Mehernosh Daroowalla opened India on the Hudson almost 10 years ago in the uptown section of Hoboken. The feedback he has received over the years has been positive, but the restaurant specializes in strict traditional Indian cuisine. Daroowalla noticed he was forgetting the younger crowd.
So four years ago he opened a new location downtown on Washington Street that caters to the trendy Hobokenite who enjoys Tandoori with a dirty martini.
"It has a different ambiance, style than India (on the Hudson)," he said. "It looks different and feels different."
During the summer months, Karma provides outdoor seating. The inside is spacious. A large dining room with a full-service bar in the back combines upscale dining with a relaxed setting. A big traditional Indian sun is painted on the ceiling, and candles are spread out for decoration. The tables are imported from Bombay, and patrons have the option of sitting on traditional cushions or chairs.
The menu is modern Indian fare. Executive chef Gurmeg Singh specializes in Baggare shrimp ($16), jumbo shrimp stir fried with tempered mustard seeds, onions, tomatoes and garlic; Tandoori chicken ($11), a classic Tandoor recipe with a half roasted chicken; Paneer Kashmiri ($9), cottage cheese cubes and mixed veggies in a mild sauce with saffron; lamb Vindaloo ($13), lamb and potatoes in our spicy hot Vindaloo sauce; and crawfish Vindaloo ($13), shelled crawfish and potatoes in spicy Vindaloo sauce.
"We feature a lot of seafood, and our buffet is very popular on the weekends," Daroowalla said. "This is exactly what the younger, hipper crowd wants."
The servers are very attentive and knowledgeable of the menu. Karma also offers an impressive wine list, traditional Indian beverages, and trendy cocktails like Cosmopolitans, Screwdrivers, and mango or strawberry coladas.
Tantra, Tikka, Trout
I began my meal with a tall glass of punch-a-tantra, a fruity blend of Absolute Mandarin and peach schnapps with orange and cranberry juices, served on the rocks. For starters I tried the samosas ($5). This favorite Indian triangle pastry came stuffed with crispy chicken and peas. It was well presented and with mild spices. I also tried the Kabab sampler ($8). It featured chicken Tikka Kabab, chicken ginger Kabab and lamb Seekh Kabab - a little bit of everything to work up the appetite.
Other appetizers include Tandoori wraps ($9-$13), Chana Kachumber salad ($4), Koliwada fish ($6), Tikkis ($6), and Bhel Poori ($4). For the main course I enjoyed the chicken Tikka Masala ($11). The classic dish was prepared with garlic tomato sauce and mild saffron. I followed the Tikka with a dish of garlic trout ($13). The pan seared fillet of rainbow trout was made with garlic, ginger and a variety of Indian spices. This is a formidable non-intimidating entrée that will please any patron. After the entrees I sampled the traditional rice pudding Kheer ($4). It was sweet, simple and satisfying. Other desserts include sorbets ($4), ice cream ($4), and Kulfi ($4).
Karma Kafe is located at 505 Washington St. in Hoboken. They offer a daily lunch buffet from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends for ($8.95). They have a catering menu and provide free parking at the Hudson Street lots. Their dinner hours are Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. For information call (201) 610-0900 or visit www.karmakafe.com. q