In my place of business, we live or die by the functionality of our Oracle database. Thankfully, we have a slew of consultants who keep our database running at peak efficiency. With the exception of one or two, all of our Oracle consultants are from India. This has given me some great insight into Indian culture because I am not shy about asking curious questions and getting some great information. Go to Mumbai. Skip New Delhi. Goa is neat. Kashmir is dangerous.
However, I do avoid my Indian colleagues at lunch because I am fitfully envious of their lunches. Walking into the lunch room, the scent of exotic spices and Chicken Vindaloo makes me begin to drool like a Pavlovian dog. Meanwhile, I stare down at my bologna sandwich. Then, copious amounts of weeping follow.
After having those incidents for many weeks, I finally gave in and found myself at the Indian Delhi Palace in East Phoenix for dinner. Indian Delhi Palace is in its own little strip mall with a small Indian market and a rental hall upstairs. It has been there a few years and serves a pretty decent lunch buffet. But Dave the Roommate, Neil and I were there for a dinner excursion.
We were lucky enough to find a spot in the tiny parking lot. The space upstairs had been rented out for a celebration of some sort and people were milling about, so I counted my blessings that we didn't have to park on the street or down the block. We entered the restaurant and were immediately seated at a table next to the front window.
The interior was decorated with little Indian decorative pieces and every table was covered with a white table cloth and napkins. We took our seats and reviewed the menus. One thing we didn't count on, however, was the noise level from the party upstairs. I am not sure the owners did either and they looked rather panicked by the thump-thump-thump of the bass pouring in from the ceiling. But we were there for the food, made the best of the noise situation, and teased our waiter about the whole thing.
Our first stop on the menu was the appetizers. We had some Papadums (complimentary) brought to the table, but we wanted to try the Assorted Snacks ($5.95) which gave us a plate of vegetable pakoras, samosas and some mini sheesh kabob pieces. We ordered and extra serving of the Samosas ($2.49). We also ordered two Diet Cokes ($1.25 each) and an Iced Tea ($1.25).
Our waiter departed to place our appetizer and drink order while we spent a good amount of time deciding on what we were going to have. We thought about getting one of Indian Delhi Palace's "complete dinners," but in the end, we settled for a la carte. Our drinks arrived and we place our dinner order.
I am a big fan of Chicken Tikka and I couldn't pass up an order of the Chicken Tikka Masala ($9.99). Dave liked the description of the Butter Chicken ($9.99) and chose that. Neil thought the Daal Maharani ($6.99) sounded interesting. We also decided to split and order of the Palak Paneer ($7.99) and an two orders of the Garlic Naan ($2.00 each). Basmati Rice (complimentary) was also included. Just as the waiter was getting ready to leave, I remembered that no Indian feast would be complete without Mango Chutney ($2.50).
First to the table in record time were the Assorted Snacks and the extra side of Samosas. They were all excellent. The sheesh kabob pieces were slightly spicy, slightly sweet and very meaty. The vegetable pakoras were a mix of shredded veggies battered in a tempura-like batter and deep fried. They were delicious and not at all greasy. The winner of our snack attack was the samosas. These little croquettes of potatoes and peas were deep fried golden brown and were piping hot. Wonderfully delectable with a dab of mango chutney.
We finished our snacks, had another round of drinks and waited for our meal to arrive. About 15 minutes passed and the Basmati rice made its appearance at the table. A couple more minutes passed and our first two main dishes arrived.
I was thrilled when the scent of the Chicken Tikka Masala hit my nostrils. The smokiness and the spices had me racing to get this item spooned over some of the rice as quickly as possible. Big, tender pieces of white meat chicken had been grilled and then stewed with a savory sauce of tomato, ginger and butter. We all had a taste and found contentment. The dish was flavorful, satisfying and fantastic. When mixed with the subtle nature of the rice, it was an exquisit option for us.
The second dish to our table was the Palak Paneer. If there were a dish that represented Indian cooking at its finest, it would be this one. Fresh spinach is sauteed with curry and then mixed with cream. Cubes of homemade cheese are then added for taste and texture. I never forget to order this dish because it is so basic and yet makes the palate sing. Indian Delhi Palace has some great palak paneer. We were all very pleased with it and the cheese and spinach were incredibly fresh. I would think that even the sharpest critic of spinach would like this dish.
The Butter Chicken was the next arrival and I love the dark orange color of the dish. Tandori Chicken was cooked in butter and then mixed with a tomato gravy and nuts. While many of the ingrediants were the same as for the Chicken Tikka Masala, it was much lighter in taste and color. I had never had the Butter Chicken, but I thought it was excellent. Neil really like it as did Dave, but Dave said it paled in comparison to the Masala. I could see his point, but I thought both dishes were really quite good.
The Daal Maharani was a new dish for me. I love lentils, but had never had something like this before at an Indian restaurant. The lentil beans had been cooked down into a porridge. The dish was incredibly smooth and had a nice spicy and salty kick to it. The lentils were thoroughly cooked, but still had a good body to them to keep the thick soup from being completely runny. Neil found this dish to be his favorite and we all did not pass up a chance to spoon some of this onto more rice. Pure yummy goodness.
The Garlic Naan was incredible. I could have easily made a full meal out of this bread. Naan is a simple flat bread that is cooked until almost charred on the outside. Since I am not shy about garlic, we had ours brushed with butter and garlic. Heaven. We devoured with while using it to sop up any sauces that got away from us. It was soft, crunchy, garlicky and we couldn't help ourselves and ordered three rounds of this wonderful bread.
We also ordered another order of rice because we were enjoying the food so much, we did not want to miss a drop of anything. It was a grand feast and we were more than happy to make sure our plates were clean of every morsel of food.
Since we had cleaned our plate, we felt we were entitled to dessert. We asked for menus again and placed our orders. I adore rice pudding and chose the Kheer ($2.99). Dave wanted to have some more mango so he went with the Mango Kulfi ($2.99) and Neil had the Pistachio Kulfi ($2.99).
Five minutes passed and our waiter brought our desserts. My Kheer was served in a small cup and was good, but I felt it could have used a big dose of cardamon or cinnamon. It was creamy and sweet, but lacked that Indian spice that surrounded the rest of the meal.
Dave and Neil raved about their ice cream. They said the flavors were outstanding and really bold. They only complaint they had was that the ice cream was almost rock solid and that made it difficult to eat at first. Still, they would order them again without hesitation.
We flagged down our waiter and got our bill. The total for our visit to India was $76.63, which included tax. We felt it was worth every penny. The service was spotty, but the entire staff was quite friendly. Clearly, the noise situation had really distracted the staff team at Indian Delhi Palace and there were a few gaffs here and there with drink glasses running dry and plates not being cleared.
We got ready to leave and head for our car when I noticed that one of our Oracle consultants was sitting near our table. When I saw her the following work day, she said that was indeed her and she loved Indian Delhi Palace. We chatted a bit and she said it reminded her a lot of home back in India.
Not a bad bit of PR for the place.
Indian Delhi Palace
5104 East McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85008