KITTERY — At Tulsi, attention has been paid to elegance in a dining room and to good wine, but most of all to complex sauces infused with Indian flavors and heat that make a customer remember why all those years ago it was so exciting to eat Indian food.

First of all, it’s spicy. Maybe we shouldn’t have the option to tone a curry, say, completely down as we do in many Indian restaurants, because that means we miss out on so much. While hot chilies are searing the inside of the mouth we can feel our senses expand, our wits sharpen, our hopes flare up. Enjoying spicy food is invigorating, a wake-up call that actually works.

Rajesh Mandekar, chef/owner with partner Janet Howe, opened Tulsi on July 4, 2008. He is from Mumbai. Tulsi’s excellent servers, both grown-up women with a certain elegance of their own on the night I dined here, will make certain that you understand a dish is spicy, so if you must evade the heat, you can.

But if you can stand it, start with shrimp Balchow ($10). Served with toasted Naan, a blistered flatbread that can cool the tongue in a second or two, its Goan sauce is thick with spices and so rich with intense flavor you can pay attention only to it. Fortunately, your companion will be having the same experience, so no one’s feelings are hurt.

Goa, on the west coast of India, enjoys a cuisine influenced by the seafood of the Arabian Sea and infused with chili peppers, spices and vinegar. Balchow is a spice mixture or masala made with cumin, coriander and four peppers including Indian dried red chilies. Malt vinegar balances the sweetness, and the heat makes all the spices explode on your taste buds. Meanwhile, the sweet mild shrimp burst in between your teeth like vessels of purity.

The sauce is made two days in advance, according to the chef — in the summer, fresh cherry tomatoes give it a round flavor and in the winter fresh Roma tomatoes are used to good effect.

Famished and eager to eat something before the meal was ready, I agreed with the server’s suggestion, Peshawari Naan ($4), a fresh flatbread stuffed with finely chopped dried raisins, coconut and cashews. The heat of the tandoor, the cylindrical oven that cooks Naan slapped against its curved interior in just minutes, toasted the nuts and coconut, creating fresh round sweet and fat flavors in each bite of chewy bread.

A little plate of papadum, delicate lentil-flour chips speckled with black seeds, comes free to each table with a mint-cilantro chutney pureed into silk and a tamarind chutney as dark as molasses.

My glass of Erath Vineyard Pinot Gris ($10 a glass, $33 a bottle) held the right dry clean wine for such a sweet and rich bread, but the Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa’s Avondale ($8, $28), with its thicker body and citrus pungency, could hold its own with the shrimp Balchow. Arido Malbec ($7, $22) from Argentina made a good drink with pork Vindaloo, another Goan dish.

Mussels Pooriyal ($10.50) were fat and fresh, made alluring by a broth of coconut milk and curry spices such as coriander and turmeric.

Small kebob dishes are on the appetizer list, like Boti Kabob ($9) made with lamb, Vegetable Seek Kabob ($7.50) served with chutneys that come with the papadum, Jeera Kebob ($9.50) made with marinated chicken, and Achari Kabob ($9), lamb spiced with Achari spices and mixed with Indian pickle.

For dinner, the lamb Nilgree ($17) offers a taste from the north of India. A friend of Indian ancestry complains that all of Maine’s Indian restaurants serve the creamy tomato-based sauces of southern India, but lamb Nilgree held a spicy mint sauce colored a medium green and sparkling with cool flavors as well as a little sharp pepper. The lamb was tender and sumptuous.

With coconut milk and curry leaves, the sauce has southern elements, but adding mint to the sauce is northern.

A pile of shredded iceberg lettuce made a refreshing side, and lemon rice was superior.

Pork Vindaloo ($16) gave spicy satisfaction, its sauce sharpened with malt vinegar and big tender cubes of potato interspersed among the chewy chunks of pork.

Six vegetarian dinners include Channa masala ($9.5), chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and onions and roasted Chat Masala, and Palak paneer ($11.50) made with spinach and house-made cheese.

The saffron wall behind our table was inset with three niches: Ganesh and Buddha were on the right and the left and, playing a veena or musical instrument, Saraswati, a goddess of knowledge who sits on a lotus flower, in the middle.

A massive and monochrome painting monopolized the back wall, its surface a beautiful cognac suede in the low light of the evening. Toys in the windows like a little elephant hauling a tiny bed of logs might be handy if your children are restless.

Kheer ($6) is rice pudding and a children’s favorite with chopped pistachios and chopped green raisins on top and the scent of cardamom.

Mastani Chai ($3.75) is the real thing, another daring act in Maine, the black tea simmered in hot water and strong as sin, along with cinnamon, cardamom and other spices so strongly infused that the liquid seems thick with whole milk and sugar to temper the tannic tea. 

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website,