6711 Airport Highway, Holland, Ohio 4528
***** – Five Stars (out of 5)
Indian restaurants in the United States tend to fall into one of four main categories. The largest category serves a pan-Indian cuisine that, while not associated with any particular region of India, has become the de facto standard — samosas, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, etc. The next largest, and growing, category is the first category’s poor relation — pan-Indian food as fast food. The third category, high-end, creative Indian food, sometimes focusing on a particular region, is also growing, but remains a small segment of the market, primarily focused in a few major urban areas. The fourth is vegetarian.
The Jewel is an exquisite example of the first category. It follows the standard form of an American Indian restaurant, and it does it very, very well. The lamb masala (prepared the same as the chicken tikka masala) is excellent. It omits the large dose of cream that carries most masalas (and makes it a guilty pleasure), but replaces it with a rich, flavorful sauce that is every bit as satisfying. The lamb itself is both tender and flavorful, while the peas maintain a toothsomeness that conveys the freshness of the preparation. The baigan aloo — a vegetarian dish of eggplant and potato — is also fresh and rich, with the soulful taste of roasted eggplant coming through. (The waitress helpfully recommended this dish over the baigan bhartha, a roasted eggplant preparation with a different sauce.)
A highlight of the meal is the Indian breads — order at least one, preferably two. Both the poori and garlic nan are excellent. Samosas, a standard appetizer, vary little from other Indian restaurants, although they are perhaps a bit less doughy than some, and come with a pleasant, though not challenging green sauce. The aloo poori appetizer, however, is quite interesting — a salad of crispy flour chips (a bit like the fried noodles sometimes placed on the table in Chinese restaurants), “ceci beans” (chick peas), and potatoes, with a yogurt-mango dressing that is simultaneously tangy and fruity. (Dinner also includes a fairly ordinary green salad and papadoms.)
Like the food, the decor is Indian restaurant standard, but nicely done, with a few Indian statues scattered throughout. (The outside is thoroughly nondescript, as suggested by the Airport Highway locale.) The chairs are unusual for a restaurant, as they are annoyingly low and on wheels, but they do seem well made and would actually be quite comfortable but for their height.
Service was pleasant and, as noted, helpful. I am aware of complaints concerning slow service, but this was not a problem when we were there (although the restaurant was not crowded).
Finally, there’s the cost. Two appetizers, two main courses, two extra breads, two extra side dishes (raitha (yogurt dip) and mango pickle), and two sodas came to only about $43, plus tip, and left large quantities of leftovers for tomorrow. A frugal couple could easily have an excellent $30 dinner by avoiding some of the accoutrements. Just as Mancy’s Bluewater was downgraded a star for being too expensive for what it is, the Jewel is awarded an extra star for being an excellent value. I’d come back, and give it four stars, even if it cost 50% more — or more — but the Jewel as it is is a true, five-star jewel.