Nibble at Cardamom Hill
Since the night I sat down on Asha Gomez’s spotless living room floor and enjoyed a lively Sadya dinner knee-to-knee with other Spice Route Supper Club goers, I’ve longed for another taste of Asha’s expertly prepared Southern Indian fare.
So, when her new restaurant, Cardamom Hill, opened last night in Atlanta’s Berkley Heights, I was among the first to the table. I admit, I missed the fun of kicking off shoes, the intimacy of sitting on pillows, and the sensual indulgence of swirling my fingers across a banana leaf full of whatever fascinating flavors I found before me.
Instead, I ordered from the small menu: appetizers of Fish Cakes and a trio of vegetables; entrees of Spicy Fish Curry and a Vegetarian Plate. For a second, I even considered the Signature Goat Biryani For Two, just to recapture the adventure, but only for a second. The Vegetable Trio was noteworthy for it’s brilliant Beet Pachadi garnished with creamy white yogurt, and it’s seasonal Thoran with carrots in a coconut-flecked stir-fry. Within an hour it was sold out. The Vegetarian Plate, which was simple but promises to change daily, promptly sold out too. So, I couldn’t help but appreciate my fellow diners, even if I wasn’t getting to know them in a cozy circle on the floor.
With veggies in such demand, I was glad to try the Roasted Kingfish. It was bold; flavored with a mild masala and presented in its banana leaf wrap with bright plantains. But the curried fish flavored with spicy Kodampuli (which Asha described as a special ingredient from her native Kerala, also known as Malabar smoked tamarind) packed the kind of layered, authentic flavor punch I’d longed for. It left me, again, whishing for more.
Speaking of wishing for more, Cardamom Hill doesn’t have it’s liquor license just yet, but Barman Brian Stanger, who has helmed swank watering holes like Abattoir and Bourbon Bar at the Intercontinental, has a plan for soon working with Asha’s exotic flavors. We happily previewed an experimental Kerala Punch with creamy almond orgeat, Lillet blanc, Beefeater gin and soursop fruit. Of course, the chai is not to be missed, but when you call for reservations (and you should because there only are 54 seats in this spice box) ask about BYOB. Also bring some patience. While the food is well practiced, operations are not, so it may take a few days to work out little kinks like credit card technology, clamors from the kitchen and timing. It’s worth the wait thought, and the gracious team at Cardamom Hill takes the minor glitches in stride. Visit them for lunch Monday to Saturday 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner Monday to Thursday 5:30 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Dinner reservations can be made by calling 404.549.7012.