Star of India (Etoiles des Indes)
1806 St. Catherine W. (at Guy) , 5860 Sherbrooke West
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat-Sun. 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Licensed, major cards 932-8330
Over the years I've been to several Indian restos, including Salaam Bombay, Allo Inde, Cari House, Prince des Indes and probably a couple of others, but Star of India is the one I keep coming back to.
These days we don't bother to actually eat there, although it's not a bad place for dining. (The only caveat I'd have is that the so-called "non-smoking" section upstairs actually seems to attract the smoke from below.)
It's a lot easier just to order for takeout over the phone, go pick it up and dine at one's leisure at home. It's all easily microwaveable or toaster-ovenable.
Their pappadums are incrediblesmoky and crisp, without even a hint of oil. Best I've ever had, bar none. Their onion salad is also incredible, as are their chicken curries. I don't bother with beef curries any more, as in all Indian restaurants the beef tends to be chewy and taste-free. Make sure you have some extra cilantro on hand, as they're a bit stingy with it.
Try the Madras chicken curry for some instant endorphin-producing stimulation and wash it down with a Double Diamond (my home brew of choice was Molson XXX.) Their Seekh Kebab is excellent, but their Samosas were a bit bland, as was their overcooked Aloo Peas. Reviewed by Nick Robinson
5860 Sherbrooke West
There are two branches of this Indian restaurant. One is long established at 1806 Ste-Catherine West, the other has been at this Sherbrooke street location for a couple of years.
There are several Indian restaurants on this stretch of Sherbrooke Street. Star of India stands out as unpretentious, inexpensive and delightful. This is a comfortable place in several ways. The lighting is subdued with gold and blue highlights from the napery and the wall hangings. There is a photo of Gandhi on one wall, a few Indian hangings on another and the music ranges from mild Sitar to mild Miles. The food is freshly made and exceptionally low-keyed in its flavours. Nothing too distracting for those who are not comfortable with searing curries or tons of garam masala in the dishes.
We brought a gang for a birthday party and had a wonderful time. Service was slow but the kitchen is very small and each dish gets made when it is ordered. Order a bunch and wait correspondingly long. Make sure there are a few appetizers at the front end and a steady flow of Double Diamond or wine and everything will be fine.
Fried papadams and a spicy carrot chutney were placed on the table when we sat down. Soon a mixed plate of appetizers arrived: a combination of samosas, lamb kebabs and onion bhaji. These were served with a thin mint and yogurt sauce and a sweet tomato sauce. Meanwhile one member of the party ordered dal soup and slurped it up. Another asked for a mango lassi (a sweet yogurt drink) and was happy.
A half hour later the main dishes arrived and they were worth waiting for. Excellent tandoor chicken and shrimps, a lamb curry vindaloo with extra onions as requested, a fragrant kashmiri lamb stew with almonds and plump raisins, good butter chickenslightly overcookedbut with a sauce that demanded nan for sopping, perfectly cooked basmanti riceeach grain separate, sag alloo with fresh spinach and tasty but not overly spiced potatoes, and good stewed eggplant and mushroom bhajis.
These were all flavourful. We could taste each vegetable, the lamb, the chicken; however that exciting small clash of flavours that meld in the mouth was missing. But that is my gripe with most Indian restaurants and, if given the choice between stale steam table dishes that get an extra zap of nondescript curry, and fresh food that could climb an extra notch on the flavour spectrum, I 'll gladly take the latter.
Dessert was a mixed plate of borfia coconut and condensed milk sweet meat, canned mango and freshly made but not overly sweet gulab jamun which is a light dumpling flavoured with cardamom and served in a simple syrup.
Indian teamade with milk, not waterwas fragrant and delicious.
I have had the daily specials here and been unimpressed. Cheap, filling and forgettable. On the other hand, I have been here a few times with large parties that demanded the kitchen approach each dish with singularity and been quite impressed.
The advice then is to order away from the daily menu, scope out the dishes that appeal à la carte and be assertive (extra onions, spicier than usual, etc.) Have the kitchen pay attention to the dish rather than just dishing it out.
Dinner for eight (excluding much beer, taxes and tip) was $95, and we waddled out. Reviewed by Barry Lazar