Origin India and the Atomic Testing Museum
Yesterday we decided to finally visit the Atomic Testing Museum, over on Flamingo just east of Paradise, right on the northern edge of the UNLV campus. But first, continuing the theme of "finally," we headed over to Origin India for lunch.

Origin India is located directly across from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a place I've never been because even young hipsters tell me it's depressingly lousy with young hipsters, people who actually care if their blacks match, who don't know what it means to worry about hiding a tattoo from grandma, and who aren't comfortable queueing up for the next available restroom stall unless the attendant offers them VIP bottle service.

Across from All Things a Wannabe Celebutante Holds Dear there is a strip mall, and in this strip mall is Origin India. I think we never visited before because a) they don't have a buffet and b) it sounded kind of fancy.

But yesterday I decided, with a quick confirmation at Google Maps, that I could not possibly be intimidated into getting a manicure and making Mike wear a button-down shirt for lunch in a place in a strip mall. Especially not someplace right next to the pizza-by-the-slice joint that I once visited between classes, a place where flip-flops might make you feel self-consciously overdressed.

Big talk, but once inside, we both agreed that there's no way we would visit in the evening, not dressed as we were. The decor is simple, and a few inches of paint was peeling off the walls near our chairs, but when you see linen napkins done up like little hats, you know you're expected to shave your legs or at least smooth a few more wrinkles from your sweatshop t-shirt.

Mike at Origin India

However, for lunch this was fine, judging by the few other people in the restaurant and by the large (20+) party that came in near the end of our meal.

We decided to start with vegetable samosas. Here you see a recurring motif in my visual work: Mike's arms folded in hairy patience while I try to hold the pocket camera very, very still.

Origin India - Samosas

Those artistic sauce drops on the plate are code for "these samosas will require a fork."

So far nothing has beaten the aromatic offerings from Kamal Palace in Long Beach, but these samosas were quite delicious. The ingredients inside were blended together into a semi-paste and were not as loose as what we usually get, which made for a denser feeling while eating. Paired with the mint chutney - and Mike never bothers with mint chutney - the combination was a perfect mix of thick and light, spicy and bright.

Origin India - Tamarind and Mint Chutneys

I ordered the kofta, described in the menu as such: "Punjabi gram flour and vegetable dumplings in silky yoghurt sauce finished with whole coriander seeds, chilli, cumin and asafoetida. Served with steamed rice."

Normally I like to get paneer (especially paneer korma, mmmmm), but the only paneer dishes on the menu were side dishes or family-style sag paneer (served in a spinach sauce - I am not a fan), so even though you can get any side dish as an entree, I decided to try something new. I do really like the kofta/dumplings at Tamba, so I was confident.

But Mike was less confident in his choice, the "Old Delhi-style corn-fed chicken tikka makhani prepared with ground spices and fenugreek-flavoured tomato makhani sauce, served with pulao rice," so we ended up getting that side dish of "paneer in creamy tomato sauce" to share after all.

(The hyphens in the above description are mine. I know I am not consistently watchful of my own writing in this area, but people are getting more and more lazy about not hyphenating their compound adjectives, and it needs to stop!)

I wanted to get the "bread basket," as Origin India has so many different interesting selections, but Mike doesn't like roti, wouldn't want the sweet apricot naan, and he hates mushrooms, so it wasn't worth the risk. No problem - I can always use the Denial of Bread Basket as leverage for getting my way in the future. Win-win. We went with the garlic and coriander naan to compromise.

Origin India - Butter Paneer

The memory of this side dish of paneer makhani is making my tummy leap like a dog in a Beggin' Strips commercial. It was so delicious, and such a generous size for a side dish.

Origin India - Garlic and Cilantro Naan

The naan was buttery, and at first I just couldn't dip it into the sauce, it was too delicious on its own. Usually I prefer plain naan because the garlic naan can be a bit acrid or burnt tasting, but this was mellow, fluffy, and perfect.

Origin India - My Kofta

I will be honest: I wasn't blown away by the dumplings, and I wouldn't get them again. But, and maybe I've been watching too much Chopped, I respected them. I enjoyed them; they were clearly expertly prepared and artfully spiced and the flavours were interesting, but they didn't dazzle me the way Indian food usually does. Usually, I end every Indian meal with big speeches about how we must learn how to cook like this. But those dumplings? Nah. Kind of heavy and samey for my taste, and like I said, I love the ones at Tamba.

But it was interesting, and I had the paneer in its perfect sauce, so no complaints, and Mike finished most of my last dumpling, so everyone was happy. (You don't get to see a picture of Mike's chicken tikka makhani because I didn't like the photo, but picture the paneer in a dish like the dumplings and served with the pretty mound of rice, and you are good. Mike is not a big fan of chicken tikka masala, but this tikka/makhani sauce combination earned rave reviews from his lips. Total fanboy.)

Everything was so delicious that we even asked to see the dessert menu. I know we're of the Chubba-Chubba Tribe, but we almost never get dessert. (Plus we're also of the Cheap-Cheap Tribe.) We wanted to see if they have that thing that looks like mashed potatoes and is full of almonds... which Mike knows the name of, but he is still asleep right now, ignorant of how hungry this post has made me and how soon he will be screeched at to shower-shower-shower now-now-now so we can try another new Indian place today. Poor Mike, Yes, everyone does feel sorry for him, why do you ask? Anyway, the desserts looked great, but they didn't have the one we wanted and we were pretty stuff, so 19% later (service was good - not Tamba-good in terms of refills, but extremely pleasant), we were back in the car, full and happy, and ready to drive our very interesting route to the Atomic Testing Museum, a short distance away.

(I would detail the route, but this blog is self-incriminating enough. Let me just remind everybody that the six lanes on Paradise become six lanes of one-way street once you cross over Harmon. So, if you suddenly realize that, duh, you are driving away from your destination, and you pull into the Hofbrauhaus to turn back the other way? Hope that when you are sitting in your little hatchback, in the righthand-most lane of the six lanes, facing the wrong direction and therefore actually in the lefthand-most lane, hope that the lights are just-so and that - miraculously - no other car is heading for you and you can spin the car back around right in the middle of all those unidirectional lanes before anyone notices. Hope really hard, because I'm not convinced such lucky lightning could strike twice. Not that I have any idea what I'm talking about. This is just hypothetical.)

Mike, Pleased to Be at the Atomic Testing Museum

With all of the construction on Flamingo, you have to watch carefully for the turn into the Atomic Testing Museum (then drive past it, for it is covered in cones, then watch carefully for the makeshift left turn lane where you can pull a u-turn with almost no oncoming traffic). Above you see Mike, squinting in anticipation.

Mike by the Measuring Stuff - Atomic History Museum

Because the day wasn't completely hot and miserable, being only 100 (sadly, that's no longer my sarcastic voice), we walked over to the display outside. In the background you can see the skyline of the Strip, or rather of the condos that surround the casinos on the Strip, and which I still hope will disappear in a freakish catastrophic event that leaves the rest of the Strip intact. (Unfortunately, the freakish catastrophic event that is our economy only leaves the condos empty but still eyesores. And, for the pedants, yes, I know there is nothing freakish about the economy reflecting the consequences of overborrowing, overspending, and overindulging in other people's good faith and will.)

Current Readings - Outside the Atomic Testing Museum

This measurement display was interesting, but I became fixated on the near-negative precipitation numbers and was thus sad.

That Which Measures Something - Outside the Atomic Testing Museum

I don't know what this measures, but it looks cool.

Atomic Testing Museum - History Walk Marker

The History Walk is a section of walkway filled with commemorative bricks, much like Walk Around the World at Walt Disney World. (Um, does anyone want to go to WDW and check on our brick? I worry that it may have an errant twig or something sitting on it.)

I was really excited when I saw this. Visions of a "JUNIOR HAMSTERNAUT SOCIETY" brick, right?! (Mike is still trying to push tHE CRITTERNAUT PROGRAM, but everyone knows they were a rogue splinter group who have, through the generous outreach of the JHS, only recently gained credibility, and only through a partial merger with JHS. Everybody knows this, even Leonard Cohen.)

Except then later, at the end of our visit, I was in the gift shop asking about bricks and the nice lady kinda sorta made it sound like you have to be actually involved with the Nevada Test Site to get a brick. I was going to explain the connection between JHS and the Nevada Test Site, in particular the Janet-Janet connection and EG&G, the last of which pops up frequently as you tour the museum, but then I couldn't remember exactly which part of the JHS is declassified, so I just smiled and nodded and left it at that. I don't need any thuggy critternauts savaging my fingers the next time I refill the seed dish, thanks.

But the Nevada Test Site History Walk is not without its whimsy:

I Ducked and I Cowered - Atomic Testing Museum

I got Mike to pose one more time, and I swear it was a great pose with a winning smile, but apparently Mike can't stand still long enough for me to fiddle with the camera. Granted, Mike will probably tell you that I must have taken daguerrotypes in my last life, it takes me so long to almost mostly hold the camera still. Oh well.

Mike at the Atomic Testing Museum

You can't take photos inside of the museum, so you'll just have to trust me (and the many online fans) that they've done a heck of a job with creating this museum. It makes me want to get a degree in curating. (I could make the Junior Hamsternaut Society museum, complete with the two decommissioned space stations, and we could offer a sort of two-fer ticket with the Atomic Testing Museum. Put it on the list.)

I am lazy and hungry, so here is my bullet lists of good impressions from the museum:

  • the Disney movie that I can't find on Youtube ("Atom Age," not "Our Friend the Atom," although that is pretty good, too)
  • all of the atomic age pop culture items
  • the movie that uses air vents to create a "multisensory" atomic blast experience
  • using the radioactivity counter over household items - spoiler: avoid the vintage Fiestaware!
  • the ad from JC Penney where they show all the mannequins from the Test Site that they clothed
  • playing the game where you have to decide not only how to dispose of each kind of waste, but which route to take to the disposal site (How was I to know there was construction in St. Louis that would cause delays? The pressure!)
  • the collection of badge holders (seriously!)
  • the movie about the special cameras developed that could take 500,000 photos per second, and that is so not hyperbole
  • the (apparently famous) "coronet milk drop" shot that came from the EG&G camera that could take (a measly) 15,000 frames per second
  • a fused cross-section of a cable bundle that was close to the blast, which now looks like a designer plate
  • and just heaps and heaps of other interesting goodies

Next month they are going to have a couple of public panels about spyplanes at Groom Lake - only $5 per ticket. Groom Lake? Area 51? We can talk about that in official places now? Apparently.

We had a really good time. The museum was kind of busy, but it was the middle of a Saturday, and the traffic clears out past the first few exhibits, so you can always be like us and double-back when the latest surge clears. (Admission is good all day: $9 for locals, $12 for others, with senior, kid, and student discounts available.)

Me, I will be sad when my brand fades away. Atomic powers, activate!

Atomic Powers... Activate!

07 September 2009 |






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