I’ve been to my share of East Indian restaurants. Back in the day, it was the choice location for many a dull business lunch. And those restaurants varied from delightful to those that seemed to be trying to punch me with spices. I’ve left restaurants smelling like I just worked out. So when my wife and I decided to visit Arti Natural and Organic Indian Cafe, I had no expectations. It is the only Indian place in the county, and I had already decided that I would be polite, regardless of whether I had a strong gym sock odor at the end of the meal. If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll understand.
But as soon as I entered the restaurant, I knew this place was different. It’s immaculately clean and has a cozy, warm atmosphere. They use bright orange colors to accent, which makes it feel like stepping into happiness. Sunny, the owner, brings a comfortable, pleasant feel to the location. But the food sets the place apart. Everything is perfectly spiced, balanced and designed to bring out each individual flavor. You can’t go wrong with anything you order. All the meat is organic, and many of the vegetables come from farmer’s markets.
The menu is three pages and covers most of the staple dishes you’ll find in an Indian restaurant. They have a good wine list and several beers, including Taj Mahal, which I personally recommend. Now if you haven’t eaten Indian food before, the menu can be intimidating. But don’t avoid it for that reason. It’s pretty easy once you find something you like. All the dishes complement each other in different ways. But if weird food from other places stresses you out, order this way:
APPETIZER: Get the pakora. We had the vegetable pakora, and it had the pleasant crispiness that dissolves into the flavor that I always look for in fried food.
MAIN ENTREE: If you really are unsure about spices other than salt and pepper, I recommend the Chicken Tandoori. It’s chicken thighs and legs marinated then served on a hot platter. The flavors are mild, pleasant, and delightful. But don’t take my word for it. This video alone should sell you. Be sure to have the volume on so you can enjoy.
Chicken Tikki Masala is another pleasant, mild option. It’s chicken breast cubed in a creamy ginger tomato sauce. And at Arti, they do it spectacularly. Every flavor is well-balanced, and no one spice overwhelms the other.
BREAD: If you are visiting an Indian restaurant, you have to order naan. It goes with every meal and complements it well. I recommend the garlic naan, especially if you order Chicken Tikki Masala. The sauce is perfect on the bread.
RICE: Get a side of basmati rice. They season it with the perfect amount of whole cloves, so it has a gentle aroma and flavor, then put some peas in for a bit of extra love.
That’s the simple way to order. But if you know what you’re doing or feeling adventurous, just close your eyes and point at the menu. You can’t go wrong. Arti serves spectacular food, far above and beyond many of the Indian restaurants I’ve visited in cities. Lake County is lucky to have a place like this.
You have to wander over to Clearlake Riviera to get there, but you can make it one of the prettier drives in the county if you wish. If you are coming from the Lakeport/Kelseyville area, head out Soda Bay Rd. You’ll get some of the best views of the lake and a nice, winding drive along the slopes of Konocti. If you’re coming from the south, turn off of Hwy 29 onto Point Lakeview Rd. and follow it into the Riv. You get great views and wineries along the way. It’s a pleasant way to see a bit of the county and get incredible food at the same time. Of course, the quick way is to turn off Hwy 29 at Kit’s Corner onto Soda Bay Rd., but if you’re heading there, why not take the scenic route?
Arti Natural Organic Indian Cafe is located at: 9703 Soda Bay Rd, Kelseyville, CA.
You can also take a look at their website at articafe.com
This article first appeared in The Bloom on March 14, 2019.