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By Danny & Saral/ foodie@longislandernews.com

Don't be fooled - Spice Village Grill is not just an Indian restaurant. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1952, owner Tabassum Ali came to the United States in 1980, providing a key link to his culinary vision. He watched his mother cook as a young boy, and his roots encouraged him to fuse Indian, Pakistani, Persian and Afghani recipes. Now, he's turned his hobby into a business. Once he built his roots in the States, Ali racked up as many as 13 storefronts, but sold them all except for his digs on Main Street in Huntington - the corner of Main and Wall Streets is just too good to give up, he said. A Huntington resident since 1986, Ali opened a camera shop at the location in 1991, which he closed last January. Then, the family briefly transformed the storefront into a hookah lounge before Spice Village opened about a month ago. The small, cozy dining room, naturally lit through its large windows and dressed in black tablecloths, maroon linens and throw rugs, was filled to capacity during our Friday lunch visit. Ali's soups of the day - vegetarian Mulligatawny and Kaukswe ($4.50) - are both good starters. The Mulligatawny, with its rich curry and lentil flavor, is thick and satisfying without being dense, while the Kaukswe (pronounced cow-sway) is a unique medley of flavors with rice, chicken and vegetables. The aroma hints at a buttery base, while a bright lemon note emerges after you take a spoonful.

Chicken Tikka Masala ($10.99) is mild and savory, and the medallions of chicken pair well with Spice Village's excellent basmati rice. Soak up the aromatic cream sauce with some naan bread, which will run you no more than $2.50.

Torn on our entre decision, we decided to go for a little of everything, thanks to the Mixed Grill ($14.99). A good place to start for first-time visitors, the platter comes with a small rib eye steak, chicken, lamb and shrimp seekh kebabs, and chicken and lamb tikka. The juicy tender lamb is the zestiest of the bunch; the remarkably tender chicken is next in line on the spicy list. The fresh, juicy shrimp and the rib eye are smoky and mellow, while the seekh kebabs, or meat sausages, are nutty and delicious; the lamb sausage packs an extra, spicy punch.

After our entrees, Gulab Jamun, or sugary dough balls, are served warm in sweet, but not oppressive, rosewater - cardamom syrup, and Sooji Halwa is warm, enticing and semi-sweet semolina browned with cardamom and simmered in scented sugar with almonds and raisins. All five of the restaurant's desserts, which include Zarda Rice, Ras Malai and Milk Cake, run about $5.

Thus we took advantage one of the untold joys of splitting a mixed grill for lunch - plenty of room for dessert.


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