Rating: A

Located in the heart of downtown Bangor at 68 Main St., Taste of India offers an array of traditional Indian foods at a reasonable price. But more than that, it offers a chance to appreciate new cultures and expand your understanding of the world around you. For any University of Maine student willing to experience new food, Taste of India offers enlightening Indian comfort food that will warm your belly and heart.

The restaurant is small and modest, with subtle Indian decor mixed with classic American fine dining design. The menu is expansive and exciting, with food options that are difficult to pronounce for anyone trying Indian food for the first time. Regardless, the tastiness of each dish will evoke emotions where words fail.

The service is friendly and prompt, and Taste of India is also famous for its specials, including a popular lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every weekday.

The dining spot has been around for over 17 years, continuing to thrive off its signature curry and lamb dishes. Indian food can sometimes get a bad rap for being too spicy or too messy, so it’s best to leave any negative connotations at the door and walk in with an open mind. You can choose between levels of spiciness for each dish, so those who are more adventurous can opt for spicier meals than those who are more accustomed to American food.

I opted to begin my meal with a serving of Indian bread. Taste of India offers a range of breads to try, ranging from naan to paratha and chapati. I decided to try puri bread (explained on the menu as “deep fried, very light puffed bread”), which was served with a spicy chili pepper sauce, a mint sauce and a traditional Indian dipping sauce. All proved equally delicious and complementary to the puri. The restaurant also offers an array of lassi, a Northern Indian yogurt drink spiced with rose water and honey. I would highly recommend the mango lassi.

Most dishes are prepared in a traditional Tandoor oven, and are served with staple proteins of India such as lamb, goat, beef and chicken. There are also plenty of vegetarian options.

For appetizers I was tempted to try the Aloo Tikki (a North Indian snack of boiled potatoes, onions, and curry spices) and the Gol Gappa (also known as Panipuri, a popular street snack). I had never tried either before and was pleasantly surprised by both, specifically the Aloo Tikki, which proved to be an inventive way to use potatoes in a dish.

The entrees are all served with Basmati rice and are portioned generously. The point of trying different cuisines is to take chances and push your own boundaries, so I took a gamble and ordered the Lamb Rogan Josh, not really understanding what it was. It was, hands down, one of the best meals of my life. The lamb melted in my mouth, the yogurt sauce was flavorful without being overpoweringly spicy and the faint notes of coconut and Indian curry spices were enough to make me Google this dish as soon as I got home.

Taking a chance on a cuisine that is different from what you grew up with is part of growing as a person and experiencing new cultures. I feel grateful to live somewhere where I can be exposed to such excellent foreign cuisine so close to home. For anyone looking to try and learn something new, I would highly recommend Taste of India for your next meal out.