Omnivore - A flawless lunch at Cardamom Hill

Atlanta gets a taste of Kerala cuisine


  • www.cardamomhill.net

I followed Scott Henry to the new, much anticipated Cardamon Hill for lunch today and thinking about returning for dinner has me salivating.

Chef/owner Asha Gomez became well known in the city's "underground" dining scene with her Spice Route Supper Club. She specializes in the cuisine of Kerala, a state in southwest India, where cardamom is a predominant spice.

Lunch at the restaurant is limited to classic thalis — a selection of one meat or vegetarian dish with three sides like today's lentil soup, fluffy pilau and a salad of shaved tropical fruits and radishes. Perhaps the sides sound unexciting, but wait 'til your palate is singing in three-part harmony.

I chose the chicken curry for my meat. Believe me. This ain't your yellow curry from the House of Madras. It's an amazingly complex creation that plays with spicy heat by, apparently, bringing the sharp flavor of cinnamon sticks together with other more directly piquant ingredients. Coconut milk figures in the mix.

My friend Tommy chose Gomez's well known Kerala fried chicken. (Whoa. Abbreviated, that's KFC!) It's a classic dish — not the take on Southern fried chicken that people seem to think. Just try it. You don't eat it with your hands, but if you did, it would be finger-licking good.

Tell all your picky friends that the food here is not spicy-hot. It barely even borders on slightly stinging.

The dinner menu at Cardamom Hill will change regularly. I do suggest you call for reservations. The dining room is small and the place is going to be a super-hit. Check out Eat. Drink. Repeat. for some great pictures.

(Disclosure & apology: I was recognized at Cardamom Hill. Moreover, their computer system went haywire during our visit, so they weren't charging the few customers for their meals while we were there. Embarrassingly, Tommy and I mindlessly walked out of the restaurant without tipping. So I want to assure our server that I'll bring him the tip when I go to dinner.)