I first met Chef Asha Gomez at one of her amazing Spice Route Supper Club dinners, which she held out of her home on the westside of Atlanta. The moment you entered her townhouse, the rich smell of Indian spices greeted you and led you upstairs to her dining room, where the low lighting and communal table created a warm and inviting atmosphere.
When I walked into Cardamom Hill last week, Chef Asha’s new restaurant on Northside Drive, I had a sense of déjà vu – I’d been here before. Not in this exact space, but in this atmosphere where I’m greeted by inviting aromas the moment I walk in the door, foreshadowing the amazing meal I’m about to enjoy. This was Spice Route Supper Club all over again. My mouth watered.
This is no run-of-the mill Indian restaurant – Chef Asha’s dishes highlight the Kerala region, a lush coastal state of South India rich in spices, coconut, and seafood, and have a distinct flavor unlike what you have experienced at other Indian restaurants. Chef Asha’s passion and delight for helping her patrons explore her homeland through food are obvious, both in her cooking and in her enthusiasm at welcoming guests to her new home, Cardamom Hill.
It was a chilly day when I met friends for lunch at Cardamom Hill, so we were eager to warm up with a cup of Chef Asha’s hot chai. It’s a must-have menu item; whether you start or end your meal with this delicately spiced tea, it is not to be missed. It’s served with a locally-made pizzelle, a light, crisp wafer spiced with ginger, cardamom and black pepper.
Cardamom Hill is open for lunch and dinner, and so far I’ve only had the opportunity to go for lunch (a dinner date with my husband is not far off – I can already tell it’s going to be a favorite of ours that we visit regularly). There is no set lunch menu; instead, Chef Asha creates three lunch plates to choose from, depending on what she has on hand, fresh in the kitchen. Her Kerala Fried Chicken will always be one of the lunch choices (one of my favorites at the 2011 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival). In addition to the Kerala Fried Chicken, there will always be a vegetarian option and an additional meat option. Served with the three entree choices are three side dishes – ours were a Raita salad, a Sambar dish (a spicy dish of lentils, eggplant, onion, and tomato), and almond rice with golden raisins.
I’m so looking forward to visiting Cardamom Hill for dinner…soon. The dinner menu is much more extensive than the lunch offerings and offers a bevy of choices for those looking to explore the Kerala cuisine. I know my hubby is looking forward to trying the goat biryani; I have my eye on the seafood dishes, like the spicy fish curry and the kingfish roasted in banana leaf.
Cardamom Hill is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM until 2:30 PM, and for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM, and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 PM until 10:30 PM. Reservations for dinner are strongly recommended.