The travels of Akbar have led to a new place on the map and an old one on the plate. Go vindaloo. For many years, Akbar reigned independently in the west end of Roosevelt Field. Now, the Indian restaurant has headed to the eastern border.
It's a successful trip. Akbar seems revived and back to the high-voltage, very good cooking that made the former locale a destination more than a decade ago. In the time since, Indian restaurants have thrived on Long Island, with several specializing in a particular region's fare. Akbar is upscale northern Indian, as you'd expect from a spot named for a gourmand Mongol emperor.
The new establishment is a bit more isolated. From the mall, you wind toward a dead end. But inside, it's handsome enough: high ceiling, carved reliefs, earth-tone banquettes, ample space in the main dining room. The building could host more than one party.
Almost all the familiar dishes make appearances here. Samosas, the pyramid-shaped pastries filled with well-seasoned potatoes and peas, are fine starters. Potato patties with spiced chickpeas also are recommended, as are pakoras, or vegetable fritters.
Chicken wings spiked with coriander and mint don't fly as high. They're overdone. Papdi chat, lentil and flour crisps with bean sprouts and yogurt sauce, is a refreshing alternative. Seafood shorba, with finfish and shrimp, is a tasty soup, moderately seasoned and finished with coconut. Mulligatawny, the "pepper water" lentil soup, packs plenty of heat.
Akbar spices according to taste. Devotees of vindaloos, the vinegary and hot branch of Indian curries, will be very content with the tender chicken, lamb and goat presentations. The blend of roasted spices awakens any palate.
Chicken jalapeno is exactly that, a near-incendiary number that rivals the vindaloos for immediate impact. But the flavors aren't quite so complex. It is, basically, ignition and lift-off. Kadhai chicken, defined by coriander, fenugreek and ground peppercorns, has spark, too.
For a milder approach, consider tandoori specialties such as chicken tikka, marinated in yogurt with garlic; and the chicken malai kebab, with lemon and ginger. Chicken jalfrezie, with vegetables, is another mellow selection.
The traditional reddened tandoori chicken materializes on the dry side. Pomfret, a mild white fish, sometimes materializes black-edged and too zealously seared. But spiced minced lamb, or seekh kebab, is moist and right. And the clay oven tandoor also yields juicy grilled lamb chops, four thin ones neatly charred. Prawns Malabar are a trifle chewy, but the sauce bringing together fennel, tomato and coconut extract is rich and inviting.
Akbar excels with vegetarian courses. Eggplant in yogurt with onions, or baigan dahiwala; and the union of potatoes and cauliflower, or aloo gobi, are delectable. Simmered black lentils and tempered yellow ones; chickpeas Peshawari; and palak paneer, a combo of chopped spinach, tomatoes and cheese, are just as enticing. The vegetable biryani, a generous basmati rice dish, is preferable to the biryani with shrimp. The fluffy rice is an essential side dish here, particularly with fiery main courses.
And Akbar makes those terrific breads, among them a soft, leavened onion kulcha; its garlicky counterpart, the puffy, whole wheat poori; and aloo paratha, whole wheat bread packed with potatoes.
Desserts are headed by kheer, a sweet rice pudding; rasmalai, cottage cheese with rose water and nuts; and kulfi, Indian ice cream with cardamom and saffron. Daal halwa, a lentil pudding; and gajar halwa, or carrot pudding, are more acquired tastes.
If these don't sing to you, there's a tray near the entrance holding rock candy, fennel seeds and other treats, as it did an address ago.