Foodie Confession: The Smells from Aslam's Rasoi on Valencia Finally Got to Us

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DrewMacKenzie.com/Flickr
What was keeping us away all this time?
​We have walked down Valencia a lot over the years and inhaled a variety of good smells curling from the stoves of the strip's eateries, like hissing vats of chile verde and burritos meeting grills for quick sizzles. Between 22nd and 21st Streets, however, the smells are best: cardamon, lamb, coconut -- rich, toasty aromas from a subcontinent only fleetingly represented in the Mission.

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Swetha G./Yelp
Saag paneer at Aslam's Rasoi on Valencia.
​Weeks ago, over the course of 24 curry-streaked hours, we tore through both Dosa and Udupi Palace, the South Indian establishments hugging the corner of 21st. But until last weekend we'd never ventured into Aslam's Rasoi, the North Indian restaurant located further up the block closer to 22nd, though the fragrances emanating from its doors have enticed us as well. Comparing loose approximations of Indian regional fare so dramatically divergent is a pointless endeavor, no less preposterous than holding purveyors of, say, Basque, Sardinian, or Proven├žal cuisines to the same criteria. Still, we were enthused by this new discovery we'd always assumed -- quite erroneously -- was not worth our time.

Many people think of powdery tandoori chicken, cream-laden saag, and ghee-soaked naan puffs as the scope of North Indian food -- evidence they've soaked up at cheap buffets and late-night spots. By that logic, we're guessing a false sense of familiarity kept us away from Aslam's Rasoi. While the menu long on vindaloos, kormas, and tikka masalas offers few surprises, the preparations are vivid, magnified under the supervision of former Indian Oven chef Mohammed Aslam.

Last weekend, we felt as if we'd been staring at something lovely without glasses for ages, and only now, spectacles on, were getting a clear picture, as our 'buds wrapped around super-charged, multi-dimensional flavors bearing little resemblance to what we've scooped off steam tables. For example, the standard chicken tikka masala, generally creamy, is even creamier here, with smoke and high peppery notes slicing through the dairy. Likewise tandoori shrimp, miraculously not desicated, but springy and fresh.

The experience has taught us a lesson, one we may carry over into a resolution for the upcoming decade: Think less, smell more.

Aslam's Rasoi 1037 Valencia (at 21st St.), 695-0599

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