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It might be easy at first to doubt the authenticity of the cooking at Cardamom Hill, Atlanta's first regional Indian fine-dining restaurant. In what other South Asian place have we seen such precise knife skills, or exquisite sense of composition, or range of colors? And who thinks of sliced beets with spiced yogurt, marinated boneless chicken thighs fried in lacy batter, duck and plantain croquettes with figs and cinnamon, or colorful salads topped with tropical fruit as part of the Indian culinary lexicon?
Cardamom Hill—the restaurant showcasing the cuisine of Kerala, the southwestern-most state of India—will give a spicy kickoff to the New Year when it opens January 2. Executive chef-partner Asha Gomez ran the popular Spice Route Supper Club and, encouraged by the accolades she received for her native cuisine, decided to leap into the restaurant business.
Thrilling news for Indian food lovers: Asha Gomez, the creator of Spice Route Supper Club, is going into the restaurant business. Her place, called Cardamom Hill, is scheduled to open this fall at 1700 Northside Drive, in the same Berkeley Heights shopping center as a Little Azios outpost. (She’s taking over the former space of My Girlfriend’s Kitchen.)If you’ve been to a Spice Route dinner, you’ll know what makes this venture particularly exciting: Gomez concentrates her cooking on the specific flavors and dishes of her native Kerala, the southwestern-most state of India. Kerala has for centuries been a major port of the European-African-Asian spice trades, with longstanding Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu culinary traditions that often overlap.
Every food writer eventually develops obsessions, and India tops my list of preoccupations. I daydream about spending months there, wandering from state to state and learning recipes from home cooks who keep specific, regional traditions alive. Restaurants can offer some worthy examples (I went looking last year), but, as I’ve complained before, the menus too often get muddled into a ubiquitous mishmash of too-creamy Northern dishes, cooked in bulk and devoid of soul, and twenty versions of mediocre dosas from the South.