Eastern élan: Indian cuisine is one of the most complex and diverse in the world, yet outside of major metropolitan areas in this country, it’s not really well known. Even those who love it are usually familiar only with dishes from the northern parts of the vast subcontinent — moderately spicy chicken masala, tandoori cooking, biriyanis, and such. The preparations from other regions remain a mystery to most.
Chef Chaminda Widyarathna and his wife, Shiwanti, are from Sri Lanka, and when they opened Cinnamon on the outskirts of Rhinebeck in June of 2011, they set out to introduce some of the dishes from their homeland as well as lesser-known regional recipes that Chaminda had gathered on his travels around India.
Kobbari lamb chops (above), grilled in the tandoor with ginger and garlic and served with coconut sauce; below, chicken madras, a curry made with a fiery coconut gravy
Rhinebeck residents responded with enthusiasm, and the restaurant was successful enough that the couple opened a branch in Poughkeepsie last fall. “In Rhinebeck, people love something different,” Shiwanti reports. “They’re not as adventurous in Poughkeepsie. People want their favorites, but we’re trying to educate them, give them samples. Sometimes we have Sri Lankan dishes on the buffet to encourage them to try.” Although the focus is slightly different at each branch, the hallmarks — fresh preparation and artful presentation — are the same.
The Menu: The usual roundup, plus chef specials such as sham savera (homemade cheese and spinach dumplings) along with reigional duck, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian preparations, from mild to challengingly spicy. Indian ales complement the food well, but there are wines available, too.
The Setting: Simple, quiet, and uncluttered in the Rhinebeck branch; cozy, candle-lit and more romantic in Poughkeepsie, where the spice-colored walls are hung with tapestries.
The Crowd: Aficionados along with a bevy of transplanted Indian doctors and IBMers in Poughkeepsie; adventurous local diners in Rhinebeck. Newcomers often hit the buffets on weekends to sample various dishes.
Crowd-pleasers: “Everyone comes in wanting chicken tikka masala,” Shiwanti reports with a laugh. Popular among those who will stray off the beaten path: Ceylon chili chicke, and the eggplant curry called Wambatu Moju.
The Tab: Starters $4.50 to $9; mains $14 to $23; breads, chutneys and condiments around $3-$4.