Sangam, a well-regarded restaurant in the Ballston area of Arlington specializing in Indian cuisine, has moved to Columbia Pike. As of Sept. 1, the restaurant now joins the many ethnic eateries that line the Pike, offering an ample menu of Indian food.
The restaurant’s shabby exterior belies what’s to come. Once diners enter, they are greeted by soft music as they climb the steps up to the main dining room. The dining room, surprisingly spacious and elegant, features double-clothed tables, and stemware, cloth napkins, and uniquely shaped, modern plates at each place setting. Pieces of ornate, vivid Indian art pop against light yellow walls.
Between taking in the setting and poring over the extensive menu, diners have their task cut out for them. Between appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, specialty breads, desserts and drinks, there are more than 100 items to choose from.
The restaurant has graciously provided, both in its appetizer and entree sections, menu items which satisfy the two desires that tend to come from customers faced with such possibilities: They pick the best bets, and they serve up a little bit of everything.
For $7.50, customers can sample some of Sangam’s fried vegetable appetizers (a similar platter containing meat costs a dollar more). The vegetable option offers a sample of three appetizer picks – the vegetable pakora (a large, spiced mound of vegetables, battered and fried), the aloo tikki (small, flat pieces of potato cooked soft beneath a thin fried-batter shell) and the vegetable samosa. The Sangam samosa, a triangle-shaped fried pastry containing mixed spice-flavored potatoes and peas, is an admirable adaptation on this fan-favorite item. Amidst the complex spice flavors, a subtle sweetness in the pastry shell makes for an excellent taste, and the potato-and-fried-bread combination (part soft, part crunchy), makes for a very satisfying texture.
When it comes to the entrees, full of chicken, seafood, lamb and vegetable picks, four menu items beneath the Sangam Recommendations portion of the menu let diners sample smaller portions of multiple different preferred dishes.
The Sangam Feast, served for two, offers a bounty of chicken, lamb and vegetable dishes otherwise offered as full plates elsewhere on the menu. While the $36 price tag on the sampler might seem steep, especially when compared to other options on the menu (like the more than a dozen $10 vegetable curries), the portions are beyond ample and might even serve three, especially when combined with the plentiful basmati rice and naan that come with the curries.
The chicken tikka masala stands out amongst other dishes in the sampling. The Sangam version of this tomato-flavored curry relies less on a creamy sauce and more on tender chicken pieces and powerful flavors to make the winning combination, but still accomplishes the goal.
The tandoori chicken, while less tender than the sauce-soaked tikka masala, is served skillet-hot, with a bright red coating over its crispy skin suggesting all the delicious red pepper spices in which the meat has been cooked.
While pepper and spices are used throughout these dishes, the heat from the sampler curries isn’t overwhelming. It’s just enough to satisfy those who seek out curry for that over-the-top heat, but tame enough to appeal to the wider audience fear-stricken by mouth-burning words like vindaloo.
Be it for the diner looking for a heat-calming drink, or simply the sweet tooth, Sangam makes a delicious mango lassi. Here, the yogurt drink is thick, but still drinkable through a straw, and ultimately sweet.
Sangam is located at 3205 Columbia Pike, Arlington. For more information, call 703-524-2728 or visit sangamrestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10:15 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.