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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Restaurant review: Indian Jewel of Toledo***

When I was growing up, my mother frequently would say to always take a book, so you have something productive to do when you had to wait. If this advice applies to The Indian Jewel of Toledo, then take War and Peace.

The wait is that long.

Our dinner companions, who frequent the little restaurant on the busy stretch of Airport Highway across from Spring Meadows, said this is a consistent pitfall of the otherwise very good restaurant.

That said, the opposite is true of the lunch buffet, which was not only fresh and hot, but extraordinarily fast. I hadn t even sat down when the amiable waitress took my drink order and waved to the buffet. My Masala Chai, a creamy tea redolent with sweet spices was served piping hot moments later. The stylish interior and music was a relaxing midday respite that took less than half an hour from the time I sat down until I paid my bill.

The lunch buffet ($12.95) rivaled the restaurant s dinner selections, with a few unexpected surprises, like the Dosa s, thin crepes filled with curried potato. The buffet also allowed a bit more adventure to sample some less familiar dishes. The real stars were the Keema Motter with ground lamb and sweet and savory spices; Chili Chicken, which lived up to its fiery moniker; and Phirni, a classic Indian thin rice pudding with pistachio and cardamom.

The Curry Chicken was rich and fragrant and the Cabbage Masala was reminiscent of Hungarian cabbage dishes with tomato and a sweet spicy punch. The Sag Paneer, with spinach and cheese was tasty but a little oily. Aside from the buffet, selections from their dinner menu are also available for lunch.

Dinner started with Papadoms brought to the table to snack on with a spicy onion relish and an exceedingly sweet red sauce. A large and useful water pitcher was consistently filled and the salad that came about a half an hour after ordering was excellent, with a flavorful and light dressing. We ordered Pakoras ($2.25) and Samosas ($2.25) to start with. The Pakoras, grated vegetable fritters, were crispy and light but slightly oily. The Samosas were delectable, filled with curried potatoes, peas and lentils, and a crisp and flaky exterior.

Indian breads are a study in extremes, from simple Naan ($2.00,) a light puffed bread baked in a Tandoori oven; to the hearty Stuffed Paratha ($2.75) filled with potatoes and curry, practically a meal in itself. Both were nicely done. The Naan was smoky and light, and the Paratha was buttery, golden, and crisp.

In spite of the extraordinarily long wait, our main entrees were all well prepared, and surprisingly generous, served in copper pots heated by candles. The Jewel Biriyani ($10.95,) is an Indian fried rice with spices, golden raisins and big chunks of tender chicken and large prawns. I enjoyed it, but others found it somewhat oily.

The Chicken Korma ($10.95) and the Chicken Masala ($11.50) both featured a creamy yogurt sauce that balanced the lush spices beautifully. The Gobi Masala, ($8.95,) a vegetarian entree with cauliflower and peas in a savory sauce, was delicious. The Murgh Makhani ($11.50) with chunks of grilled chicken and a creamy tomato sauce was very good but strayed a bit from the traditional simple dish with a cacophony of spices.

The entree that we all eyed enviably was the Mixed Grill ($14.95.) Tandoori Chicken, lamb, and shrimp were mounded high above a portion of cubed vegetables. This was heavenly for the very non-vegetarian diner. The smoky spiced meats were perfectly prepared.

Indian Jewel of Toledo is probably best suited to a romantic leisurely dinner. The cozy chairs are meant for getting comfortable. And, the warm inviting interior a considerable upgrade from their previous location on Alexis Road is the kind of place you don t mind relaxing in, with beautiful stone sculpture and attractive lighting.

But the confusing lack of employees may also be losing them customers in a competitive market unwilling to wait.



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