Namaste is possibly the most authentic Indian restaurant in Israel. Certainly the most authentic in the kosher culinary landscape. If you long for traditional Indian cuisine, or are simply inclined to be adventurous, a visit to Namaste will do it for you.
Namaste is located on the Ashdod tayelet. You can't miss the uniquely designed Moorish-style building complete with pointed arches and curlicues! No, you are not in Morocco. Most of the building is a a modern simcha hall. The restaurant is a quiet retreat on the ground floor around the south side of the building. There is ample and convenient parking all around the building.
Restaurant owner and manager Yoel, is a long time Ashdod resident and restaurateur and is himself an oleh from India. There are about 10,000 Jews of Indian descent in Ashdod and its surroundings, and local markets accommodate them with original Indian spices. The Ashdod market is the place to find ginger, cinnamon, cumin, garlic and cardamom.
Indian food is reputed to be hot and spicy with curries and other spices, so we naturally had some trepidation about going to an Indian restaurant. We decided to visit Namaste with our friends Pete & Pat (their names are changed to protect the innocent) from England who are great fans of Indian cuisine from the home country, where Indian restaurants are common. Expert Pete & Pat not only know the Indian foods, they can actually pronounce them. They guided us as to how and what to order from the unfamiliar menu. They also vouched for the authenticity of the dishes.
What we learned from them, and from the friendly Namaste waiter, is that curries are basically sauces, that can be as piquant or hot as you like. If you tell the waiter your preferences spice-wise, you will be accommodated. We ordered several different dishes representing the various categories on the menu and the various geographies in India, and jointly chose the level of spiciness that we wanted.
We started our meal with Papadum, a flat, crispy cracker made of chickpea flour flavored with cumin and the distinct flavor of anise, Indian food relies heavily on chickpea flour, one of the things that gives it its unique flavor. The chickpea based Papadum is served with three dips: lemon, tamarind and coriander. This dish is a nice introduction to the flavors that follow.
We must try the Namaste Mix, we were told. Out came a platter of vegetables and chicken pieces delicately fried in a chickpea batter. Also were dumplings in traditional round or pyramidal shapes. Pete & Pat provided the names bhajia, and pakora. These pieces, they told us, were the styles of food eaten in different geographic locations in India like samosas in Punjabi and Mumbai. The chicken wings, a beautiful bright red color, were dyed red by marinating in a mix colored with paprika.
Nan, Indian bread, is essential at an Indian meal, and to this end we tried two choices from the Nan menu. The garlic nan, the most common variety, was very thin and flavored with capsicum (gamba in Hebrew), while the vegetable nan was more pizza like with assorted vegetables in the dough.
Main courses were delivered to the center of the table for each of us to share. We chose two curry dishes: Beef Jalfrezey and Chicken Tikka Massala, cubes of beef or chicken in a bowl of tomato sauce flavored with Indian spices. The meat was unusually tender, and the sauces were nicely flavored but not spicy hot, as we had requested. The Chicken Tikka plus Reshmi Tikka mix was a platter of chicken white meat roasted in a Tandoor: half was marinated in a red paprika mix which penetrates a few millimeters into the meat, and the other was not. The Basmati Rice with vegetables had raisins and cashews added, so it was a bit sweet. Plain rice is also an option on the Rice menu.
Dessert! We love to end a meal with something sweet. One dessert would have done it for the 4 of us, but we wanted to try some of the authentic Indian sweets so we shared another dessert. That's my story and I am sticking to it,
Classic Indian desserts include coconut milk, rose water, and sticky sweet pastries. And that is what we got. Faluda is a pareve ice-cream desert that looks like an Ice cream sundae but it is made with coconut milk, rose water, tapioca noodles and a candied cherry. Jalaby came as a platter of sweet fried rings made of chickpea flour served with a scoop of pareve ice cream. The final touch was a complementary bowl of colored savory sprinkles based on anise seeds, served as a digestive.
Namaste is a spacious restaurant with an Indian decor featuring pictures of Indian dancers and artifacts. There is a shiny attractive bar and a very congenial atmosphere. Small cases in a corner offer Indian art, jewelry and serving pieces for sale. A spacious private room off to the side can accommodate groups and parties. Parties of up to 100 people can be accommodated at Namaste without disturbing other diners.
Reservations are strongly recommended,especially in the evening. Folks come from far and wide for this fine Indian hospitality. Pete & Pat will be happy to accommodate you on another visit to Namaste. Contact us for their fees.
When you visit, say hello, or namaste, from eLuna.
From the Menu: Namaste Mix starter – 56; Vegetable Biryani rice – 30/49; Garlic Nan – 12; Vegetable Nan – 26; Beef Jalfrezey curry – 58; Chicken Tikka Masala curry – 65; Chicken Tikka+Reshmi Tikka Tandoori – 68; Ice cream dessert NIS 34.
A 3-course dinner for two with soft drinks comes to about NIS 200.