, choose the Naan stuffed with either ground meat or chopped chicken, and for the kids, there is Cheese Naan (essentially a grilled cheese sandwich).
My wife and I have tried a decent sampling of the menu here, and have easily found our favorites. The Tandoori Prawns boast of many distinct flavors working in unison, and are plump and fresh. The Chicken Tikka, roasted in traditional herbs and spices, is a simple dish but flavorful and effectively satisfying.
A staple of Indian cuisine, Chicken Tikka Masala, cooked in a flurry of spices and a creamy tomato sauce will keep you quiet during the meal as you continually fill your mouth, savoring each spicy forkfull, pausing only to sip at your wine or water to help quench the fire. Fear not, the spice factor on most dishes can be adjusted o your taste.
Lamb Yogurt Josh is an exciting platter of lamb roasted with a bevy of ingredients and touched with a hint of yogurt and saffron, truly a standout dish. There’s plenty more to choose from, and any fan of Indian food would surely find a large host of dishes to satisfy their cravings.
The only drawback I found is that while the service is friendly, it can at times be a bit pushy. The waiters seem eager to get you to order more wine or bread or rice, a bit too forcefully for my taste. But if can put that aside, House of India is easily the local choice.
If you don’t mind traveling just 10 minutes more, then my recommendation is The Curry Club. Located in Setauket just off Rte. 25A, this exquisite restaurant is both spacious and richly decorated with Indian tapestries, carvings and similar curios. If not too crowded, it can easily serve as a romantic spot if given the right table, as the lighting and decor suggests coziness and evening ambience. One particular room is situated within the confines of an old-fashioned dining car, for a unique dining experience.
The staff is constantly busy as the restaurant is usually crowded, especially on weekends, however they are attentive and will attempt to meet your needs in a friendly and courteous manner as soon as possible.
The menu here is at once similar to House of India, however many of the dishes seem to be a step up in quality and flavor. Also setting them apart are the Special Club Curries, a large selection of curries created by the chef or tweaked with his own spicy additions. The standard curries are also present and is the main focus of The Curry Club, but the menu also contains the typical Indian dishes found in most Indian restaurants as well as House of India.
The menu is highly descriptive, detailing each curry and dish, but this actually helps make the choice more difficult, as everything sounds refreshingly tasty. It is hard to single out any particular dish as a favorite, you will simply have to return often to try them all.
After your meal, located within the same building is The Velvet Lounge, a small sitting room and bar area with a unique flair for decor and occasional live music. Also cozy and quite comfortable, it is an ideal place to further unwind and digest your meal with a beer or after dinner drink.
So until Smithtown hosts an Indian restaurant of its own, these two restaurants are sure to cater to your desire for spicy food and tasty curries from the east.