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Review: An evening dinner with Indian cuisine

India Palace, located in downtown Salem. Photo by Michael Douglas

On Oct. 5, I had an evening meal at a restaurant called the India Palace in downtown Salem. 

Indian food is delicious; the variety found in Indian cuisine is staggering. The common idea that Indian food is a spicy ghost pepper in your mouth is incorrect. While it can be, the entirety of the cuisine is not.

The India Palace, located at 377 Court St. NE, has a warm atmosphere. Upon entering, you’re immediately hit by charming decorations, such as a golden elephant statue. Two television screens played Indian pop music, which was a wonderful addition to the surrounding ambiance.

The first thing that was brought to me was a flatbread called papadum and three dipping sauces: spicy, sweet and mint. The papadum was thin and crispy; it could be broken off into pieces like a giant cracker and dipped into the three sauces. I preferred the hot sauce. The sweet sauce wasn’t bad either; however, I didn’t like the mint sauce very much.

My appetizer was a chicken pakora, which the menu described as “pieces of chicken delicately spiced and fried.” It sounded exotic and enticing, but, in reality, it was nothing more than chicken tenders, which was disappointing. It tasted good, but they’re still just regular tenders. I was expecting something more impressive.

My side was garlic naan bread. Naan is the Indian subcontinent’s take on flatbread and is a staple of Indian cuisine. It’s super yummy, and, when combined with garlic, it just makes the world entirely better.

My entree was definitely going to be a curry, but I couldn’t decide between going with a vegetarian or meat dish. They both had a great selection, and I debated with myself over which to get, but neither seemed to curry favor with me. I did the only thing I could do when my indecisive nature creeps up: I flipped a coin.

The coin toss came up tails. I picked the vegetarian palak paneer, a curry of “homemade cheese and spinach delicately seasoned and flavored with fresh herbs and spices,” according to the menu. The curry, of course, came with white rice.

The palak paneer was nice and creamy. The herbs and spices gave it a little kick, but not enough intensity for me. It could be likened to the recent It movies. They’re scary and creepy with lots of good jump scares, but, as the movie goes on, the jump scares have less and less impact, and Pennywise becomes less and less scary.

The flavor was good, but it lost its appeal after a while. However, when I started using it as a dip for the naan, it became a lot better, serving as further evidence of the greatness of garlic as a flavoring.

My bill came to $19 in all, which, for what I got, I think was a fair price. Portion wise, it was pretty good. I certainly felt comfortably full when I was done eating. 
India Palace also has a reasonably priced buffet during lunch hours. $10 for all you can eat is a great deal if there ever was one.

Overall, I’d give India Palace three out of four stars. There are certainly better Indian restaurants out there, but, for a casual dining experience, it was nice. It’s a great place to take a date or eat out with your friends if you want something different than the regular burgers and fries.

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