What will you find when you enter the dining area of Amma’s Kitchen on Reading Road in Roselawn? Masked servers wielding menus in a highly sanitized, socially distanced dining room, according to Mr. Raj, the general manager of the eatery. “Yes, masked—everybody (who works there). We are strictly following the regulations of the State (of Ohio) and are sanitizing everything,” he said.
For those in the Jewish community who may have forgotten, Amma’s Kitchen truly is a rarity—an Indian restaurant that also is kosher. In fact, scrolled across the bottom of the menu are the words: “Kosher certified—Supervised by Cincinnati Kosher.”
Before the pandemic disrupted our lives, Jewish diners-out had been a sizable and growing contingent of this Indian restaurant’s patronage. Over several trips to the restaurant during 2019 and the first months of this year, the Jewish presence at Amma’s Kitchen was obvious, especially at lunch—a good and growing number. When Governor DeWine halted in-house dining in the interest of public safety and health, he inadvertently constricted the Jewish grapevine focused on kosher dining options.
We all know how the vaunted grapevine works: people go, they eat, they like, they talk. Conversely, people cannot go, the vine withers. That is about where we are today. But the dining room at Amma’s Kitchen is open again, and Raj and his staff are eager to serve its Jewish customers again. Social distancing and sanitizing before and after each customer usage make the dine-in area as safe as can be.
For now, Raj says he is offering menu-ordering only, since the State is still trying to figure out what to do about buffets. “The buffet is closed for now, and we are having the full menu (for guests),” he said.
From that menu, what are Jewish patrons ordering these days? Raj stated that there are two items on the menu that rank as most popular. Perhaps the most-ordered item is palak paneer, which features house-made cottage cheese and spinach, which is cooked together with a spice array that adds a distinctive flavor. This dish and I are old friends, and I’m betting you’ll like it as well.
The second is Gobi (Gobhi on the Amma menu) Manchurian, which is fried cauliflower that, after frying, is tossed in a house-made Manchurian sauce. This entrée carries with it a rich provenance that dates back centuries. As one may easily guess, the Chinese play a part in the dish. Gobi Manchurian is an adaptation from Chinese cooking, with Chinese lore placing its creation in what is now Manchuria at a town called Kolkata. Wherever the dish originated, the seasoning profile has changed in Indian kitchens to better satisfy the preferences of Indian palates. Much of the preparation is similar in both cultures, until one arrives at the Chinese soy and chili sauce. Indian kitchens generally follow a spice pattern in the spirit and tradition of a curry mixture. As with menu selections generally, this is a dish that can be seasoned to be mild, barn-burning hot, or a median point between, depending on your tolerance for spiciness.
While Rabbi Moshe Smolkin was nowhere to be seen on my visit this time around, no harm will be done by reminding Jewish diners-out of his words: “I am so grateful for this food—this place,” he said. “The food here is very good and my kids, they like it too. The kids, they love the mean mango shake (a beverage).”
He went on to say that Amma’s Kitchen is a good place not only because it is kosher, but because the food is tasty and appealing, and always fresh. He loves the food, the choices, and the fact that it is kosher (certified), is the sense he gave me while enthusiastically speaking about Amma’s Kitchen.
On an earlier visit to Amma’s Kitchen, we had eggplant cooked as a stew, with other vegetables in a tawny orange curry. This dish is called bagara baingan on the menu, which indicates it is mildly spiced. To complement the dish, we ate it with garlic naan as a scoop/fork. The combo adds to the experience, makes for fun eating, and I’m betting you love it that way, as we did.
Amma’s Kitchen features 61 entrée items on the menu, and in addition, three dinner only, dine-in specials and a kid’s special. Also, there are: appetizers; soups; side dishes, such as sweet mango chutney, green salad, pickles, yogurt and raitha, a whipped yogurt dish with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and coriander; breads; and desserts.
See you at Amma’s Kitchen!
7633 Reading Road
Cincinnati, OH 45237