If you have been following my posts over the past few years, you’ll know that I love a good lunch special. I like that it gives you the opportunity to try a restaurant and its offerings at what is usually a fraction of the cost of dinner and that the portions are usually the perfect (and reasonable) size. It’s a bonus if a restaurant continues their weekly lunch specials into the weekend.
One of my favourite places to grab lunch during the work week or even on a Saturday is Darbar Exotic India Cuisine. “Darbar” is named after the central meeting place in the Royal Palaces of India where royal guests were entertained and fed Indian delicacies. I’m not quite sure how long the family-run restaurant has been open in Kingston, but there is an advertisement from The Whig Standard circa 1997, so it’s safe to say that it’s very established on the food scene and that friends and families have gathered and feasted there for over a decade.
Although it’s in on a bit of an awkward stretch of Princess (close to the University St. intersection), a few blocks up from The Hub, the restaurant brings in a steady lunch crowd and is packed on Friday and Saturday evenings in addition to a busy take out business.
The restaurant is decorated from ceiling to floor with wallpaper, murals and art, rich in bright colours and design. While the decor is a bit tired in some places, it is all a welcome escape from the uninspiring view outside.
The menu is vast, including all of your favourite Indian dishes and a selection of special curries. However, Indian food, while absolutely delicious, can be quite pricey often due to its difficult preparation. A dinner for two can cost anywhere from $40-60 depending on what dishes you order, so lunch is often a more cost effective option.
Darbar has lunch specials ranging from $7.99-$10.50 every day of the week except Sunday. You can chose from a variety of dishes: vegetarian curry, chicken korma, aloo gosht (beef), lamb and mushroom, or shrimp and salmon bhoona – all which come with soup, salad, rice and dessert. What a steal!
Visiting this past Saturday, I opted for chicken korma and Curtis tried the lamb and mushroom curry. First up was the mulligatawny soup. One of my favourite dishes of Indian cuisine, mulligatawny meaning “pepper water” is a curry spiced Anglo-Indian soup that can be made in a variety of ways. Darbar’s has a bit more of a thinner broth (it is usually thickened with lentils) than I am used to, but the flavour is fresh, rich and spicy. The soup is both peppery and citrusy and the fresh coriander adds a punch.
Our mains arrived next and were steaming hot. The korma is a mild curry cooked with cream, almond and coconut. It is sweet, creamy and delicious, but quite an indulgence, so I don’t have it too often. The chicken, cooked right in the sauce, was tender and abundant. I recommend trying this dish if you are a first timer to Indian food. Like butter chicken, it’s a gateway curry that most people will love.
The lamb and mushroom curry was a delightful combination of texture and taste. Since all curry dishes are made-to-order, Darbar is happy to adjust the level of heat to your liking. Curtis asked for hot and found the heat to be in harmony with the flavour—complementing it without overpowering the tender lamb and mushrooms and fresh spices.
The salad is really the only disappointing part of the meal. Made from tasteless iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots with a dab of French dressing, it really only acts as a light filler. Some patrons, including my own vegetable-phobic partner, even opt to not have it (he swears you get more rice this way)!
The naan was fluffy and chewy and a perfect complement for a meal on your own or to share. It works as an appetizer, but the real benefit of naan is that it allows you to get every drop of delicious sauce without succumbing to licking your plate…so save some naan for the end!
If mulligatawny soup, salad, rice and entrée isn’t enough to satisfy you, Darbar even brings desert! You have to give them credit for working hard for your dining enjoyment, bringing so many courses even for lunch. Not everybody loves milkballs, but you may find this cold, sweet treat to be the perfect end to an altogether stellar lunch deal. Saber’s remains my #1 for Indian food in Kingston, but Darbar comes in a close second because of their great lunches. Be sure to check it out!