A duo of delicious, Rangoli is a dine-in restaurant with an Indian sweets takeout counter nestled in the corner. Copper water goblets dot booths and arrangements of ornate dark wood furniture, their dappled surfaces reflecting light from low-hanging wood and glass lanterns onto walls covered in murals depicting life in India. Husband-and-wife team Charanjit Singh and Gurvinder Kaur have been running Rangoli for 11 years; their chef has been with them for the duration. Talk about consistency.
The menu is focused — it’s all North Indian fare. The charcoal tandoor, rare in Ottawa, adds a smoky element to dishes that gas-powered tandoors just don’t, and the tandoori chicken drumsticks are incredibly tender. The best naan in the city also comes out of this tandoor; it’s stretched long and heavily blistered. An appetizer of fat, vibrant orange onion bhaji fritters are crisp and sprinkled with tangy chaat masala, strong with raw mango powder and cumin. The bhaji come with legitimate chutneys — green and tamarind. Green is a bright combination of cilantro, mint, onion, ginger and tangy spices; tamarind is sweet and sour.
In curries, the use of oil and butter is dialled down, resulting in distinct flavours.
Baingan bharta, smashed eggplant roasted over the tandoor’s coals, is rich with caramelized onions, toasted cumin and coriander seed. A trace of turmeric brings earthiness. Saag chicken is a rough purée of bitter greens draped over juicy chunks of breast meat. Greens are alive with cilantro, green chili and ginger and smoothed with a touch of cream. Sweet and cooling cucumber raita seasoned with smokey toasted cumin and pungent black salt is the perfect accompaniment to the curries.
A pretty little box of to-go mithai, or sweets, is a must. The owners themselves prepare the sweets, not the chef. A small disk of creamy, white, cardamom-infused peda is so unctuous and fresh pieces can be pinched off. It’s not at all dry or crumbly, as stale Indian sweets commonly are.