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A Forgettable Indian Adventure In Chesterland

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The thought of traveling to Chesterland to eat Indian food has never occurred to me, but had it, I would have disabused myself of that folly forthwith. It was only on the heels of numerous positive reviews of Pari Indian Cuisine that I finally relented and traveled deep into the American hinterland for South Asian food. We regretted the decision almost immediately.

Our meal started out on a high note, with a basket of crispy fried papadum sided by a bright and spicy cilantro chutney. "It's like the Indian version of chips and salsa," said the wife. But then the paneer pakora ($7) arrived. Eating fried cheese should be a joyful experience, but these desiccated briquettes were so stiff and arid that they literally sounded like pebbles on the plate. When I brought them to our server's attention, he immediately walked them into the kitchen. Upon his return he apologized, reporting that the cook "served you old ones by mistake." Oops. Potato vada ($5), another deep-fried Indian snack, did in fact arrive hot and golden brown from the fryer, but the potato filling was chalky and simultaneously bland and egregiously salty.

I concede that we barely scratched the surface of the multi-page menu, which is filled with entirely too many dishes to master, but of the ones we tried, only one was worth recommending. That dish, the Shahi paneer ($14), featured firm, fresh cheese in a lush and creamy cashew-based sauce. Another, the lamb vindaloo ($19), went largely untouched. This typically electric dish suffered from chewy, stringy meat and a one-dimensional sauce that tasted like little more than stewed tomatoes.

When an Indian restaurant serves dry basmati rice, you know the wheels have fully and completely fallen off the bus. Fortunately, we had a basket overflowing with fresh, fluffy naan ($12). For naan lovers like us, the combination of buttered, garlic and onion varieties did much to assuage the rage and fill the void left by too much abandoned food.

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