We went to Haveli Indian Cuisine because we had an expiring Groupon--how many restaurant stories begin that way today? Probably too many. Haveli is part of what I'm coming to think of as East Henrietta International Row on which you'll find multiple restaurants from India, Thailand, the Dominican Republic ... and Jimmy John's. (One of these things ....)
I picked up the kids from Y-care after a school half day. That's code for: they were exhausted from chasing each other around the gym like screaming banshees for the entire afternoon. My goal was simple: "Come on guys, we'll just run a few errands and then meet up with dad for dinner. Come on, you can do it." But ... when I pulled up in front of Marshall's to zip in for a few things, one glance in the rear view mirror at their slumping bodies told me they truly could not do it So, I headed for Haveli to sit in the parking lot for the next hour, cycling the heat on and off, while I listened to Wings, signed about 100 letters, and returned some emails. When I woke them up they were "so cold, mom!," "going to die if [they] didn't eat," and "having the worst headache EVER." Great start.
Once inside Haveli, it wasn't looking up. The restaurant really overdoes the incense--or as my son put it, "this place smells." But, each booth but one was already full at 6 pm, which seemed a good sign. The kids lolled listlessly in their seats, alternately complaining bitterly about everything and providing snarky commentary on the more-than-bizarre set of Indian music videos which seemed linked by a narrative thread that was eluding us. We needed emergency appetizers, stat!
Have you got kids? If so, your perfect Indian appetizer is Chicken Pakora--basically Indian-style chicken nuggets. We ordered those, some samosas (again, kid-friendly fried things filled with potatoes & peas), and garlic naan (which, for their true happiness, really needs to be served AYCE style). Within 15 minutes, both daughter and son were back in fine form, smiling with restored color and vitality, all physical maladies mysteriously cured. So, by the time their dad showed up, the table was ready to rock.
For dinner, we ordered more garlic naan (see above). My son got his usual--tandoori chicken. Haveli's is deliciously moist with a delicate hint of yogurty-curried BBQ. He ate 2 and a half pieces! My daughter got her usual--chicken tikka masala, mild. I would describe Haveli's chicken tikka as being more like butter chicken with a very creamy tomato curry base--which is not to say it wasn't delicious. It was! And their mild is really mild, just perfect for her.
My husband and I decided to split two dishes: chicken palak and baingan bharta. The chicken was cooked with fresh spinach, garlic, gingers, tomatoes and onion. It was quite light on the tomatoes and heavy on the spinach, which really worked for us, and the mild seasoning in this dish was noticeably deeper than on the tikka. It was a great, warming meal that didn't feel overly heavy. The bharta was eggplant sauteed with fresh tomatoes (again, light) and peas--then baked. It was medium and added a richer warmth and taste to the meal, and I was impressed by how pert the peas were--still with a bit of a "burst" when bitten. Super yummy when combined with the palak. And, of course, it isn't our table at an Indian restaurant without raita! Haveli's includes tomatoes, which tasted delicious in the yogurt base. The rice was fab, too!
A final note on the incense smell: I suggested to my children when we were seated to "give it 10 minutes and you won't even notice it anymore." And, sure enough, once again, mom is a psychic genius--look, I take the wins where I get them!
We'd definitely go back to Haveli--weird videos and all!