Offering satisfying but predictable Indian cuisine, Paradise of India draws much of its crowd after other restaurants close, as its hours outlast the Main Street competition. The rest of the day, Paradise-Iike its sister restaurant, Northampton's India Palace-is noticeably empty, with perhaps one lone table to occupy the waiters. The room, which is sometimes too warm, wears nothing more than your generic Indian- restaurant decor, albeit with purple tablecloths. If you're not averse to the unabsorbed sound of your own silverware clinking against the glass tabletop, try Paradise for the lunch specials. Monday through Saturday, you can get the dinner portion of a vegetable or meat main and basmati rice, along with lentil soup or crispy vegetable fritters, at very reasonable prices.
The food here is just about what you'd expect, perhaps a notch better. Chicken tikka masala, the classic Indian-American standby, is very mild, buttery, and sweetish; the flavor is altogether pleasing, even if it's missing some of the nice tomato-based acidity sometimes found in the dish. Shrimp shahi korma is rich with butter, yogurt, almond, and a barely perceptible red-pepper kick; it's a decent choice. Aloo cholle, with chickpeas, is soft, mild, and inoffensive. Aloo gobi, another vegetarian choice, is an orange-colored curry of cauliflower and potatoes, with a tangy, muted flavor. Mango lamb is sweetly simple, but a few vegetables mixed in wouldn't hurt. This hints at a greater issue at Paradise: a problematic decision plaguing the mains is the strict divide between vegetarian and meat dishes; only in a couple of instances can you have it both ways. Choose the strong yellow lentil soup over the fritters, which range from crisp to wet, depending on the batch. The accompanying trio of sauces spices up any main when added liberally. The brown tamarind sauce is syrupy and sweet, and the onion chutney adds a pungent kick (if hazardous to your breath). The potato-and-pea-filled samosas, wrapped in fried dough, are a dependably good accompaniment or appetizer.
The waitstaff at Paradise is helpful and discreet, but they can't ward off the awkwardness and silence that result from having only one or two tables seated. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself speaking in a whisper. On the bright side, it's a fine place to read a book.