One of my absolute favorite Indian restaurants around the Capital District is Karavalli in Latham (as well as Saratoga Springs). Karavalli has a lengthy menu of options from several regions in southern India that can be a bit intimidating, but there’s also the comfortable classics like tikka masala, vinadoloo, and korma dishes. And for what it’s worth, Karavalli does a great version of chicken tikka masala – not too creamy and heavy, nice tender chunks of chicken, and a good amount of sauce and meat.
But I think one of the highlights here is all of the things that you can’t get at every other Indian place. For example, I love to order a dosa to start out the meal whenever it’s offered on a menu. These are fun to try (although hard to photograph because they are so big!). The outer shell manages that perfect balance of crispiness and chewiness, and the chutneys and sauces that accompany the plate are delicately spiced perfection. This one was the “masala dosai” from Karavalli’s starter menu, which has a mound of spiced potato filling in the middle. It’s a nice light way to kick off a meal because there isn’t too much filling (you are mostly just enjoying the crispy “crepe” here), but you still get a preview of Karavalli’s precisely seasoned flavors.
I also love to order biryani, and Karavalli has one of the better ones that I’ve tried locally. These rice dishes are a good hearty complement to lots of sauce-heavy food at Indian restaurants, and I love the slight creaminess that is cooked into the rice. I tried the egg biriyani on a recent visit, hoping the egg might be scrambled and chopped up like in Chinese fried rices, but it was served instead as two hard boiled eggs hidden beneath all of the rice. Still a strong dish, but I would probably recommend sticking to a meat option in the future.
I was able to sample a number of other dishes recently, and a surprising favorite was from the “Indo-Chinese” portion of the menu. I would normally tend to skip over this section to focus on the core “Indian” dishes, but a friend insisted that the lassoni gobi (battered and fried cauliflower with garlic, ginger, and onion) was excellent. And after a few bites, I was sold. This dish came out looking spicy in a bright red sauce, but it had more of a sweet and tart taste. In a way, it was almost reminiscent of a General Tso’s sauce at a good Chinese restaurant to me, but with a little bit more kick. There were big chunks of red pepper and ginger, and the cauliflower chunks had a lovely texture to them.
Other standouts included the chana masala (chickpeas in a tomato based sauce with ginger and coriander), which is a good dish if you’re looking for something vegetarian and light. Karavalli does a great job with the sauce on this dish, and it is one of my favorites for dipping extra pieces of naan into. We also enjoyed the lamb phaal, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum – very meaty and very spicy. This one has four little chili peppers next to it (the menu’s hottest rating!) and we were all a bit cautious. I had a few tastes and didn’t think it was that spicy, but I’m sure if you sit down and eat this dish for a while, the heat really builds up in intensity.
Speaking of naan, I always recommend ordering up some extra (because my favorite Indian dining experiences involve lots of bread and sauce dipping), and this place has some great varieties. You can’t go wrong with the classic naan, but I also recommend trying the gobi paratha, a denser and flatter bread made with cauliflower.
Karavalli is one of those places that you can go to a dozen times and still not feel like you’ve fully experienced the menu. There are so many interesting options, and you can be sure to find something to make everyone in your group happy, whether they are looking for dishes that are spicy or vegetable forward or sweet. I like that the menu is so clearly broken out into vegan, vegetarian, and meat options, and that the different regional specialties are labeled to help you find something unique. There are some real gems here if you take the time to sample your way through the menu (and definitely plan on making a few visits).