Chand Palace (of Indian Treasures)
I take Indian food very, very seriously. And when a craving hits, it only makes sense to go to the motherland: Parc-Ex. I've been a long-time fan of Bombay Mahal, host of my first true experience, but I like to keep my options open. Chand Palace, formerly known as Curry & Naan, is actually right across the street and has proven to be a reliable spot to get it on. It's tiny, but good things really do come in small packages.
First up, a complimentary basket of fresh Papadums - fried crackers-like crisps with an Indian flair. They're thin, brittle, and seasoned with plenty of salt and spices. Dunk it in the coriander sauce for a tongue burning kick.
Hot damn, they make a killer Bhindi Masala ($7.49). Some of you might have doubts about Okra, but it's the bomb diggity as the star ingredient. The tartness of the tomatoes helps downplay the sliminess that turns people off, while adding color to the dish. Sautéed onions almost caramelize, releasing deep flavors with a sweetness that tries to soothe the spice, but the heat persists in a really pleasant way. There's a lot of oil, but let's face it, most delicious things are cooked in a pool of it. Focus on the positive - you're getting your vegetables and they're...toooooo good.
On a previous occasion, the Palak Paneer ($6.99) was uncharacteristically sour, but it came through for me this time around. Creamed spinach and paneer cheese make a fab duo, the backbone of spices not to be overlooked of course. Texturally, it's a bowl of mush, but the soft cubes of cheese manage to stay intact. The heat is less pronounced, but think of it as a time-out for your taste buds. Not hard to understand why it's so popular.
The Lamb Curry is a good bet. It's also a nice change of pace from cream-heavy dishes. Expect tender chunks of lamb bathing in a savory reduction of tomatoes and spices with a fiery personality. If I'm looking to criticize, the ratio of meat to sauce is way off, and it's not in favor of the lamb. I swear there's like 6 small pieces drowning in there, but I guess that's what I get for the low price of $7.99. On the bright side, there's lots of sauce left for the Naan.
Butter Chicken is a go-to for most, but I get Chicken Korma ($7.99) when I want to take things to a creamier level. Again, they're stingy with meat, but at least the chicken is moist. The orange sauce is smooth and dominantly sweet, the cream trumping the tartness of the tomatoes, and it's not even close to spicy. Rich and delicious, it's an easy to love wonder sure to please the pickiest of eaters.
There's no need for Biryani when ordering an array of saucy dishes. Trust me, the best way for rich curries to shine is to pair them with plain Basmati Rice ($1.99). The long grains soak up all the flavors, never distracting from the main focus, while adding substance to the meal.
And never ever go without Naan ($1.25/each), an oven-baked flatbread that puts your hands to good use. Warm, fluffy and spotted with small burns, rip, dip, pinch and mop your plate clean with it. Genius creation. Wonderfully made. I can never stop at one.
One last thing. If you want to get a little bit of everything without paying for several plates you won't finish, go with a Thali. It's basically a compartmentalized tray filled with all the essentials: 3 mains that depend on whether you go vegetarian or not, basmati rice, naan, papadum and salad. At $6-9, it's notably cheap for a sizeable meal. Good for lunch, dinner too.
I have one word for Chand Palace, love. Friendly faces serving delicious fare at mind-blastingly low prices just makes my heart swell and stomach smile. It's as simple as that.
N.B. Closed Monday
989 rue Jean-Talon Ouest | map