The Review Reviews: Jewel of India

The Jewel of India

The Jewel of India

On a warm, quiet Friday evening, Oral Stanfield, Pip Epiffany, and Sheriff Rick Grimes took a solemn saunter down Lebanon Street towards the staple of South Asian cuisine in Hanover, the Jewel of India. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Ignatius J. Reilly was unable to join his usual crew for their swan song of restaurant reviews; the gang observed a brief moment of silence in his absence before waltzing into the restaurant for their final review of the year.

Jewel of India, located off the beaten path in a simple white house at the east end of Hanover, writes on their website that they have been “Hanover’s favorite Indian Restaurant since 1992, family owned, featuring traditional North Indian food.” Also of note are their take-out, catering, and three-mile-range delivery service (“Subject to some fairly extensive delivery times,” Oral critiques), and their 10% discount for students. Upon entrance, the smaller-than-usual gang is immediately herded into a cramped corner embellished with an assortment of restaurant awards; the plaques set the bar relatively high for the 24-karat establishment. Even before the gang sits down, the expectations are elevated and appetites are whetted for the meal to come.

With relative rapidity, the fleet-footed matron of Jewel greets the group and shows them to their table for four, tucked away in a corner. Given the restaurant’s local popularity, the room is quite cramped; it is difficult to move between tables, and quite easy to pick up on the conversation of others, such as the ’16 across the room loudly boasting about his summer internship. It is crowded enough to bring a native of Delhi back to his or her childhood. Ignatius’s chair left empty in memoriam, the gang pours their water from the inconveniently small pitcher and begins the standard deliberations. The Sheriff reminisces fondly on his trip to Goa many years ago, and resolves that the gang must order some of his beloved vegetable pakora (“assorted vegetable fritters gently seasoned and deep fried,” $2.95). For the sake of diversity, they also settle on a variety plate, the House Special Platter (“a fine presentation of our choice appetizers, recommended for two,” $8.95). Pip and Oral opt for an additional taste of India: Kingfisher Premium Lager, apparently a staple among Indian cricket fandom. Naturally, the Sheriff is on duty and unable to consume alcohol.

The appetizers arrive with relative haste, only a few minutes after the order was placed. Sheriff Grimes immediately dives into his beloved pakora, while Pip and Oral begin with the variety plate. Of note are the “Big Fried Balls,” large dumplings packed to the brim with steamy carbohydrates, which are later discovered to be vegetable samosas—crisp turnovers stuffed with delicately spiced potatoes, peas, and herbs. Oral devours his Big Fried Ball eagerly, pouring on some of the accompanying chutney, of which there were three varieties: the soothing purplish-brown one (a sort of sweet date sauce), the refreshing cool green one (minty yet spicy), and the really-goddam-dangerous hot red one (an oniony, bowel-rupturing conflagration). Pip is quite pleased with a fried slice of paneer cheese, and the Sheriff also enjoys a Big Fried Ball. Within only a few minutes, the gang is struggling to clean the plates; Oral remarks that he is perilously close to waltzing over to the gentlemen’s room and pulling his trigger. Soon, however, the Sheriff nabs his last bite of pakora, and the first battle is finished.

Oral runs to the bathroom soon after the plates are clear: “A standard emergency,” he claims. Upon his inexplicable return from the women’s restroom, Pip and Rick find him slightly exasperated as he launches into a progressive tirade. “All single bathrooms should be unisex,” he claims. “This cis-gender-normative restaurant makes bathroom wait times unbearable. Why can’t all bathrooms just be gender-inclusive? I am tired of standing impatiently for the men’s room to open while there’s a perfectly good women’s restroom right next door, which I can enter, lock the door behind myself, and enjoy the comfort of the single bathroom. Furthermore, I find it troubling that gender is considered a binary and not a spectrum in Jewel of India. That said, the restroom smelled fantastic.”

The minutes begin to drag on, dulled by the disappointing absence of the Kingfishers. The gang laments the vicious floods currently ravaging the great city of Dallas. Pip and Oral mock the Sheriff for his admiration of Cersei Lannister, a character in HBO’s Game of Thrones. “She’s got a great personality,” Grimes claims; Oral finds other aspects of the Queen Mother appealing. As the gang’s waitress passes, Oral raises his hand to call for the Kingfishers; without further ado, the beers are carefully presented to the eligible two. “Light and smooth, barley and hops well balanced,” Pip remarks. “Carbonated, presumably fermented…” “It tastes like the shade of a Banyan tree on an oppressively hot Bombay afternoon,” Oral continues.

Conversation lightens in the presence of the Kingfishers. After only a few more minutes, the couple next to the group simply gets up and leaves; apparently, the man with the painted fingernails was equally unimpressed with Jewel’s slow service. The Sheriff flashes his badge as he lunges for the now-vacant table’s water pitcher; his thirst quenched, the gang rejoices in refreshment. Now slightly more relaxed, the restaurant’s atmosphere begins to coalesce around them. The walls are lined with concerning risqué Indian artworks, which Oral believes to depict the legendary Kama Sutra; given that there is a family with young children just a table over, the Sheriff drapes a black cloth over the obscenity, an act of censorship Pip finds objectionable. Additionally, the characteristically choppy cadence of Mandarin Chinese wafts across the restaurant; apparently, Hanover’s East Asian population finds the local South Asian cuisine just as appealing as the lilywhite gang does.

Finally, after a long and exhausting wait, the matron rounds the corner with a tray full of the gang’s entrees. Despite Oral’s persistent efforts to procure a beef entrée (a faux pas in Indian cuisine), and avoiding seafood in consideration of the prior day’s electrical blackout and the Jewel of India’s lack of proximity to a source of swordfish, the gang had selected a variety of chicken and lamb dishes.

Before diving into the details of these expertly prepared courses, it is important to first step back and admire the fundamentals of Indian cuisine: rice and naan. Accompanying the gang’s meat-based dishes is a bowl of traditional basmati rice. Unlike many inauthentic Indian rices, Jewel has perfected the preparation of India’s loose and grainy staple of life. The towering bowl of fluffy whiteness makes the gang reminisce on their first journey together to Mount Everest (a.k.a. Base Camp Café) many moons ago. For the naan side dish, the gang selects a garlic flavoring from over a dozen options of the Indian pita-like bread. While these accompaniments are vital to a holistic Indian dining experience, the true brunt of the meal lies in the meat dishes.

The mango chicken (“boneless chicken cooked with mango, ginger and garlic sauce,” $11.95) is served in an elliptical bowl and swims in a sweet sauce; this traditional dish offers the gang a welcomed deviation from the otherwise hot and spicy meal. The chicken is warm, tender, and complemented by a perfectly paired mango, diced into pellets small enough to consume or simply let sit and soak in the sauce’s delectable flavor. Oral is not a fan of this dish, citing its overall low quality as a contributing factor; the Sheriff, on the other hand, admires what he deems a successful fusion of sugar, spice, and everything nice.

Following closely behind the mango chicken, a lamb boti kebab masala (“tandoor broiled lamb sautéed in our special exquisite curry to gastronomic satisfaction,” $13.95) lives up to its bombastic menu description. This creamy delicacy offers a chewy twist on traditional lamb dishes, shrewdly using spices to accentuate, but not overshadow, the lamb’s natural juices.

Finally, the gang’s last entrée is chicken jalferezi (“tender, boneless chicken cooked with spring onions, tomato and bell peppers,” $10.95). Complementing the earlier chicken dish well, this tender bird is bathed in a savory sauce of spiced and steamed veggies, and is far and away the crowd favorite among the gang. The roasted bird could barely contain the juices dripping from every flavorful bite. “Truly forward-thinking,” Oral remarks, a smile crossing his face. Crisp onions and tart peppers also played an integral role in the success of this culinary achievement. The gang even makes a sincere recommendation of the jalferezi to a nearby couple struggling to decide on an order. The couple proceeds to order the dish and proclaim their profound satisfaction: another victory for The Dartmouth Review. The dish is certainly a top contender for every subsequent Jewel order the gang might place.

A familiar gloom creeps into the mouths and stomachs of the gang as yet another Review Reviews draws to a close. This may have been the last bite of the year, but rest assured, dear readers: the Review will return in the fall to offer exiting and unique critiques and reviews of the cuisines in and around Hanover. Until then, bon appétit!