Aroma Indian Cuisine opened in February of this year on Village Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Executive Chef Clarence “Rence” Xavier is the creative mind and part owner of the new restaurant. His goal is to serve Indian cuisine that is also influenced by his culinary experience throughout his career as a professional chef.
Managing the new restaurant is a chance for Xavier to introduce something original to every plate that graces the tables at Aroma, and it is a chance for him to learn the flavors that people in the area enjoy.
“If you look at my menu, you’ll see many home-style dishes, and a lot of things that we are offering you may not see in any other restaurants here,” Xavier said. “Most of these things, which I introduced, normally we cook only at home. That is the difference between us and other places around the area.”
Xavier grinds and roasts all the spices that are used in the dishes on the Aroma menu. “I personally don’t like to use any of the powdered spices,” he said. “So, that makes a lot of difference. When you eat the food, then you understand that.”
This doesn’t mean that classic Indian dishes won’t show up on the Aroma menu.
“We do offer the popular dishes,” Xavier said. “At the same time, we have our specialty. That is the home style. That is what I believe will allow our business to stand out.”
A signature treat that Xavier offers under appetizers on the menu is a popular dish found in homes of people from Gujarat, a state in western India. It is called Farali Pattice — made of an outer layer of coconut, and mashed potatoes seasoned with fresh coriander, roasted cashew, cumin and black salt, with a dash of lime juice.
“This particular appetizer, it is made in people’s homes,” he said. “It has a bit of a spice and aroma. It has a very nutty flavor [from] the fresh coriander and the coconut. It has a light sweetness with a sour and tangy finish.”
The finished product comes out light and crispy because of the flash-fry technique Xavier uses with an Indian wok called a karahi.
“With a very high temperature oil, you just put it in and take it out,” Xavier said. “It won’t stay in the oil for too much time. It’s a matter of seconds.”
Unique items such as Farali Pattice are the center of the home-style dishes that Xavier likes to make for his customers. He is conscious of the ingredients and the cooking processes he uses to make the food at Aroma.
“Personally, I don’t like to use the deep-fryer,” Xavier said. “The first thing is that it is unhealthy, and normally the people don’t want it in the oil.”
The black salt that helps season the Farali Pattice is important to the flavor of the dish. “It is a rock salt, which gives it the pungent taste,” Xavier said.
Each fritter is accompanied with a fresh-made garlic chutney, which is seasoned with roasted cumin and coriander. “I borrowed the recipe from a customer who came here the second week when we opened this place,” Xavier said.
Xavier had been using his own kind of chutney, but this customer was from Gujarat and offered a recipe that is commonly paired with Farali Pattice.
Xavier began a catering business in 2008, implementing a fusion of different cultural cuisines in his food, adding Thai, Italian, Greek and Mexican elements to Indian cuisine.
Xavier was greatly influenced by his grandmother, who seemed to know that he would find a way in this world as a professional chef.
“She can make anything,” Xavier said. “She used to tell my mother, ‘You know what? You don’t need to worry about him. He’s going to become a cook. Don’t worry.’ She said that when I was young.”
Xavier became a professional chef at the age of 24. He went to school in India and earned a degree in food and hotel management. He worked in the kitchen for a large hotel chain in Southeast Asia. Then, he took his skills to Royal Caribbean, the Miami-based cruise line. From there he moved to Fairfield, Conn., where he managed several restaurants that were either Indian or Thai cuisine.
He embarked on his current endeavor to lead the kitchen at Aroma last year when his friends and co-owners of the restaurant presented him with the idea and the opportunity.
Xavier believes in combining the passion he feels for food into the food he serves every day.
“I love what I do, and I enjoy every moment, even when I cook,” Xavier said. “It is very important to have a happy heart, especially when you are cooking for somebody else. Whatever you do, there is an energy. If you have a happy heart, then that energy is going to the food as well.”
Aroma Indian Cuisine is located at 771 Village Blvd., Suite 110-111, in West Palm Beach. For more info., call (561) 619-6437 or visit www.aromawestpalmbeach.com.