I've decided to do my restaurant reviews in reverse chronological order. On Saturday night, I had the best dinner I've had in Bloomington at Samira, so I wanted to start there.
100 W. 6th St.
Location: Downtown, Corner of Walnut and 6th
Price: About $15 for an entree + appetizer + soup/salad
On Saturday night, JJ and I went to Samira with my friend Vickie, her husband John, and Vickie's sister Amy. It was great having a larger group because I was able to see and taste some of the different menu items.
The restaurant is in downtown Bloomington in a popular location. The restaurant doesn't look special from the outside, but no frills keep the prices low and the quality high. We got a table right next to the window (there are 2 tables in front) and the rest are in the back of the restaurant, which is a little darker than I like, so I was glad we had the natural light. The decor is standard, somewhat minimal and clean looking. There is outside seating as well, but it wasn't set up and it was really hot out. Our server was wonderful, very friendly and attentive.
John elected me to choose a bottle of wine. I chose a Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blend because I'm a Shiraz girl and JJ likes Cabernet Sauvignon. It paired really well with the food, which was earthy and spicy. It was $20 for the bottle, one of the less expensive wines on the menu. I think I saw bottled beer for $3-$3.50.
As soon as our waiter brought the wine, he also brought out our appetizer, which was included with an entree. We had a giant basket of fresh, warm naan and each of us got a plate with grilled eggplant and carrot slices dressed in herbs and olive oil. It was so delicious and unexpected (though it does say at the very bottom of the menu it's included, we just didn't notice).
We then ordered our dinners, which came with soup or salad. Three of us got the soup which was a tomato broth based lentil and vegetable soup. It had tons of herbs, cilantro, dill, and great spice. The salad was a mixed greens salad with a house vinaigrette.
I chose the Vegetarian Special for my entree, which had sabzi, badenjan and dal with rice. The sabzi was spinach with spices, very fresh and earthy, the badenjan was eggplant covered with a tomato sauce and yogurt, and the dal was standard brown lentils with turmeric and spices. The rice was outstanding, it had cumin and cinnamon with plump raisins and carrot ribbons. The whole dish was very hearty but not heavy (Vickie also got this). My favorite part of the plate was the badenjan, the eggplant was tender and the sauce was outstanding.
JJ chose the Pasta Combination, which was manto and aushak served with rice. I have made manto before on the blog (see here) so he was somewhat familar with it. The aushak was like the manto, but filled with leeks and topped with a meaty tomato/yogurt sauce. His plate was beautiful and the tomato/yogurt sauce again was delicious.
Amy ordered the Chicken Manto, filled with chicken, white leeks, cilantro, topped with tomato-basil sauce and spiced yogurt. John ordered the Traditional Manto, filled with seasoned ground beef and sauteed onion, topped with tomato-onion sauce and yogurt sauce.
I think we all agreed that the entire meal was fantastic. We tried all of the manto, but I was hoping someone would get Kebaabs as that is a large portion of their menu.
I would highly recommend this restaurant, and wish I wasn't moving so I could go back!
As a personal aside, it was really exciting to go to an ethnic restaurant and recognize and have made many of the dishes on the menu! I am so glad I did the country challenge because I really feel like I have expanded my knowledge and skills cooking so many different dishes!