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It’s all in the sauce

Submitted by Jennifer Ellis on October 15, 2010 – 9:36 amNo Comment

Star of India's chicken shahi korma and saag paneer are served with rice. Don't forget the naan for dipping! Photo by Jennifer Ellis

“If I was Gandhi I’d say @*%# a hunger strike,” my hubby said about four bites into dinner at Star of India in Little Rock. Yeah, yeah, that’s my occasionally profane funny guy for ya.

Located at 301 N. Shackleford Road, in the shopping center behind Famous Dave’s, Star of India is one of only three Indian restaurants in Arkansas and my newly appointed favorite place to eat.

I know most people think spicy when they think of Indian food, but if you’re not big on spicy don’t let it deter you. I found the spice factor mild, which allowed the depth of flavor to shine through.

But if you’re into spicy, Star of India is happy to kick it up.  I overheard Sami Lal, the owner and self- proclaimed humble servant of our dining experience tell the people seated next to us, “I can make your mouth feel like fire if you want.” Lal and his staff were very attentive, made excellent suggestions and truly did make us feel like they were happy to serve us.

We ordered a variety items from the menu; it was far more than we could eat in one sitting, but I was grateful for the reminder of our delicious meal eating the leftovers the next day.

We started with the assorted hors d’oeurvres for $5.95; it was a basket of fried goodness.  My favorite appetizer was the vegetable samosa, which is a fried patty with seasoned potatoes and peas inside. After all the fried foods the kachumbar salad for $2.50 with cucumber, tomatoes and green peppers in tangy spices was a refreshing palate cleanser.  

For me, the most wonderful thing about Indian food is the sauce. At most restaurants I inevitably ask for more sauce, but at Star of India that’s not even necessary. It’s sauce heaven!

The naan bread is served at least five different ways: pershwari (stuffed with herbs, nuts and fruits), keema (stuffed with spiced ground lamb), garlic, spinach and plain. The plain naan is my favorite; it’s soft, fresh and perfect for dipping and sopping up all the creamy sauces.

My husband is the seafood fan in the family. He or dered the seafood curry for $12.50, which he said he could eat every day.

I have to admit that even though I am not normally a big seafood fan I thought the description, “fish and shrimp prepared delicately in a heavenly curry sauce,” was accurate.

We ordered chicken shahi korma for $11.95 per Lal’s recommendation. Korma refers to a creamy sauce that is thickened with ground nuts, almonds in this case. I couldn’t have been more pleased with his suggestion.

Lal also recommended the vegetarian dish saag paneer for $8.95. Paneer is a homemade cheese with a consistency similar to tofu; the cheese is cut into chucks and served in creamed spinach. It’s so tasty that it would make a spinach lover out of Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto.

Last but not least, we tried the fiery red-colored tandoori chicken for $8.50. It was marinated in yogurt, garlic and a special blend of herbs and then cooked in a tandoor (clay oven) giving the chicken a charbroiled barbecue flavor.  The two legs with thighs attached were served with grilled onions and peppers.

We were both stuffed and excited to pack up our leftovers, but for a touch of sweetness to end of our meal, we ordered the kulfi for $3.25, an Indian ice cream with pistachios and cardamoms.

I was somewhat disappointed with the look of the two small plastic cups filled with the frozen mixture, but what it lacked in presentation it made up for in flavor. The ground pistachios made for a somewhat gritty texture, but the spices reminded me of one of my favorite drinks, an iced chai tea latte.

If you’re like us and looking for variety in your exotic culinary experience you don’t have to go overboard like we did. Star of India offers a chef’s special for $21.95 and the vegetarian delight for $13.50. Each will give you a nice tasting of various Indian favorites.

Star of India also offers a lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Monday through Friday for $6.99 as well as on Saturday and Sunday for $8.99.

For the same price as a meal from Sudexo you can experience home-style Indian cooking.

We’ve already been back for the Friday lunch buffet. It’s well worth the drive to Shackleford.

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