The land of milk and honey down Far West
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., July 22, 2005
3616 Far West Blvd., 241-1732
Daily, 11am-2:30pm, 5:30-9:30pmPunjab transplants Jangir Singh Dhillon and wife Jasvir Kaur opened Indian Palace about a year ago, with the help of nephew Gurjan Singh Dhillon. Among the three, they rely on 50 years of restaurant and cooking experience. Punjab is the land of milk and honey in Northwestern India, and ghee (clarified butter), butter, and cream figure heavily in the sauces.
Indian Palace is a little hard to notice when you're blasting up Far West, but it's easily located in the first strip mall on the right-hand side as you head west from MoPac. The dining room is divided up with half walls that provide privacy, and the overall ambience is elegant.
The customer base is largely neighborhood and surrounding business regulars, and the majority of them come for the daily buffet ($7.49, lunch; $9.49, dinner). On a recent visit, we found it to be a veritable bonanza for vegetarians: fresh spinach with house-made paneer cheese, rich and creamy daal soup, delicious mushrooms and peas in brown sauce, cauliflower and potato allo with spices, eggplant and tomato stewed with spices, chickpea and onion curry, vegetable pakoras (chickpea batter fritters), and more.
On that same buffet visit, they had exceptionally tender and moist tandoori chicken, tikka masala (chicken and curry stew), very meaty chicken pakora, and light beef and lamb meatballs in an aromatic brown sauce. Assorted salads and chutneys, and four desserts (pastry balls cooked in rosewater and cinnamon syrup, mango custard, rice pudding, and fresh fruit) round out the mix. It's a compact but complete buffet, sporting some 25 different options. Seafood pops into the mix during the nightly buffet, accounting for the slightly higher price.
Indian Palace has a fine hand with breads. On the buffet, the samosas were among the lightest we've eaten in town, with a light and flaky pastry surrounding a rich potato and pea filling excellent when dipped in the green chile sambar sauce. Poppadoms (lentil flour crackers, complimentary when ordering off of the menu) were warm, crisp, and delivered in two styles: Our favorite was the spicy one made with chili. On a second visit, we ordered their Keema Naan ($2.95), slightly charred from the side of the tandoor oven, with a layer of ground lamb and spices, and the Onion Kulcha ($2.50), filled with caramelized onions. Both were superb.
On that second visit, we chose some meat offerings from the menu: Lamb Rogan Josh (a prominent dish in Punjab and Kashmiri cuisines, $9.98) was excellent, though a touch on the sweet side, five large chucks of tender lamb swimming in a piquant and rich stew. Beef Shai Korma ($9.95, a thick curry flavored with onions, tomatoes, almonds, and raisins) was satisfying. We loved the Aloo Bengan ($7.95) a heavily spiced blend of eggplant and potato. We ordered the Malai Kofta ($8.95, balls of carrot, cheese, and vegetables, served in a rich curry) and wished we hadn't, simply because we were already so full we could barely eat any of it. If we were to make any suggestion, it would be for the kitchen to cut the meat into slightly smaller cubes so it's easier for two to share a single dish.
The welcome at Indian Palace could not be more gracious and friendly, with the owners checking by to introduce themselves and to make sure that all is as you like it. Service is seamless and efficient without being hovering. All in all, we found it to be a pleasant escape to Punjab, located about halfway down the business-end of Far West.
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