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Two Under $25 in Pasadena (Part 2): All-India Cafe

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The second of two parts in our Two Under $25 in Pasadena features the flavors of the All India Cafe. Indian food, in our experience, is best eaten family-style, so we brought a savvy family member along with us for the journey. We started off with some Vegetarian Pakoras (Spinach, cauliflower, and potato fritters served with homemade sweet tomato chutney) from the appetizer menu, and sipped on some of their Nimbu Paani, which is homemade lemonade, made Indian style with fresh ginger and fresh lime juice. The Pakoras were wonderful, served piping hot, with the crisp coating outside lending a nice contrast to the soft, mealy texture of the vegetables inside.

We decided to go all out and to order up a storm; the best part about Indian food for us is that oftentimes we can order a number of dishes and get to sample portions of each one. With that approach, we get to try different flavors, textures, and sauces in one meal. And while we've had some fabulous chicken and lamb dishes at Indian restaurants in the past, we prefer to go all-veggie, which was also our modus operandi at All-India. We went for the Gobi Aloo (Cauliflower and potatoes sauteed with tomatoes, ginger, green chili, ground coriander, turmeric, and cumin seeds), Palak Paneer (Pureed spinach leaves and paneer--homemade Indian cheese--sauteed with onion ginger, green chili, and spices), Kabuli Cholay (Indian chickpeas prepared in the Punjabi style with onion, ginger, and tomatoes), and the house Dal of the day, which was a spiced lentil dish. Add some Raita (yogurt with grated cucumber and onions), some Basmati rice, and some Naan (fladbread) on the side, and you’ve got the makings of quite the feast!

It's hard to say which of the dishes was our favorite; we truly loved them all. Each one had their own distinct blend of spices and textures--the Palak Paneer's somewhat squeaky cheese (like tofu meets cottage cheese curds) among the pureed spinach is a prime example of curious but delicious texture--and each one's spice and heat was flavorfully cooled by the creamy tang of the Raita, and easily scooped up with a scrap of Naan. We couldn't finish everything, but the nice thing about Indian food is that it packs up nicely and makes great leftovers. We let our savvy dining companion take home the leftovers (since she did, after all, cover the bill). And speaking of the bill, our vegetarian bounty at the All-India came in under $50, since the veggie main dishes ran a modest $6.50-$8.95 each. With full and content stomachs, and a bag of leftovers in hand, we left the lovely All-India Café in Pasadena, having feasted for less than $25 a person.

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All-India Café 39 South Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena (626) 440-0309