Woodlands, a "pure south Indian vegetarian restaurant" - as indicated by the glowing neon sign on one of its windows - lies tightly fitted into a corner of one of Gaithersburg's many strip-malls. A friendly looking comic figure just next to the restaurant's illuminated logo accurately predicts the restaurant environment.
Inside the restaurant the walls are a calm light blue, complete with elaborately ornate classical Indian designs drawn on them. The karaoke beats of Bollywood songs playing softly in the background provide a melodious and appropriate dinner backdrop. The ambience is close to perfect, not too bright and not too dark.
The seating wait is minimal, 2-3 minutes, and the menu is given immediately, as soon as one is seated. A fresh plate of chat, a complimentary dish on the house, arrives at the table. The chat is made of crispy crackers in yogurt with coriander seeds, grated carrot, minced onion, and various sauces and spices mixed in.
Various authentic dishes of South Indian cuisine are on the menu. Two delicious entrees are the medhu vadha, a lentil fried donut, and iddly, a lentil patty. Both are served with coconut chutney, a sweet-and-spicy condiment made of grated coconut, and steamy lentil soup.
As with most South Indian restaurants, the specialty is the dosai. This paper-thin crispy crepe comes laden with potatoes and lentils mixed with a combination of various spices and of course the coconut chutney and lentil soup. Another hot blend of chutney called milakai podi is also provided. Despite the addictive taste, if too much of this chutney is applied, the food can become really spicy. This is when the excellent service comes in handy. The waiters make sure that your glass of water is never empty, so the burning does not get too extreme.
When you've been intoxicated enough with the main course, there are a variety of exotic desserts to choose from, such as mango ice-cream, an irresistible combination of vanilla ice-cream and mango puree. Another must-try is the halwa, a delicate blend of milk, chopped almonds, ricotta cheese, clarified butter and raisins.
After having eaten, mysore coffee is an ideal beverage. This is a specialized Indian brand of coffee that provides a refreshing, uplifting taste. To finish off the meal, you can take paan, the famous traditional Indian after-meal snack, made of grated coconuts, fennel seeds, and a blend of various spices wrapped in betel leaves.
Overall, Woodlands is an excellent quality restaurant. The food, from the entrees to after-meal snacks, is universally superb. The environment is quite peaceful, with comfy seating, beautiful designs all around and charming music. The waiters definitely go out of their way and examine every little detail to make sure diners are comfortable by doing such things as adjusting the directions of fans so that they do not cool the food, and making sure that there is always water. The food itself is irresistible, making Woodlands a must-eat-at restaurant.
Woodlands Restaurant is located at 18216 Contour Rd, Gaithersburg, MD. Their phone number is 301-963-4466.
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