At Sona, a Feast From All Around India

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Mr. Nayak has divided the dishes that could be eaten as main courses among four categories: signature, classic, grilled and rice. The last one is where you’ll find pulaos and biryanis, but not the simple $5 bowl of steamed basmati. (That goes under “accompaniments.”)

If I’d come up with the kofta korma, I’d call them a signature dish, too. The tall fritters of sheep’s milk ricotta set in a pool of cilantro-cashew sauce show off what Mr. Nayak’s kitchen does best. The inspiration is clear and treated with respect, even if kofta don’t usually stand up like traffic cones. Contrasts are used to good effect, as the kofta’s crisp, sesame- and cashew-coated shell gives way to the delicate curds inside.

Served alongside the kofta korma, perhaps because three slender cheese fritters may not be filling on their own, is a darkly blistered, exceptionally tender cheese-stuffed naan, brushed with butter and ground chiles. (You could make a whole night of exploring Sona’s breads, the various kulchas, rotis and parathas, which are comforting and exciting at once.)

It’s unclear who would want their name on another so-called signature dish, the spongy, strangely inert short ribs, and if I were going to cook halibut inside a banana leaf, I’d make sure it stayed moister than the one I was served.

Don’t blame the banana leaf. There’s also one wrapped around the Malabar-style chicken biryani, and this time the effect is magnificent, a tapestry of spices woven through short-grain kaima rice and then sweetened by golden raisins and a spoonful of pineapple raita.

There’s an admirable resourcefulness in the way Mr. Nayak lays a thin, see-through cross-section of roasted onion on top of the onion jam spread over the Calcutta mutton cutlet, lending some natural elegance to what would otherwise be a brown fried puck of minced lamb. It’s one of several high points on the appetizer menu, including a pink-snapper ceviche in a tart coconut broth that gets its rosy color, its tartness and its hard-to-place plumlike flavor from kokum.



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