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Restaurant Review: Dinner at Darbar India

A good spot for the novice Indian fare diner or the well traveled palate.

Atmosphere & Ambiance

I haven't had Indian food in a long while, so an unplanned (I had wanted to go to , the new vegan restaurant, but it wasn't opened yet... check back next column) trip to in downtown was a pleasant change of pace.

The restaurant is warmly designed with linen-covered tables and booths and place settings already on the table, giving it the feel of a fine dining establishment, and dimly lit making it warm and inviting. The music in the background is easy listening Indian melodies which are reminiscent of a score to a movie, versus music for music's sake and I feel like it encourages you to be adventurous in your meal selection. When in India...

For Starters

The appetizers I chose were vegetarian Pakoras and vegetarian Samosas. Pakoras are different vegetables that are battered in chick pea flour and then fried. They are mildly spicy and seasoned and the difference from regular frying batter to chick pea batter makes them lighter. The assortment that arrived was potato, cauliflower and some unrecognizable vegetable, but all were delicious. Let the record show that this was my first cauliflower.

Next out of the kitchen were the samosas, which hands down stole the appetizer show. Shaped like a giant tulip bulb, they are pastry shells filled with potato, onion and peas. The seasoning really lets itself be known in this morsel, as the coriander and cardamom, ginger and cumin are readily apparent. The best part in eating foods laced with spices that are more fragrant than tasty is when, after you've tasted it on your tongue and swallowed, you breathe out through your nose. This is when your olfactory lobes let your taste buds know the full depth of what you just ate. And I was only drinking water, so as not to miss any flavors. The two that came on the plate were huge, so one came home with me for later.

The Main Course

Dinner itself was a little bowl of Aloo Gobi (Aloo=potatoes and gobi=cauliflower) and a little bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala (chicken that's been seasoned with yogurt and garam masala and then, traditionally, baked in a tandoor oven, served in a tomato and onion cream sauce). I make a mean chicken tikka masala, so I wanted to see how theirs stacked up and I'd never had aloo gobi, but I knew it was a pretty standard dish and wanted to try it so I could cross it off my list.

The chicken was a little disappointing – it wasn't untasty, but it wasn't impressive and the chicken was a little dry, which leads me to believe it was probably on it's reheated tour. Fresh chicken tikka masala is juicy and flavorful (and a pain to cook, because the prep seems endless), but it wasn't bad. The naan bread that came with the dish was good for dipping into the creamy tomato sauce, but it was a little underdone and kind of doughy but I let that go.

The aloo gobi was the hands down winner in the entree department, though, as it was deliciously spicy again with fragrant coriander and cilantro and once ladeled over the rice that it came with, you could let the flavors soak into it and get every last flavored drop.

Fun Fact: tumeric, also used in aloo gobi, has been shown to aid in the prevention of dementia.

A Sweet Ending

Dinner came with a complimentary dessert of gulab jamun, what the waiter called “honey balls.” It was a little dish of about a munchkin-sized fried ball in a plashet of watery honey. It had a baked custard texture to it and the honey had an extra flavor I couldn't put my finger on. It, like the chicken, wasn't bad – just simply unimpressive.

I'll Take the Check

The entire meal came to around $41 – well worth the price! And the menu is extensive, so try something new if you haven't had Indian food or go again to remind your nose what your mouth can only imagine.

Eunice Arnold November 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Darbar has a great, inexpensive week-end buffet. A wonderful way to try out different Indian dishes.
Nicole Ball November 04, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Thanks for letting the readers know Eunice. Where should Victoriaanna eat next?
Tom Grantland November 05, 2011 at 12:28 AM
The asian restuarant 209 East Main st .
jr November 05, 2011 at 03:00 AM
really good review!! chicken tikki masala , yumm... reheated tour not so yumm...gulab jamun aka "honey balls" aka stolen from Greeks.. loukomades!
jr November 05, 2011 at 03:02 AM
Have Victorianna try Ay Salsa in New Haven next!!
Nicole Ball November 05, 2011 at 11:43 AM
Let's see what V has to say! :)
Victoriaanna Adinolfi November 05, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Maybe. Never eaten there!
Victoriaanna Adinolfi November 05, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Honey balls and philosopher kings - those Greeks are handy!
Liz November 07, 2011 at 12:40 PM
I've eaten there and Miss Victoriaanna was spot on in her review - if you've never had Indian food just try those samosas and you'll be hooked! Nice to have pictures too!Can't wait to see what V has to say about G-Zen.
Nicole Ball November 07, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Hey Liz, I am so happy that you liked V's review. She's a great assest to Patch and the town is lucky to have her eating on our behalf. I too can't wait for meal #2.
Edward Fast Lazarus November 07, 2011 at 10:39 PM
We Love Darbar----- best Indian food I have had in CT EXCELLENT!!! Ed Lazarus Gillian Lazarus Branford Chamber Daughter
Victoriaanna Adinolfi May 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Just wanted to update my review of Darbar. Ate there again today and had the exact same meal as last time and everything was delicious. The chicken was tender and juicy and everything was flavorful. Good job to the staff and owner at Darbar!

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