Read below for a March 2011 dinner update of Aroma
I’m so happy with Hayward’s Favorite Indian restaurant, that I have not felt the need to explore the other Indian restaurants in the area. According to my friend Alpana (who, btw, is a great family photographer – check out her website), a native of India, that has been a mistake. So it was on her suggestion that my friend Mauro and I headed to Aroma yesterday for their buffet lunch. Alpana was right – while I still love the California-Indian food at Favorite Indian, Aroma’s more carefully crafted fare is definitely worth tasting.
Aroma prides itself in offering a higher quality product, using organic and fresh ingredients when possible. As the restaurant itself, their buffet lunch is small (11 or 12 items, including rice and dessert) and carefully crafted. During our visit, there were only 3 meat offerings (chicken tandoori, chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo), and that, of course, is what I tried. I was impressed, in particular on the tandoori. The perfectly cooked, moist chicken legs were infused with flavor and lacked the artificial red coloring that most Indian restaurants confer onto them. They were probably the most understated and best tasting chicken tandoori I’ve ever had.
I wasn’t as fond of the curries but I had to confess that they were good as well. The lamb vindaloo had a nice quick, and tender lamb. The tikka masala was a bit too acidic for my taste, but it tasted fresh and bright. You can feel the quality.
Buttered naan is brought to the table, and the one had a very nice light consistency. I also tasted the dessert, some runny pudding made of rice flower with nuts and spices, and I enjoyed it quite a bit as well. Mauro wasn’t as keen of it, but he did enjoy everything else he had.
While we only sampled the buffet on this occasion, Aroma has a full lunch and dinner menu, its prices are on the high side, however.
Aroma is located in a small space at a strip mall in Castro Valley Village, the small room actually looks quite cozy, the beautiful serving dishes and the faint scent of incense helps give it a non-tacky atmosphere. Service was very good, our drinks were refilled quickly and our dishes taken away.
In all, it was a great lunch experience. The buffet lunch for two, with a soda each, came to about $27 after tax and tip. Not a super cheap lunch, but this is not super cheap food.
A couple of nights ago my friend Aamani and I wanted to meet our friend Miranda for dinner somewhere in Castro Valley, and Aroma popped to mind. Though I’ve been there many times for lunch in the last year, I’d never tried them for dinner. It was just as good, solid food, fresh flavors and very good service. I’ll definitely be back.
Aamani and I shared the chicken pakora (battered chicken served with a cilantro and a sweet & sour sauce, $6) and I was quite pleased. The chicken was nice, hot and tender. The batter was tasty, though perhaps a little soggier than I would have wanted. Still, I’d order it again.
I had the lamb korma ($13), one of my favorite Indian dishes, as my entree. The lamb was moist, tender and not too fatty and the sauce was creamy, well balanced and perfectly spiced medium, as I’d asked. I enjoyed the dish, though it didn’t really awe me. That was Miranda’s opinion of her navratan korma ($13), a vegetarian version of my own dish. She ordered her spicy, and she also said it fit the bill. Aamani had the dal saag (a spinach lentil dish, $11) and she was quite pleased. Aamani is Indian, but she doesn’t like cooking so she may be less demanding. We ate everything with rice ($3 for a huge portion), which was quite good as well.
Aamani also enjoyed the keema nan (a bread stuffed with spiced ground lamb, $5), but I forgot to try it! I did enjoy the kabuli nan (called Kashmiri nan at Aroma, a bread stuffed with a sweet filling, $5), Miranda thought it was too sweet but it was fine for me. Miranda had a good masala tea with dinner ($2) and I enjoyed my sweet lassi ($2), though it also wasn’t outstanding.
I don’t usually order dessert at Indian restaurants, but Miranda was in the mood for something sweet so I ordered a kulfti (a pistachio froze dessert, $3). The ice cream itself was too icy and not that flavorful, but it came with a delicious condensed milk sauce. Miranda and Aamani seemed to enjoy their kheer (rice pudding, $3). I’ve had it before in their lunch buffet and, indeed, it’s very good.
Service was very diligent. We stayed there late and they didn’t make any moves to kick us out, which I appreciated.
The meal came to $88 after tax and tip, but I had a $25 off gift certificate from restaurant.com I’d gotten for $2, so really it came up to $65. Not bad for that quality of food, in particular considering that we had enough left overs for lunch for two.
Aroma Cuisine of India
3418 Castro Village Dr.
Castro Valley, CA
Everyday: 11:30am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:30pm
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