Dishin': Chai a Little Tenderness

We were warned: “Go to Taste of India, and you’ll get addicted.”

Pull up to the restaurant and you’ll notice their sky blue sign, proudly proclaiming “Winner of the Zagat Award.” For food? Décor? Service?

No. We think Taste of India must have gotten a Zagat Award for chai. And little did we know that the restaurant is full of chai pushers.

Like the start of most any addiction, we brought it on ourselves. (Okay, maybe we have a genetic pre-disposition to chai. Best not to get into the addiction debate here.) Sitting at the top of the drink list, for the cost of a $2 bill, the call of chai pulls you in: “An ancient tea of India, made up of milk, cardamom, cloves, fennel, and sugar.” Mmm… fennel. A natural digestive aid. Perfect for the variety and abundance of dishes we ordered that night. Was it naan or roti? Biryani or tandoori? Masala or vindaloo? Rogan Josh or Josh Rogan? Wait…Josh Rogan…he wrote the second segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, and is actually a she (Melissa Mathison) – the screenwriter of The Indian in the Cupboard. But that’s the other kind of Indian. Our heads are spinning.

Really, we don’t remember what we ate. The food was fine, but it’s the drink that dominated. We’d heard that chai’s a relaxant, a stress reliever, a wellspring of well-being with a warm and soothing effect. That it’s difficult to resist a second cup. How could we, when about a dozen different servers were constantly coming to our table to inject us with another hit?

They pushed, and we partook. It was a symbiotic relationship. And it was great. We’re not sure how to count the cups of a bottomless cup, but we now know that too much chai starts out relaxing, then soon sends us into our own Twilight Zone.

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we = “me”) on October 20, 2006.

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