The Indian restaurants that cluster around Lawrenceville Highway on the east end of Decatur serve, by and large, specialties from Southern India.
I’m no expert on Indian food (not like this guy), but I find that the vegetarian dishes at South Indian mainstays like Saravana Bhavan and Udipi Cafe put me in “guilty pleasure” mode. When I go to these places, I want all the stuff that’s really spicy, greasy and fried. I want the contact high of frybreads, dosai and crunchy piles of bhel puri, and I want my mouth to burn.
Gujarati vegetarian fare — at least the stuff served in local restaurants — tastes to me less like a really awesome snack and more like a balanced meal. That’s why I was happy to discover Kusum Foods, a new restaurant and carryout shop that serves the veggie cooking of Gujurat in Western India.
This very basic spot (which I think has replaced a former hotdog shop in a sprawling stripmall) has a steamtable with the daily fixin’s, some plastic plates and a few laminate booths. You can order anything to go or get a $7.99 plate to eat on site. It comes with a stack of excellent, buttery chapati flatbreads.
The food was tasty and unusual. I enjoyed this stew (left) of eggplant with firm green Indian peas, which had a mellow, thrumming spice. The red lentil dal was plumbed with fresh green peanuts that popped with a strange but oddly familiar flavor. It was also creamy and a little sweet, kind of like the Campbell’s tomato soup of dal (I mean that in a good way).
On the side came two brown blobs to bookend the meal. The batata vada (pictured at right) was essentially a pakora stuffed with potato samosa filling.
The other blob, called laddu, was dessert. It offered a crumbly, sugary, nutty mouthful that seemed very much like the pecan sandy of Indian sweets.
All in all, it was a nourishing, happy-stomach meal. I look forward to getting to know this restaurant better.
Kusum Foods: 2899 C North Decatur Road (but facing DeKalb Industrial Boulevard, in the Kroger-anchored strip shopping center), 404-296-3338.