Blue Mango solidly delivers atypical Indian fare

CorrespondentOctober 25, 2012 

  • More information Blue Mango 222-101 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh 919-322-2760 Cuisine: Indian Rating: *** Prices: $$-$$$ Atmosphere: dramatic, vibrant, contemporary Noise level: moderate Service: widely variable Recommended: naan, lamb pepper garlic, bhindi amchoor, Goan curry, apricot chicken, surf ’n’ turf Open: Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations: accepted Other: full bar; accommodates children; excellent vegetarian selection; parking on street and in garage (valet pass provided). The N&O’s critic dines anonymously; the newspaper pays for all meals. We rank restaurants in five categories: *  *  *  *  *  Extraordinary *  *  *  *  Excellent. *  *  *  Above average. *  *  Average. *  Fair. The dollar signs defined: $ Entrees average less than $10. $$ Entrees $11 to $16. $$$ Entrees $17 to $25. $$$$ Entrees more than $25.

Entering Blue Mango, your eye is immediately drawn across the room, where the wall behind the bar is spanned by a grid of backlit alcoves, each in a different vivid color. In each alcove is a single work of art – here a ceramic elephant, there an impossibly fragile spiral of sculpted glass.

You’ve just been served notice: Blue Mango is not your typical Indian restaurant.

Like the artwork in those alcoves, the menu is a mix of traditional and contemporary fare with an emphasis on elegant presentation.

By and large, the culinary show that’s presented on fashionably elongated rectangular platters and elliptical bowls is backed up by solid execution in the kitchen. Executive chef Seeta Khosla’s menu is rooted in the northern Indian cuisine of his native Punjab. But Khosla, who worked for six years at Azitra before partnering with first-time restaurateur Raj Patel to open Blue Mango in February, also has a flair for innovation.

Tamarind-glazed honey shrimp is a popular case in point. If your taste leans more to savory than sweet, another starter featuring yogurt-marinated lamb nuggets sautéed with bell peppers, onions, ginger, garlic, mint and masala spices ought to get your taste buds firing on all cylinders. Get an order of Blue Mango’s excellent naan to go with it.

Paneer bhurji with pooris cleverly combines two traditional dishes in a single presentation: crispy cups of flatbread filled with a a savory melange of homemade cheese, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Masala mogo, fried batons of yucca tossed in a light, spicy chutney glaze, is another winning starter.

Blue Mango’s tandoori take on surf ’n’ turf pairs top round lamb steak and jumbo shrimp, both expertly cooked and served with cilantro-lime rice, assorted roasted vegetables and an exotically fragrant methi sauce.

The selection of traditional northern Indian fare isn’t comprehensive, but anyone seeking the comfort of the familiar won’t have any trouble finding it in a number of guises from classic curry to chicken tikka masala. If you aren’t familiar with apricot chicken, count on adding it to your list of go-to dishes once you’ve tried it.

You’ll find the usual dal and aloo gobi suspects among the dozen or so vegetarian entrees, along with change-of-pace options such as bhindi amchoor, a delightful mango powder-dusted medley of okra, onions and peppers.

Lamb vindaloo is competently rendered, although (perhaps in an overeager attempt to cater to Western tastes) the sauce doesn’t pack the vinegar-pungent wallop of authentic renditions.

But the goan curry won’t let you down. It’s one of the priciest items on the menu at $25, but delivers the salmon, shrimp and scallop goods in a spice-redolent coconut gravy punctuated with mango. Granted, there was only one scallop in the dish when I ordered it. But it was a big one, and beautifully cooked.

Prices are a little higher across the board than at most Indian restaurants, but they’re not unreasonable given the menu’s ambitions and the prime Glenwood South location. Odds are you won’t even object to the fact that the papadum and chutneys that are elsewhere served gratis at the beginning of the meal will set you back three bucks here.

Unless, that is, you happen to be assigned a waiter like the one I had the misfortune to draw on two separate occasions. In that case, his condescending attitude (and increasing inattentiveness as the meal goes on) will eventually start to color the experience.

The puddles of grease on the platter under the chicken samosas will start to look like ponds. You’ll notice that the rice is clumped in places, and remember that it was clumpy the last time you ate here, too. You’ll wonder why garlic naan costs a dollar more than regular naan.

If you’re a restaurant critic, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of energy during the meal spying on the waiters at other tables, confirming as best you can that they seem to be smiling and attentive.

A few days later, you’ll call the restaurant and speak to manager Patricia Patel, daughter of the owner. When you tell her about your experiences, she’ll sound truly concerned. She’ll thank you for sharing the information (which, in my opinion, any responsible diner ought to do) and tell you she will address the problem with the staff immediately.

Then you’ll give Blue Mango the benefit of the doubt. You’ll decide that it isn’t fair to penalize an otherwise worthy restaurant too severely for the performance of a single employee. or

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