A Night Out: A Diva in Davis
We came upon Diva, the Indian Bistro. Diva—the name conjures up images of a sexy siren. We wondered if the restaurant would resemble her name: sassy and high-profile with too much attitude and too little substance. She was certainly attractive, bejeweled in regal hues of deep orange, red and purple. Her style was ethnic exotic with a modern twist, her featured adornments were sultry lantern-like chandeliers draped with folds of white cloth. Lined with gleaming martini and wine glasses, a curvaceous bar swooped and hugged one side. Yet despite the striking and charismatic presence, the bar was bizarrely empty.
It didn’t take too long to figure out why there were no cell-phone-toting socialites or long-legged beauties were rubbing elbows at the well-decorated bar—Diva had yet to acquire an alcohol license; she was unable to indulge her patrons with Dionysian pleasures. The glance down the drink menu was real cause for laughs. Diva tried hard to compensate for her lack of alcoholic delights by offering various alternative drinks. There was a comprehensive selection of beers and wines –both red and white – yet they all bizarrely managed to be non-alcoholic. While adventurous, we decided not to sample the non-alcoholic wine, whatever that was. Instead, we ordered the mango lassi, a creamy yogurt shake which turned out to be pretty delicious as well as a perfect counterpoint to the spiciness of Indian cuisine.
Once we managed to overlook the lack of alcohol, we actually found Diva to be extremely likeable. While she embraced an older and more somber crowd (probably because she refuses to get drunk with the crazier ones), her buzz was still undeniably vibrant and dynamic. The back end of the restaurant highlighted a large glass window that showcased the chef at work as he executed the meal preparation. While we waited, we entertained ourselves with the spectacle of the chef masterfully baking dishes in the huge clay oven and kneading batches of fresh Naan. Service was lightning-quick; our meals arrived within minutes. Unlike her namesake, Diva seemed to have no intention of striving to be fashionably late.
The menu offered favorites found in most Indian eateries in America—such as Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Vindaloo and Saag Paneer—as well as more exotic regional specialties from Banglore and Madras. Dosas—South Indian style crepes filled with rice and lentils—were also featured with stuffing ranging from potatoes and onions to barbecued lamb.
Our waiter claimed that the Chicken Makhni was “universally likable,” so we decided to give it a try. It was basically Chicken Tikka Masala, except more flavorful and buttery; the sauce was divinely smooth, and the pieces of chicken were tantalizingly tender, but we could feel our arteries clogging up from the luscious thickness of the butter. Abiding by our creative editor’s distaste towards spiciness, we requested everything to be ordered in mild. Good thing we did, as the dishes were already spicy at mild. We also sampled the Chicken Saagwala, which was succulent pieces of chicken mingled with spinach, garlic, and various spices. The Baigan Bharta—a mashed concoction of baked eggplant, sautéed onions, and fresh coriander—was decent, though not quite as flavorful as the other dishes. We enjoyed our dishes with a generous portion of lovely long-grained rice, and a steaming order of Aloo Naan. The bread was absolutely heavenly, bursting with flavor and stuffed with potatoes and peas; we practically burned our fingers and tongues as we crammed it into our mouths.
Our excursion to this new Davis Square establishment proves that Diva is no ditzy bimbo but rather a woman of substance. We found her lively yet unpretentious, almost an anomaly for how she consolidates her hip and trendy appearance with her staunch Puritanical values. If you’re anticipating a night of joyous intoxication, you’ll be disappointed by her strict aversion towards alcohol. However, if an easy-going weeknight excursion and intimate conversation are what you have in mind, look no further. While merely a newcomer on the scene, Diva is without a doubt a shining star.