I've been reading the Chowhound boards for over a year and am familiar enough to know that JD isn't considered "in" any more. So, I thought I'd put this out and see what you all think.
I just got home from my 1st visit to 5 Star; 4 of us went after reading the recent thread on this board. Overall impression: pretty good & will go back. But, not even close to Jackson Diner in terms of quality of cooking!
Let me begin by saying that we've been regular customers of Jackson Diner since it was a diner with Norwegian waitresses. We understand it's not the same anymore; its more pricey, it now has a liquor license, the new place is a little too mod and industrial (okay, a lot too much), and it's had it's off periods as well. But we love the food. It has "depth". You can taste layers of spices; you can taste variety; you can revel in interesting combinations and play with mixtures. I leave wanting more and knowing I'll be back.
So... on to tonight's meal: Firstly, 5 Star's pakora were nothing special but, then again, neither are Jackson Diner's. Skip 'em in both places! The breads were good(the garlic nan especially) & we liked 5 Star's bottles of Punjabi "Thunderbolt" beer. But the real reasons to return to 5 Star? The chickpea dish was fantastic and, as far as I know, JD doesn't have anything comparable. And the butter chicken is excellent: this is their answer to the cashew sauced chicken at JD! As the above is more than enough to make a meal, this, in a nutshell, is why we'll be back.
That being said, I still walked away generally thinking of 5 Star as notches below JD in the depth department. The lamb dish was not particularly flavorful and had no complexity at all; no match for the almond based or other varieties at JD. The spinach and cheese was similarly tired and uninspired. The tandoori chicken was meaty and moist (maybe even a better quality of chicken than JD's) but it seemed to rely on seasoned salt & didn't have the tastes that come out of a real marinade & tandoori oven. And they were out of samosa's (how does that happen?); we love JD's non greasy plump peppery version.
It would be unfair to do a simple a/b comparison. After all, JD is probably 50% more expensive these days and isnt a 4-5 person operation. But I expected the smallness of 5 Star to yield that real "home cooking" aspect (you know, the way DiFara's does for good fresh pizza and pasta). Instead, I'd put it at the head of the line for "tasty, inexpensive & easy", while returning to JD for quality. Just the way I do when returning to my childhood home nabe to eat Dom's cooking at DiFara's. Enough said (actually, more than enough).