Tapas stem from southern Spain, or about 5,000 miles from South Asia. But Plates annexes the specialty, coming up with an often-refreshing spin.
This sleek, contemporary addition to downtown Huntington shares the kitchen and management of next-door Spice Village Grill. Some dishes, mostly Indian, are served in both. Pakistani fare makes cameo appearances, too.
The style is restrained, on the platters and in the decor. The brightest part of the dining room is the tall, multi-shelf bar. And you can lubricate your palate with cocktails that take in the "Pakistani Slammer," with gin and elderberry liqueur; a "tangorita" with mango nectar and tamarind juice tinting the tequila; and the "coconut mojito," which proves Huntington is roughly 1,300 miles from Havana.
Suitably hydrated, you still should pick either the lively mulligatawny soup, the "pepper water" staple in the British-Indian mix, with lentils and pureed vegetables; or mellow khao suey, a Burmese soup defined by coconut and tender chicken.
Portions are larger than traditional tapas. Figure three for a full meal. Try tokri chaat, a cool, invigorating union of potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and spiced chutneys. It's served in a crisp, potato bowl. Pakoras, or chickpea fritters with either vegetables, fish, or chicken, have the right texture and flavors.
Plates also prepares fine samosas, the pyramid-shaped pastries filled with either meat or vegetables. The "samosa Wellington" is a pastry-wrapped, cylindrical affair, sliced and presented like little pucks of well-seasoned potatoes. And qeema naan, the tandoori bread packed with herbaceous ground beef, is worth sharing.
But Plates turns tectonic with the shift to stuffed clams. They're bland, pasty and, to finalize things, overdone. The crab meat kebab, really a trio of patties, also is overcooked. Masala shrimp, barbecued and tangy, easily is Plates' top shellfish dish.
The chapli kebab sliders: three small beef patties on mini-buns, dry and devoid of the expected jolt from pomegranate seeds and Indian spices. They can't be rescued by what's billed as a "honey made sauce." Ground pomegranate seeds and Indian spicing have almost no impact on the otherwise meaty, recommended chicken wings.
Kheer, or rice pudding with coconut, almonds and pistachios, is the dense variety, but tasty. Rasmalai, the sweet-and-creamy cheese sweet, also is satisfying. The competition is from the familiar gulab jamun, which looks like doughnut holes but gets a lift from cardamom and rosewater syrup; and gajar halwa, or grated carrot, cooked in milk, with nuts and raisins.
And, for the record, Plates is, regrettably, flan-free.