El Paso, TX
India Palace is an outgrowth of a former restaurant, Delhi Palace, that was located on Airway Boulevard in the 1990’s. Delhi Palace was part of a successful chain of northern Indian restaurants around the Southwest, with locations in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Albuquerque. Delhi Palace was one of my introductions to Indian food, and except for the overuse of garlic I cannot think of a single aspect of the former restaurant I did not like. While India Palace has different owners and is not part of the chain, many of the former cooks and employees moved to the new restaurant and brought the same flavors and cooking style with them.
Northern Indian food is quite popular in the United States, being less spicy than dishes from the southern part of the Indian sub-continent and having most of the dishes that are familiar to Americans. My main problem with India Palace over the years has been that the food tended to be less spicy than I think is the case at most northern Indian style restaurants. This has been less true starting around 2019 at a time when most of the ethnic restaurants in the city seemed to realize that they do not have to cater as much to “American” tastes and that they can be successful being authentic. Still, though, there have been some dishes where I thought it helped to order something like a mango pickle in order to spice things up a little.
To me a major appeal of Indian restaurants is that a vegetarian meal can be ordered that is just as delicious as ones with meat, and probably more healthy. I would classify the vegetarian selection at India Palace as medium–there are more selections than I find in many other restaurants but not as many as I found on the west coast. If all the vegetarian selections were are good as the two or three that I usually order I would be quite happy, but my satisfaction has varied quite a bit depending on what I have ordered.
There are some things, though, that I need to explain to readers about India Palace: (1) I have seen several improvements in the restaurant since 2019, (2) I have not tried every dish on the menu since 2019 so some may be better than is reflected by this review, (3) items tried from the buffet are still not always as good as when I order them from the menu, and (4) the restaurant itself may be in a little bit of flux because of the pandemic so I am not sure what is their “new normal.”
The Chana Masala, a chickpea dish with tomato sauce, is one of the dishes I have found to be consistently good. Since I frequently order this dish in other cities I would say that the one here does not have quite as many vibrant spices and flavors as I find elsewhere. However, I like the fact that the chickpeas and the tomato sauce are fresh, and I really do not know how they could do it much better in terms of the basic ingredients. I am not sure how satisfying this would be to a meat lover, but for someone who prefers non-meat items whenever possible, the chana masala makes a great meal. Note: this is the main item I have ordered since 2019 and I now find the spice level to be very good as well as the flavor.
Aloo Matar is a dish of potatoes and peas in a tomato sauce that always seems to be good. I do not care much for the idea of eating two carbohydrates together (potatoes and rice), but with the peas and tomato sauce it ends up being a fairly balanced meal. I do not know anywhere else in El Paso where you can get this quantity of peas for a meal unless you go to a cafeteria, and for me a meal there would not be anywhere near as flavorful as at India Palace. India Palace has replaced the cafeterias as one of my “go to” places when I am hungry for vegetables, and the aloo matar is definitely one of the better dishes.
For me the Mixed Vegetables came with a rather boring selection of vegetables, being dominated by potatoes and carrots, but everything tasted fresh and not as if it came from the frozen food section of the grocery store. The sauce was more than delicious enough to make up for the unexciting vegetables, though.
Vegetable Korma (vegetables and nuts in a cream sauce with curry) no longer appears on the menu, but it was probably my favorite entrée during the first decade of the 2000’s. The sauce was rich but not too heavy on the cream and there was a good selection of vegetables. Like many of my favorite vegetable dishes at India Palace, there was a generous amount of peas. The sauce seemed to be a bit more flavorful than with the chana masala (but I went with chana masala for my favorite vegetables).
One item available on the current menu is Navratan Korma, a dish of mixed vegetables in a creamy sauce. I thought it had a very good flavor and aroma, but I do not think peas are included in the vegetable selection (I expect, though, that it is possible to ask the restaurant to add them). One thing I liked about this dish is that it had a medium spice–enough that I felt that I was getting more of the traditional Indian flavor. An increase in the spice level is something I have noticed on several of my recent visits.
Malai Kofta is another good vegetarian dish with “fresh vegetables cooked in grain flour batter and deep fried in creamy and onion sauce,” according to the menu’s description. I should point out that the vegetables have always tasted fresh to me when the menu says they are fresh, and I think this is one of the best features of India Palace compared to other Indian restaurants, especially ones that do not serve a lot of vegetarian orders. The deep fried vegetables in the malai kofta have a texture and flavor somewhat like meatballs, and this is probably one of the things that makes it appealing as a vegetarian dish. I like the fried vegetables, but what I like less is the sauce that I think is a bit too creamy. Everyone will have their own taste, but I prefer the navratan korma that is maybe not quite as creamy as the malai kofta.
The vegetarian dinner is a good way to sample some of India Palace’s best dishes, and get naan, a drink, and dessert thrown in at no extra cost. Mine had Palak Paneer, but they now serve it with saag paneer (both are spinach dishes). Two other main dishes are served, Vegetable Korma and Daal (made with lentils). As I find with combination plates or thali in most Indian restaurants, the individual items do not all have to be my favorites in order for the combination of them to be good. In the case of India Palace each item was good (the vegetable korma was my favorite) and the plate as a whole was good. I think this is one of the best deals at the restaurant (a combination meat plate is also available).
India Palace has a complete section on the menu for Biryani dishes, made with aromatic basmati rice. Although this was not my favorite in terms of flavor, the quality was equal to the other dishes served at India Palace.
Vegetable Soup had been one of my favorite dishes at Delhi Palace. The employees who used to work at Delhi Palace brought the recipe for the soup with them, and I find it to be one of the most flavorful dishes now served at India Palace. The problem with it is that it is not really large enough to make a meal by itself, and I find it too filling and too expensive to order along with an entrée. For something that is flavorful and healthy, though, it is hard to beat. The soup is tomato based, but like many good tomato dishes it becomes much more when they add the herbs and spices that go along with the vegetables.
Dal Soup is another choice if you want a very light meal. The one pictured was one that a friend ordered and had as a main dish (along with some naan).
The Rice served with all meals is quite flavorful, with herbs and spices that enhance just about any meal with which they are consumed. After trying several Indian restaurants in other cities, I began to really appreciate the Basmati rice served with all plates at India Palace. Most of the rice I find is predominantly white and largely flavorless, but this one is colorful and almost good enough to be eaten by itself (India Palace does in fact offer a Basmati rice pilaf as a plate or the plain Basmati rice as a side dish).
Several types of Naan are available, but all are at an extra price (the exception is the “Complete Dinner” which is either a vegetarian or meat thali style sampler plate or the lunch buffet). The Plain Naan is very fresh and in my opinion is worth ordering. The Cheese Naan has been very good at times, but greasy at other times.
The lunch buffet has definite advantages and disadvantages over ordering from the menu. One advantage is that you usually get to sample some of India Palace’s more expensive dishes (in the photo above it is the chicken makhani). They also sometimes prepare dishes that are not even listed on the menu (there are two of these in the above photo–mushroom bhuna and peas pallao). The cost of the buffet is also one of its advantages, especially considering that naan and dessert are included.
I think the main disadvantage of the buffet is that most of the dishes are not very spicy, and I think this also affects the flavor (it seems that Indian food is meant to be spicy in order for the full flavor to come out). I think there is always at least one item, though, that is spicier than the others.
The Chicken Tikka Masala usually seems to be served on the lunch buffet, and is probably one of the best items. This is a boneless Tandoori chicken cooked with a tomato and butter gravy. The mild spices make it taste much like barbecue chicken, and the Tandoori style of cooking over mesquite charcoal can make this a good alternative to heading toward your favorite “cue” joint.
To my way of thinking an authentic Indian restaurant would never serve beef, but India Palace does offer several beef dishes (this is probably logical for a restaurant in Texas).
I have to agree with a Yelp reviewer who noted that the food on the buffet is not spicy and that it could be more traditional, in saying “Not a bad experience, just not completely satisfied.” I do think ordering from the menu is usually more satisfying if I want to order a certain dish, but the buffet is satisfying for the price and especially when compared to many of the other choices available in El Paso restaurants.
The Indian Chai is one of the best I have tried, and one free refill is given. This is a creamy flavorful tea spiced with cinnamon that I think goes well with just about everything served at the restaurant. It is quite strong, though, and when consumed in the evening would probably be suitable for keeping students awake for any type of late night study.
Several types of yogurt lassi drinks and fruit drinks are available for those who would rather have a cold beverage. The Mango Lassi I tried had a creamy flavor from the yogurt but the fruit flavor was dominant, and was very good. I like these drinks because they are not as sweet as Mexican or most other fruit drinks.
India Palace is near the top of my list of El Paso restaurants in terms of providing good, healthy food that provides a satisfying meal. I wish it were a little less expensive, but it is really not bad compared to trying to get the same amount of fresh vegetables and nutritious ingredients at other restaurants.
I have been coming to India Palace for a number of years, and I think they now (in 2019) have a different cook because of the fact that some of the food seems more flavorful and spicier than in the past. I have especially noticed an improvement with the chana masala and the naan. On my older web site I had given a three-star rating to certain items including daal turka, mushroom bhaji, and mushroom masala. I would like to try them again because everything I have eaten recently has been either four or five stars on my rating scale, and I think some of these other items may be at the point that I would want to upgrade my score.
Recently they have bumped up the default spice level for some of the menu items, but I do not think it has carried over to the buffet.
The owners of India Palace also operate the R.V. International Grocery at 4700 N. Mesa, where many Indian and other types of International food can be purchased. I think I have eaten many more of the frozen dinners from R.V. than the meals from the restaurant, and for the frozen dinners the spice level is definitely up to my desired level (although of course the flavor of the food in the restaurant is much better). I especially recommend the almond cookies from R.V. Grocery.
Update 2021: The menu and the hours may have changed somewhat. The food I have sampled so far, though, still reflects the improvements I noticed in 2019.
Hours: Closed Sun. evening, closed Mon., and closed from 2:30 to 5:00 pm
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer and Wine
Most Recent Visit: Apr. 16, 2021
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Chana Masala, Vegetable Soup, Matar Paneer, Chai
|Chicken Tikka Masala|