India Palace is close enough to my house that I had to give it a try eventually. I'm sorry I did. We had one of those meals that leaves you grumbling and shaking your head in disbelief. The place is expensive ($40 for two), small portioned, and thoroughly half-assed when it comes to the food. The chicken tikka massala, ordered on the recommendation of the waiter, entailed maybe three-quarters of a chicken breast floating in a thin tasteless sauce that had the look of the glow-in-the-dark sauce that goes with sweet-and-sour chicken in cheap Chinese restaurants. The palak paneer was a little better, but not good: bitter more than anything else.
A few other details:
1) We were informed that the restaurant had no lamb, meaning a third of the menu was off limits. How does an Indian restaurant run out of lamb? This is like a burger joint running out of ground beef.
2) I left my credit card behind and had to return for it about an hour later. Despite the fact that the restaurant was empty, our table still had not been cleared.
3) My wife arrived home to suffer a bout of...well you know what.
This is a place not even to try if you happen to be in the area with a sudden, serious jones for Indian and a hundred dollar bill burning a hole in your pocket.
Here's how I rank the Indian I've tried:
1) Udupi, Cary
2) Tower, Morrisville
3) Suchi, Cary
4) Spice and Curry, Durham
5) Royal Sitar, Durham (great desserts)
6) Tandoor, Chapel Hill
7) India Palace, Chapel Hill
One through five are pretty decent. Things begin to go seriously downhill with Tandoor.
As usual, Chapel Hill is bringing up the rear. There must be forty or fifty restaurants and eateries in downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and yet I can count the good things to eat on one hand:
1) The bread at Weaver Street Market
2) Maple View Farm (now open on Weaver Street)
3) The tortillas at the tienda next to KFC (can't remember the name)
4) The burgers at Tyler's
5) The cobbler at Elmo's (best I've ever had)
Yes, yes, I know that everybody loves Lantern...