Review: Find traditional fare with modern flair at India PalaceFARGO – Often when people think Indian food, they think tandoori, and the new India Palace in Fargo can deliver it up as well as anyone.
By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM
FARGO – Often when people think Indian food, they think tandoori, and the new India Palace in Fargo can deliver it up as well as anyone.
But they shine in an area of food not strictly Indian, and for that alone it’s worth a visit. Let me explain.
In the 1980s, Birmingham, England, gave birth to Balti-style cooking. Served with rice, this cumin and coriander delight is a lot like the traditional curries you’d expect from an Indian restaurant anywhere in the Midwest, but bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and chilies offer a combination of heat and brightness not so common in most of the slow-cooked dishes of India in their Midwestern incarnations.
India Palace’s Dhamaka Balti with lamb ($14.99) is hot and vivid, and the ingredients all shine through in a perfect combination. This is a common theme for Indian food in general and India Palace in particular. The menu is a collection of distinct flavors in all the right places.
The menu is enormous and tends toward northern Indian cuisine with its thick sauces, fresh vegetables and moderate spice, though most dishes can be had with any level of spice you choose.
When tradition demands something more like the Indian food your Midwest mother used to make, the popular Chicken Tikka Masala ($10.99) brings a kind of comfort food familiarity, and a little smoke, to the table. What’s important is that the India Palace combines variety and local sensibilities with an honest interpretation of some traditional Indian dishes.
For those not altogether familiar with Indian food, India Palace offers an education with the meal.
Servers are happy to explain, quick to recommend and willing to customize. Two dishes give a good taste of Indian cuisine to those wanting to sample. The Mixed Platter offers appetizers like traditional samosa and the delightful little pakora fritters, deep fried and served with a variety of spicy chutneys. The other dish worth passing around the table is the Palace Mixed Grill, which includes samples of tandoori, chicken tikki and bolti kabob, a grilled and skewered finger food well matched to the accompanied rice and curry.
The wine and beer list is unimpressive, but it does include a few Indian beers that can make a meaningful contribution to dinner. But it’s better to settle on a glass of the rose water and yogurt Lasi. A bit of tart dairy pairs well with Indian food in general and works especially well with the spicier renditions on India Palace’s menu.
End the evening with the syrup-soaked, doughnut-like Gulab Jaman ($2.99) if you have an impossibly sweet tooth difficult to satisfy. I’ll see my dentist tomorrow and pass on them next time.
The atmosphere delivers as much as the strip mall location allows. There is no escaping the slightly sterile feeling of a very square space, but crisp linens and subdued lighting soften the effect and make it possible to forget.
Indian food has had a bit of a rocky road in Fargo. Saffron was my favorite Indian restaurant for as long as it was open, but it was short-lived. Today, Passages to India brings southern India to Fargo. Karma is another new addition I haven’t explored yet.
One thing is certain. Asian cuisine in Fargo-Moorhead is crawling out of the hole dug by Chinese buffets and finally offering world-class dining from the East.
Address: 5050 13th Ave. S. Suite 3
Service: ★★★ ½
Ambiance: ★★ ½
Reservations accepted: Yes
Alcohol: Wine and beer
Dress: As you like
Credit cards accepted: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; Dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Phone: (701) 356-6500
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.