Austin gains a bounty of healthy menu choices
Royal India4894 Hwy. 290 W., 358-0909
Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 11am-2pm; Sat.-Sun., 11:30am-2:30pm;
dinner: Sun.-Thu., 5:30-9:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 5:30-10pm
When the Sunset Valley Estancia Churrascaria moved to the Arboretum, the brand-new, massive stone building that housed the Brazilian steak house was leased by Royal India. Located off the Brodie exit on the Highway 71 access road, it's a great location, with megatons of traffic passing by on the way to nearby shopping and subdivisions. The parking is more than ample, and the building itself is nearly pristine. The dining room is surprisingly inviting, with lots of warm wood and comfortable booths; it manages to be upscale without being cold or overwhelming.
Royal India is a one-location, family-owned restaurant. Chef/owner Vir Singh learned his craft working in restaurants in both the U.S. and India, and the vast menu is not limited to any one region. Singh's vision for Royal India is to create an eclectic, fine dining Indian restaurant, one that combines standard Indian restaurant fare with the modern flavors that are burgeoning in India right now.
Royal India's lunch buffet has proven to be a winner right out of the gate. Priced at $8.99 on weekdays and $10.99 on weekends (when the selections are vaster in scope), lunch and brunch are consistently packed, offering fresh naan, appetizers, meat curries, vegan dishes, tandoori specialties, soups, salad, and dessert. The restaurant has yet to build a regular dinner clientele, however. While a "fine dining" Indian restaurant is definitely an idea whose time has come – the cuisine of India is one of the most rich, varied, and significant in the world – Royal India seems to be trapped between the clientele, who want standard Indian selections at competitive prices, and their own aspirations to better things. The service at dinner is exquisite: prompt, courteous, friendly, and knowledgeable, and the food is beautifully presented, composed artistically on geometric white dinnerware. Nevertheless, the dishes I sampled were merely average and did not differ substantially from other Indian places in the area. If Royal India hopes to capture Austin's fine diners, a shorter, seasonal dinner menu featuring dishes Chef Singh is truly excited to present would be a step in the right direction and would help set Royal India apart.