Kirk, Cathy, and Vicky have shared many of their favorites with the rest of us over the years. This post, however, is ed (from Yuma) sharing one of his.
After having a couple of way-too-salty meals, I have quit eating here. Reports are that the place has declined.
Although I am delighted to have Das Bratwurst Haus over here in the desert, for me personally, the most positive change in the Yuma dining scene in the past six months has been the establishment of a new Indian restaurant in Yuma, India Palace:
I know that one or two of you who are familiar with Yuma will think that this is not a new restaurant at all--since Yuma has had an Indian eatery at this location on 4th Ave now for several years. In fact, you have to look closely to realize that this is a different Indian restaurant -- and to my taste buds at least, a much better one.
The chef was born in Nepal, but she is skilled in cooking a wide range of Indian dishes and has spent many years sharpening her culinary skills by cooking for her Indian husband. Often, in fact, when I eat at the restaurant, I feel like I can dining in somebody's home because the food is made with love and with great attention to detail.
Even though the buffet has shrunk in size, the quality of the dishes is very high, and the variety of flavors never ceases to amaze me. For example, on one visit, the buffet had both chana masala (chick peas) and rajma masala (kidney beans) as well as mixed vegetables and a dish featuring large chunks of curried zucchini:
On another visit, the star items were a chunky eggplant curry, aloo matar (peas and potatoes), and the fiery onion chutney:
One never knows what one is going to find on the buffet. I have had a standard daal maharani, a yellow daal, and most recently an herbed daal unlike any other I can recall tasting elsewhere.
Similarly, there is usually a chicken curry available as well. Most of the time, it is pretty standard (so standard I realize I've never photographed it), but recently the chicken curry was a bright yellow color:
This curry, was primarily spiced with the subtle tastes of turmeric, roasted cumin seeds, and garlic -- all of which serve to accent the wonderful flavor of the chicken.
Dishes cooked to order are also prepared well. One of my favorites is bhel puri chaat, a fried patty of dough, topped with yogurt, spicy sauce, and more:
This dish featured layers of flavors, with the curry spices offset by creamy and tangy yogurt. The textures of the dish also ranged from soft through chewy to crunchy.
Another time, I tried the masala dosa, a South Indian style pancake rolled around a potato and vegetable filling. It was served with an incredible coconut chutney and a traditional shambher made with yellow daal:
Here you can see the filling in the pancake:
Every item on the plate was outstanding, and they went together perfectly. When the chef came out and asked me how I liked it, I was full of complements, because it did taste so wonderful. She then pointed out the black flecks that were across the top of the South Indian soup:
"Curry leaves," she said, "but you have to burn them to get the right taste." And you know what, she was correct. The touches of burnt flavor contributed to the overall balance of the shambher.
I have also gotten several different items off the menu for dinner. Usually Tina and I will have them for take out, matching them up with one of our favorite gewürztraminers. One of my favorite items has been the chili chicken: This is very simple. The chicken is prepared in a spicy sauce with chunks of green chilies. What's not to like? The chili lamb is equally good and filled with numerous large chunks of slightly gamy lamb:
Bhindi Masala was outstanding on another occasion, the okra being perfectly fresh and slightly crunchy. The sauce and numerous onion slices just made everything better:
We've also loved the karahi fish palak, catfish chunks swimming in creamy spinach:
On that night, we also had an outstanding bengan bhartha, the roasted egg plant adding a smoky depth of flavor to the well seasoned and deeply flavored vegetable dish:
Is everything at the restaurant perfect? Well, no. The two times I've had a biryani, the flavors and textures have been largely monochrome, the rice dish crying out for cashews, raisins, and/or various other items. A couple of times dishes were too salty for my taste (though I am very sensitive to sodium, and I suspect that the dishes were seasoned in a traditional fashion). I also wish that their take-out containers were not so plastic, though these containers do resist spilling very well, even when they turn upside down on the ride home:
My main concern with the restaurant, however, has to do with its survivability. We all know that having a skilled and creative chef is only a small part of the battle that every independent restaurant faces. I worry that too many locals and winter visitors alike associate India Palace with the defunct India House, a restaurant that was uniformly mediocre for the last few years of its existence. I also worry that some lunch diners will associate the lack of quantity and daily variety with a lack of quality. I just hope that more people appreciate the unique flavors that India Palace brings to the Yuma dining scene. I hope.
India Palace, 2071 S.4th Ave., Yuma, AZ, (928) 782-0799.