Intriguing Indian

New Delhi Palace serves tasty eats with a smile—but more spice would be nice

Ordering spicy food at Indian restaurants is always a gamble: You never know if you're going to get tongue-searing food, or the watered-down American version of spicy. New Delhi Palace teeters on the edge of not being quite spicy enough, but they bring the flavor in other ways to make up for it.

Situated in an eastside strip mall near Broadway Boulevard and Jessica Avenue, New Delhi Palace is a Tucson staple for consistently good Indian fare, according to my Indian-food-loving friends. The décor is a bit outdated and dark, with painted murals of India on every wall, and draperies blocking the front windows, but it's clean and comfortable nonetheless.

The lunch buffet is a great deal, at just $8.95 per person (the regular menu is available as well), and it has lots of ever-changing tasty options—especially vegetarian ones—but my favorite item was the samosas. I think I could probably eat a couple of platefuls of the yummy potato-and-veggie-filled triangles with the flaky pastry crust. The daal makhani—split black lentils simmered with herbs and spices—was another of my favorites, and had a mild, delicate seasoning that didn't overwhelm the creamy lentils. I also really enjoyed the mixed vegetable curry, a blend of potatoes, onions and other assorted vegetables in a very mild yellow curry sauce. The palak paneer, curried spinach and cottage cheese, was the only thing that I wasn't a fan of, because the spinach had a slightly stringy texture.

The lunch buffet even includes dessert. The selections that day were gulab jamun, super-sweet flour-and-cheese balls drenched in sweet rose syrup, and kheer, a sweet rice pudding often served with nuts (though this kheer was served plain).

Dinner is where New Delhi shines. They have an excellent selection of international bottled beers, including some from India that I hadn't seen before, along with wine, mixed drinks and a wide variety of organic teas. The restaurant was mostly empty when we arrived, but business picked up as Ted and I enjoyed our meal, and the service remained consistently fast and friendly throughout.

The appetizer sampler ($5.95) came out quickly, and included an assortment of pakoras (mixed vegetable fritters), which were good but just a touch dry; samosas, which were delicious; papadum, a crispy cracker-like bread made from lentils; and lamb sheesh kebab, which was seasoned perfectly, although a bit dry. The sampler also came with a nice mint chutney, which added a fresh, lemony mint-and-cilantro bite to everything.

Entrées arrived just a short while later, in an impressive presentation. Ted's mixed-grill entrée ($13.95), cooked in the tandoor, came out on a sizzling-hot platter and was presented tableside, with the waiter explaining what each piece of the distinctive bright-red meat was, including generous helpings of chicken, shrimp and lamb. The meat was moist and well-seasoned, but very mild.

I expected it to have a little kick, at the very least. I ordered my lamb tikka masala ($10.95) medium on the spicy scale, but I would order it hot next time, because there was little to no spiciness to the dish.

The entreés at New Delhi do not come with complimentary rice or naan (leavened bread cooked in the tandoor, similar to a tortilla), so we ordered a side of basmati rice ($2.95) and naan ($2.25) to enjoy with our dishes. The one piece of naan wasn't enough for both entrées, and the price seemed a bit excessive for a single piece. Otherwise, the portions at New Delhi Palace are generous, and we had more than enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

I'm looking forward to trying more dishes on their extensive menu, especially the karhai-style entrées. It's definitely on my list for inexpensive, filling and tasty food.

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