Tucked off the intersection of Broad and South Street sits an Indian restaurant cooking up family recipes from scratch.
When you say a restaurant is a hidden gem, it typically means it’s a place not many people know about, whose reputation does not do it’s food justice. In this case all of that remains true, though perhaps even more so in the fact that Jewel of India is not so easy to find. It’s not a restaurant you’d see walking around the streets of downtown. It takes a bit of seeking out. Though I think the journey makes the gem all the more precious, does it not?
We arrived for dinner at Jewel of India, met with an unfussy dining room and comfy booths. A wave of spice hits you as you walk in the door. It’s the kind of smell that makes you go, “This food is going to be GOOD.”
Jewel of India is a family-owned restaurant, cooking up family recipes. When I say everything is made in house — I mean everything. Yogurt, sauces, paneer (a type of cheese), all of the roti (breads), curry and spice blends — it’s all handcrafted according to family recipes. Not only does the time, dedication and care shine through in the food, but it’s atmospheric. This is a homecooked, made-with-love meal that happens to be served in a restaurant.
The meal starts with Papadum, a traditional type of crispy bread dotted with cumin seeds. Enjoy them with the provided sauces, a spiced cilantro sauce and a sweeter sauce tinged with molasses.
Appetizers include Samosas as big as your fist, a platter of Onion Bhaji (a kind of onion fritter), and chicken pakora spiced with ginger and garlic paste. The Samosas are more than generous in size, filled with peas and potatoes. The onion bhaji are fried in sunflower oil, rendering them deliciously crispy without being heavy. No canola oil is used here, and Jewel of India’s emphasis on quality ingredients is a commitment you can taste.
For entrees the options are extensive, but the menu doesn’t feel overwhelming in size. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and the cooks are accommodating to any dietary needs you may have. Jewel of India uses a housemade almond, pistachio, and cashew cream base for their cooking so dairy dishes can be easily made dairy-free. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are cooked separately from meat dishes, ensuring utmost purity in every meal.
I enjoyed the Bengan Bhartha entree, fresh eggplant roasted in the tandoor over charcoal and then cooked curry style with fresh tomatoes. The depth of flavor, the layering of spices created in each dish is a cornerstone of great Indian cuisine, one Jewel of India executes with ease.
Now, I must say when we saw the small size of the entree bowls, we both thought, “That’s not very much.” I promise you, neither of us were able to finish our entrees. Don’t doubt their small size, the flavor is mighty and extremely filling! Order a side (or two) of naan to enjoy with your meal. Choose from butter naan, garlic naan, or my personal favorite, jalapeno naan.
The Pickle Tray is essential with every meal, including a chutney that can vary seasonally (we enjoyed the Sweet Lemon chutney) and a type of pickle relish, finely minced pickled vegetables that are at once bitter, savory and a hint sweet.
For dessert, try Kheer, basmati rice cooked with sweet milk, cream, nuts and raisins or Gulab Jamun, freshly made savory cheese balls, deep-fried to a rosy brown in purified butter and gently cooked in light, rose flavored syrup. Only sugar in the raw is used in desserts, no overly processed white sugar.
Truly, the only negative I have to offer is the fact that I didn’t visit Jewel of India sooner. Since every aspect of your meal is house-made, expect to spend some time at the restaurant. By no means is this a “quick dinner” spot. Instead, it’s a go-slow, try new things, and take time to savor type of restaurant. Serving up perhaps the best Indian food on the Central Coast, I believe Jewel of India is well worth the wait.