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To sample the vegetarian curries, we ordered a thali combination -- two veggies, dal (lentils), basmati rice, raita (yogurt-cucumber relish), kachumber (cuke and onion salsa) and naan bread. For the veggies I chose bengan bhartha (puréed tandoor-cooked eggplant) and shahi paneer (a Punjabi royal dish of firm cubes of fresh cheese, nuts, and raisins in light tomato cream sauce). They were all acceptable, but not special. Although Salwinder is a vegetarian himself, he seems more inspired and painstaking with the animal proteins.

We missed out on one house specialty -- we ordered it, but it never arrived: a popular Bombay dish called a "Frankie," which has chicken or lamb masala wrapped in a thin housemade "tortilla," like a burrito. I suspect it's Moombai's rendition of the beloved, griddle-cooked and curry-stuffed roti wraps of Trinidad and Jamaica -- brought from the East Indies to the West Indies by Indian immigrants. At the end of the meal, I asked the waiter where our Frankie had gone. He looked abashed, and not only did he make sure we weren't billed for it, he insisted on treating us to a dessert of gulab jamun ("Indian donuts," he called them) -- small dough-balls, fried and then simmered in sweet syrup scented with rosewater. I thought I couldn't eat another morsel but couldn't resist these sweets served warm.

We'd eaten royally on a prosperous peasant's budget. "This was a great meal," said Cheryl. "But what made it so good was ordering the out-of-the-ordinary things, the regional dishes." "I just hope," said Rebecca, "that as time passes, they don't start editing down the menu to the standard, popular stuff, like so many restaurants do -- especially in the Gaslamp, where there are conventioneers to feed. The best dishes here are the ones you don't see on other Indian menus -- but Americans would be less likely to order them, just because they aren't familiar. Without those, the restaurant would still be good, but it wouldn't be special."

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