India K'Raja, now 6 years old, is a comfortable and interesting mix of the fun side of kitsch and the downside of Empire. The service is professionally attentive and, in our case, very informed.
The menu divides the appetizers into vegetarian ($2.50 - $3.50) and nonvegetarian ($3.95 - $4.95). We enjoyed the range of textures and tastes of the vegetarian sampler ($7.95), ordering also the condiment sampler ($6.95), which gives seven more options.
Among them were raita (a cooling yogurt dip), salty achaar, sweet mango and tamarind chutneys (also available separately for $1.50 each). K'Raja also offers 10 bread choices ($1.75- 2.95), which are fun to mix and match with the condiments.
Entrees ($8.95 - $14.95) are divided into five extensive groups rice (biryani), chicken, lamb and beef, seafood, and vegetarian. We had chicken pasanda and the sweetish flavors of mango, almonds and raisins combined into an intriguing sauce. Davis Morton
9051-5 W. Broad St. 965-6345 Open Sunday - Saturday Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m Dinner 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
2525 West Main Café ($$)
It's curious that a unique area of Richmond, the Fan, has so many essentially identical restaurants. Add to the list 2525 West Main Cafe, a new pub cafe in the Fan-joint genre. Dark wood paneling, dim lighting, black-and-white tile floor, tin ceiling, lots of booths. Regulars.
When we arrived at 9 p.m. on a Friday, the place had been packed for a while. Fun people-watching, for sure, but the commotion, cigarette smoke and loud music made it difficult to really focus on food and conversation, even in the booth.
Tuesday night our second dinner was half-price. We enjoyed chef Jimmy Whaley's excellent jambalaya ($15), a special, and the salty Okrakoke seafood chowder ($4.25). The rest of the menu is predictably publike.
Occasionally, Whaley's interest in Southern cooking bogs him down: like the Parisian crab cakes served with escargot in a butter sauce ($15) and the pasta fritters ($7). Adding escargot makes the crab cakes seem like pretenders to culture, and the fried pasta noodles were either too hard or too gummy. Whaley's low-country shrimp ($16), however, is right-on.
And his homemade desserts strawberry-apple cobbler and chocolate-chip cheesecake on our visit go great with just about anything. Patrick Getlein
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