Hertel Avenue has a gem tucked between its many restaurants thanks to Jewel of India.
If you haven’t tried this Indian restaurant, you haven’t been a very good vegetarian. That, or maybe you “don’t like Indian food.” Vegetarian Buffalo is about to take all (non-financial) responsibility for any trip you may embark on and the amazing flavors you will discover at Jewel of India. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through this world of delicious flavors.
Backing up a little bit, most people don’t want to be vegetarian or vegan because they complain the food isn’t flavorful without a little meat to give that extra boost of fatty flavor. However, it is because of meat abstaining religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in India that Indians have been cooking without meat for centuries, and all that practice has made perfect. Instead of relying on fat to add flavor, spices and seasonings have been used to satisfy the most demanding palette. While I wouldn’t call myself an artist (perhaps I am), the artistic soul in me can’t express enough how much I appreciate the ingenuity of creating such complex flavor profiles from plants. Cooking only with spices is an under-appreciated art form. So with that in mind, venture out to Jewel of India on 1264 Hertel Avenue and together we’ll walk through some of the more mild and then adventurous dishes this restaurant has to offer.
First and foremost, I suggest trying some dishes at lunch time (very bottom of the menu). I’ve had their lunch specials to-go on several occasions and been very pleased with them. The dishes are prepared fresh and the prices are much lower while the portions are still very filling. If you have questions about what each item is, there are full descriptions on their dinner counterparts, but this might help:
- Paneer indicates a farmers cheese that holds it form during cooking
- Saag indicates a leafy green, usually spinach here in the States, but it could be any kind of cooking green
- Mater means peas
- Chana means chickpeas
- Alu indicates potatoes
That implies Chana Saag will mainly consist of chickpeas and spinach, Saag Paneer is going to be spinach and cheese, and Saag Alu will be mostly spinach and potatoes. While Saag Paneer is a fantastic dish made with a spiced yogurt sauce, personally I suggest starting with Mater Paneer which is cheese and peas in a rich curry gravy. It’s a brilliant introduction to vegetarian Indian food in the States and I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like it. The curry is definitely flavorful, but I wouldn’t call it spicy; maybe just enough to keep your tastebuds satisfied.
Another great way to try Indian food would be to sample a buffet which will provide you plenty of opportunity to try different things, and Jewel of India is no exception. I was very happy to walk in on a Monday night and the place was nearly packed with equal parts “non-Indian” and “Indian” people. A somewhat good indicator for foreign food, that means a place is authentic enough to please natives/descendants while also appealing to the palettes of non-natives/descendants, so the food should be a good Americanized mix, which means, overall, it’s just good food.
I told the server I was pescetarian and asked how the buffet was. She let me know that for that evening the first four dishes on the left were all vegetarian, all the appetizers were vegetarian, and there was a Tandoori Fish on the far right side. There was certainly plenty to eat, as she added either Naan or Garlic Naan (an Indian flatbread used to scoop up and eat food) came with the buffet. Since I choose where we were eating for the evening, I at least let my husband make the choice of either plain or garlic naan. He went for garlic. It was a good choice, but honestly, based on my previous experiences from Jewel of India, neither choice could have been wrong.
The appetizers were awesome. My personal Indian favorite, Alu Mater Samosa, is a housemade pastry filled with slightly seasoned cooked potatoes and peas. I can never get enough of samosas, but they’re complicated to make at home so I don’t have them very often. Now that I’ve tried samosas at Jewel of India, I’ll be ordering them with my to-go’s from now on! I also tried Gobi Pakora and my husband had Tofu Pakora (cauliflower and tofu dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried, so basically what we in the US could consider a fritter) which both were outstanding as they were, but I preferred to dip the cauliflower in what I believe was an onion chutney, a brown sweet relish-sauce with the slightest spicy kick to it. I’m not 100% certain what the final dark fried fritter was, perhaps the Bhajia, but it was also very yummy.
The vegetarian selections on the buffet consisted of a zucchini and green bean dish that doesn’t seem to be on the regular menu (a benefit of buffets, if you ask me), Kofta Curry (spinach, cauliflower, potatoes, onion rounds and fresh tomatoes prepared in a special yogurt sauce), and what I believe was Gobi Alu since it was mostly cauliflower cooked with potatoes in a mild ginger and spice sauce, practically a paste rather than sauce. It was all very, very good! There was rice available, but since I was just feeling vegetables, I skipped it.
Now that you have the overview from Vegetarian Buffalo, and the blessings of dozens of other people according to Urbanspoon and Yelp, head on over to Jewel of India on 1264 Hertel Ave in Buffalo NY and begin your obsession with this incredible smorgasbord of Indian food!
Check out our Jewel of India Review on Yelp here!