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Posted April 1, 2010 in Eats

Yes, Punjab Palace in Riverside is great. No doubt about that.

 

But with all due respect to fellow Weekly writer Sharon Burton (Issue 1, Vol. 36’s “Go Stuff Yourself”), Delhi Palace in San Bernardino is hands-down a contender—if not the brass-ring victor—for the best this region has to offer in gastronomical delights from the subcontinent.

 

It’s the buffet, man. You gotta try the buffet. It’s the earmark by which all Indian restaurants should be measured by. While many buffet offerings—cough, cough, insert your favorite casino here—end up as an afterthought or a mere kissing cousin to cafeteria fare, Delhi Palace turns it into High Art, a refined palette for the curry connoisseur, if you will.

 

First, this restaurant is beautiful to look at, almost opulent, when you enter. The furnishings, color scheme, nattily dressed servers and greeters all reassure you that they take their Rogan Josh here very, very seriously. We are seated immediately, our drink orders are taken and then we proceed to the row of chafing dishes. All the basics are here: Basmati rice. Tandoori Chicken. Chicken Masala. Daal. Chicken Sag. Aloo Gobhi. Really, each dish on its own prompts compliments—and you’re tempted to sample every one (or nearly every one) and cram as much saucy greatness as you dare—much to your dietician’s dismay.

 

Oh, before I jump into the entrees and sides, please consider giving due diligence to this establishment’s delectable Naan bread. Its fresh-from-the-Tandoori-oven warmth comforts the soul as much as the taste buds with its flecks of cilantro and its crispy outside that’s only matched by its pliable, doughy inside. And they’ll keep bringing you baskets of the stuff as long as you keep nodding.

 

Props to the Chicken Sag, a traditional dish showcasing chunks of tender white-meat chicken frolicking in a creamy, spinach sauce. To the uninitiated, the dark green dish doesn’t earn many points for visual appeal. Just ask your mouth what it thinks after you’ve blissfully shoved a mouthful or five into your gullet. You’ll be singing the praises of this stuff. Trust me. And the chunks of homemade cheese peeping out from beneath the sauce are just gravy to an already decadent concoction.

 

Moving on to the Aloo Matar (potatoes and green peas cooked in a mildly spiced red sauce) brings you to another stellar creation. The potatoes are tender (not soggy) and the sauce is hearty and earthy, conjuring up notes of onions and tomatoes.

 

Next is the Tandoori Chicken, which—again for the untutored—is the oft-cited signature dish of many Indian eateries. Marinated in yogurt and spices, cooked in a Tandoori clay oven from which the dish gets its name, Delhi Palace’s version here is top-notch. It’s beautiful to look at; a deep red color, with crispy bits of skin providing hints of the tender flesh beneath. Grab one—nay, two—pieces of Naan and stand back. This bird will not disappoint. 

 

Just to be a completist, we also try the Vegetable Pakoras, which are essentially deep-fried vegetable (cauliflower and seven others) fritters. Yeah, your cardiologist won’t approve, but once you drizzle some of the cilantro chutney on these bad boys, it’s hello saturated fat time, goodbye appetite.

 

What’s the cherry on top? This buffet comes with a dessert. Your choice of Kheer, a rice pudding that reminds me of my abuelita’s arroz con leche, or Gulab Jamun, balls made of milk cream in a light syrup. Bliss, pure bliss.

 

Sorry, Punjab Palace.

 

Delhi Palace Cuisine of India, 2001 Diners Ct., San Bernardino, (909) 884-9966. Open seven days a week, 11:30AM-3PM (lunch), 5-10PM (dinner). Buffet is $7.95 weekdays, $8.95 weekends. AE, D, MC, V.


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