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Tuesday, April 24 News

Aladin Indian Bistro serves classics with flair, sophistication

Indian food has really taken hold in Fairfield County, with several really terrific restaurants. But Aladin Indian Bistro proclaims itself to be different -- with a focus on lighter, healthier preparations of classic dishes.

That isn't the only difference. The restaurant itself, located next door to Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, is considerably larger, more contemporary and more sophisticated than most Indian restaurants in the area. Additionally, there is an impressive front bar that serves some really intriguing specialty cocktails, such as the "Madras" consisting of vodka, cointreau and mango pulp.

Aladin's website states that this kitchen differentiates itself from others by its lighter and healthier approach to classic Indian dishes. The menu features more soups, salads and fresh greens accompaniments than usually seen, and there are fewer fried dishes and heavy sauces. An entire menu section is devoted to gluten-free dining, an option that is increasingly popular today. Presentations seem lighter and prettier in all menu categories, too.

All of this is exceedingly welcome, though the trade-off in some dishes is depth and richness of flavor. On the upside, Aladin's menu is tailor made for people who prefer delicate flavors and who are new to Indian cuisine.

My personal benchmark in an Indian restaurant is the bread. Here, the category is a winner from simple, steaming hot and fresh tandoori to a fabulous kulcha stuffed with wild onion pesto. Following our attentive server's recommendation, we started the meal with aloo tikki chaat, the classic potato patty, here done lighter and fresher than we've ever had before -- a duo of lovely, crisp-edged diced potato patty, showered with freshly curried chick peas, tamarind chutney and really good yogurt.

Other starters are lightened versions of lamb samosa, stir fried chili chicken, spiced sea bass fritters or coconut and pepper shrimp.

Main course listings are arranged in classic Indian restaurant style with kebabs served over a bed of vegetables, curries with the usual korma, SAAG, madras or vindaloo sauces, as well as the traditional meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable entrees. We sampled a classic chicken curry, the house signature lamb dampak and a vegetable tadka dal. In each case, we were impressed that the kitchen does indeed deliver fresh and lighter preparations with lots of color and textures, though also in each case, the flavors are notably milder than expected. We learned later that one can ask for additional heat and salt, which indeed seems to strike a fine balance of contemporary freshness and traditional expectations.

We liked the kebabs just as presented on a sizzling platter with a bed of colorful vegetable and would come back for these anytime.

Indian desserts continue to elude this reviewer, but the house specialty of glass noodles, sweet milk syrup, rose ice cream candied fruits and nuts and crumbled peanut brittle goes a long way to convince us to order dessert in an Indian restaurant.

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Aladin Indian Bistro presents a contemporary, light take on Indian classics, and does it with flair and sophistication.


36 Westport Ave., Norwalk, 203-939-9040, www.aladinindianbistro.com

HOURS: Lunch: Daily 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner: Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight; brunch: Sunday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.



PRICES: Dinner appetizers $8-$4, main courses $21.95-$10.95, desserts $6-$5