Restaurants & Bars

Report: Star of India in Petaluma

Jennie Sheeks | Oct 31, 200211:56 AM    

I like Indian food. Not that I know much about it all, though I’m learning. Mom made lamb curry when we were kids, but this only ever happened when she was using up leftovers from a roast leg of lamb. Think chunks of lamb with curry spiked gravy. Served over brown rice, the only redeemable part of the meal my memories can conjure are Mom’s fun, black and turquoise compartmentalized condiment tray that had a lazy susan mechanism so you could spin the thing around and watch the chopped roasted peanuts, diced bananas, chutney, yogurt, raisins and hot sauce spin around like a kaleidoscope. But thinking about actually having to eat it puts a lump in my throat. So, I have a lot to overcome.

I’d been trying to visit Star of India in Petaluma for months, but every time I went by (on Sundays, usually) they were closed. But one Sunday, they were actually open, so I headed in for a quick early dinner. I finally settled on the samosas to start, then baigan bartha, the spicy eggplant dish, a side of rice (peloo?) and a lassi. The samosas were big globes rather than the flat triangular packets I’ve had elsewhere. They were quite crisp outside which I found, because of the size somewhat of an obstacle to getting into the thing. Good flavor, not as good the few other examples I’ve had, and actually I think I like them better cold the next day. I know that must be sacrilege to someone. I love eating samosas for breakfast, especially when drizzled with that cilantro, mint and chile sauce. Don’t know what it’s called, but I’ve been known to eat the stuff plain by the spoonful.

I’d ordered the bartha spicy, and while it was flavorful and had good heat, it wasn’t spicy enough for me. I got full really quickly, and the waitress was very concerned that the food was too spicy. I tried to explain my eyes being bigger than my stomach (without much luck) and got it all wrapped up to go. I ate the bartha for lunch the next two days, and as the flavors melded the spiciness increased nicely.

It was on my second visit for lunch that I learned how much of a bargain this place could be. The menu is more limited at lunch, confined to just two pages. I started with chicken pakkora. I ignored the accompanying tamarind sauce and coated them with the spicy cilantro mint sauce. Sort of a McNugget for grown ups. I think I paid about $7 for my entrée of spinach with homemade cottage cheese. It came with a cup of what must have been mulligawtawny soup (filling but uninteresting), warm, fresh naan (crispy and chewy and soft all at the same time), rice, a small serving of a spicy dish of kidney and garbanzo beans (mmm, Indian chili!), and a handful of lettuce. I ate off the leftovers for days. The spinach wasn’t as good in my mind as the bartha had been, but I think I may just prefer the eggplant dishes. The spinach didn’t have the spicy heat that I like, but it was flavorful.

The place was pretty busy with employees from the nearby tech firms, and among them several expats from India and the UK. On my first visit the waitresses were rather sulky and sullen but gradually warmed a little bit.

The quality of the food was good, fresh, well made. One of these days I’ll actually get past the vegetarian dishes and try the curries in hopes of obliterating memories of curry spiked gravies forever.

Star of India
299 No. McDowell, Petaluma
(next to Long’s Drugs in the same shopping center as Ross, the Vietnamese place & Kmart)
707 762-1328

Want to stay up to date with this post? Sign Up Now ›

More from Chowhound

10 Must-Buy Food Souvenirs You'll Want to Bring Back from France
Chow with Me

10 Must-Buy Food Souvenirs You'll Want to Bring Back from France

by Hana Asbrink | My latest haul. Welcome to Chow...

Chefs Share Their Favorite Summer Meat Marinades for Steak, Chicken, Shrimp & More

Chefs Share Their Favorite Summer Meat Marinades for Steak, Chicken, Shrimp & More

by Dan Koday | You ever notice how a great marinade can instantly elevate what otherwise would end up as a pretty...

Tokyo to Texas: Austin Chef Reflects on His Multicultural Upbringing

Tokyo to Texas: Austin Chef Reflects on His Multicultural Upbringing

by Eric Silverstein | By Eric Silverstein Chef Eric Silverstein is the founder and owner of The Peached Tortilla in Austin...

Foil Packets Are Your Best Camping Food Friend
Recipe Round-Ups

Foil Packets Are Your Best Camping Food Friend

by Joey Skladany | Going camping? Foil packets are the best way to cook your food (and they're pretty great in the oven...

See what's new!

View latest discussions ›

Get fresh food news delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest tips, tricks, recipes and more, sent twice a week.