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Dining in Dairyland – India Darbar: A Review

I have to admit, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s not on a main street, it’s not well advertised or flashy and it’s tucked into a strip mall. However, India Darbar is a great restaurant with both full meals that you can order and an affordable lunch buffet open throughout the week.

For your information, that buffet is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on all days and is listed as costing $7.95 during the week and $8.95 on the weekend.

If you’re looking for a fancy dining experience, India Darbar is not your place. Inside its humble exterior is a plain but clean interior. Stackable cushioned chairs are clustered around tables covered with long white tablecloths. The dark-carpeted floor and low ceiling make it feel like an office.

However, their food is good and especially comforting during the cold winter months. If dining at Bon Appetit makes you miss spicy food, this is one of the options that Appleton offers!

Despite its cheapness, the lunch buffet is surprisingly large, comprising dessert, rice dishes, saag, vegetable korma, a number of vegetable and meat-based curries, including the inevitable butter chicken. It is utilitarian in its presentation, but the food is flavorful and the wide selection allows for various food restrictions and levels of spice-tolerance.

I tend to stick to vegetarian dishes since I have chowed down on a sharp bit of goat bone. For those with a low spice tolerance, the korma, the saag and the butter chicken tend to be less spicy than other curries. From the regular menu, any of the dishes mentioned above will be good and probably much fresher. Also fantastic are dals, especially dal makhani.

However, if you’ve never had Indian food or simply aren’t very familiar with it, Indian restaurant menus are probably full of words you don’t understand.

Nan or naan is probably the best-known Indian bread; it’s white, fluffy, can be flavored with things like garlic and is often used to ferry other food from a plate to the headwaters of your alimentary system. Poori (also spelled puri) is an unleavened wheat bread that puffs up while it’s deep-fried. Paratha is a flatbread that can be filled with various other foods like potato, cauliflower, cheese, spinach and so on. Kulcha is similar to naan but it is generally cooked on the stovetop and not in a tandoor oven. Like naan or poori, parathas can also have fillings.

If you are craving fried food, pakoras are essentially fritters, made with vegetables, cheese and other supplements. Samosas are widely known, but if you are unaware of them, they are fried dumplings full of delicious spicy fillings.

Koftas are essentially meatballs, but can be made with vegetarian ingredients, such as cheese or legumes, as well. Tikka refers to meat cut into pieces and probably marinated and grilled. However, if you order chicken tikka masala, you’re ordering what is essentially the British national dish and is of uncertain and hotly contested origin; it is similar to Butter Chicken (also known as murgh makhani).

A jalfrezi is a spicy dish of meat or vegetables fried with spices, onions and chilies. Like many dishes, its origins are unclear, but most sources say that it was invented to reuse leftovers under the British Raj. Vindaloo also came from the meeting of cultures, this time with the Portuguese. The name comes from the Portuguese words for wine and garlic, and the dish is usually made with pork, wine, vinegar, sugar and chilies. It has a sweet and sour flavor. Korma is a creamy dish with meat or vegetables, nuts and spices.

Paneer is a delicious fresh cheese. If it’s really fresh, it can be a bit squeaky like cheese curds. Saag means spinach and is different from palak which refers to cooked greens generally. Remember that if you get palak paneer, it may not necessarily be spinach. Chole/chana are chickpeas, gobi is cauliflower and bhindi is okra. Dal refers to split peas or lentils and also to the various delicious and comforting stews that are made with them.

So, Lawrentians, take advantage of the warm weather and walk or bike over to India Darbar with some friends and enjoy a selection of delicious Indian food!