When I was in college at Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut it was always a challenge to find a nice restaurant for dinner. There were the ubiquitous Thai joints, the beer and burger stops, the fajita and margarita vendors and the pizza and pasta places. There was also sushi, which was great, but not always affordable on a college student budget. When I needed a place for my parents to host a group for my 21st birthday, I did some asking around and learned about Haveli India. It’s a great Indian restaurant on the outskirts of townâ€” so good, in fact, that I have yet to be as impressed with any the places I’ve tried in Chicago.
I was in Middletown on Friday and Saturday for an alumni meeting at Wesleyan. My cousin Leftover Girl just transferred in as a junior, so I took her and a couple of her friends to check out Haveli. After a few twists and turns as I attempted to remember how to get there, we finally made it. We were seated immediately after walked in and served delicious pappadums (lentil crackers) with three kinds of chutney. A round of Indian Kingfisher beers followed shortly.
We wanted to share, but Leftover Girl’s friends were vegetarians. We decided to get two vegetable dishes and two meat along with a side of chewy naan. LG ordered the classic, rich chicken tikka masala. Tender boneless skinless chicken is cooked in ginger, garlic, yogurt and various spices, baked in the tandoor and sautÃ©ed with tomatoes. And don’t forget the special ingredients that make this dish so rich and filling: butter and cream. I ordered the lamb vindaloo (pictured above), extra spicy. It consists of earthy lamb cooked with every spice from coriander to cinnamon, potatoes and some vinegar for bite. I always ordered this dish as a student, so I decided to do it again for old time’s sake. It was as good as I remembered it, but not quite as spicy. Maybe my palate has toughened up in the past two years.
Leftover Girl’s friends ordered the saag paneer (sauteed spinach with large squares of soft Indian cheese) and the mattar paneer (the same cheese with a tomato-based sauce similar to the tikka masala). These were almost better that the meat dishes. It’s amazing to me how Indian cooking styles from both the Northern and Southern parts of the country manage to produce vegetarian food that is as appealing, if not more so, than meat-filled dishes. The spices, the richness and the depth of flavor in the sauces makes these dishes like these filling as well as inspiring, things I can rarely say about vegetarian menu items.
We left the restaurant ready to burst and carrying three take-out bags. True to her name, Leftover Girl announced plans to have chicken tikka masala for breakfast. When I got back to her campus apartment and put the bags in the fridge, it almost seemed for a split second like I was back in college eager to make my leftovers from Haveli last for yet another delicious meal.
1300 South Main St.
Middletown, CT 06457