Location: 3117-8650 112 Ave NW
Considering the number of times we’re in Royal Oak at the Chinese restaurant (Empress Palace Restaurant), the Crock-A-Doodle (with Julia), the Wal-Mart, Smashburger, and Little Caesars, you’d think I would have come here at least once considering how much I love East Indian food. But alas, today we finally got to try this place out. Typically, for lunch, Indian restaurants opt to have a buffet and reserve the a la carte stuff for dinner. However, this was not the case for Raj Palace. At Raj Palace they have lunch specials that vary in price depending on the type of protein you choose to go with. In terms of price, this is probably the most economical way to go because each lunch special comes with rice and naan. However, having to stick to just one dish is kinda boring and I, unlike some others I know, like to mix things up instead of just eating one item on the plate at a time.
We were promptly seated and decided to go with the a la carte menu instead of the lunch specials. However, it was really hard to get the waiter’s attention (he was hiding behind the counter doing something on the POS system). It seemed as though he was the only one working front of house.
When I started ordering things from the a la carte menu, the waiter became very confused. I’m sure he was just trying to recommend the best course of action, but it was one I had already considered and dismissed and therefore I was a bit annoyed at him for having questioned whether that was actually what we wanted to do for lunch. For lunch we ordered the Coconut Prawn Curry, Butter Chicken, and Baingan Bharta with Steamed Basmati Rice and Butter Naan. The Coconut Prawn Curry was prawns cooked in a thick sauce of fresh tomatoes and spices with coconut cream. It was clear that the sauce was made and the prawns added to it later as opposed to being marinated/cooked in the sauce because the flavour didn’t penetrate the meat.Butter Chicken, one of my favourite dishes, consisted of chicken cooked in a mild buttery sauce of tomato and fenugreek with cashew nut paste. The only issue I had with the Butter Chicken was that the texture of the chicken was a bit off, was a bit rubbery and bouncy and that doesn’t seem right to me. And the Baingan Bharta was eggplant roasted in tandoor, cooked with onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic and seasoned with spices. The first two are flavours I’m relatively used to, the eggplant was not, but not in a bad way. The eggplant, though oily, was well prepared and seasoned. I was surprised at how fast the food came considering how long it took to get our order in. In fact, we got our food before another table who was there before us and ordered before us. Unlike Chinese restaurants, the dishes came all at once instead of one continuous stream in which you have to learn to pace yourself. The flavour of everything was amazing. The food definitely made up for the lack of service. It had just the right amount of heat and it wasn’t spicy for the sake of being spicy (like don’t make me cry, that’s too spicy although I did bite into a pepper and that really burned the back of my throat). I’m not sure exactly how to describe the spices or the combination other than it was in perfect balance. The issue with Indian food is that it can be quite heavy because of the oil content in each of the dishes. I didn’t notice it too much in these dishes with the exception of the eggplant, but that’s probably because the eggplant had to be deep-fried before cooking so that it wouldn’t fall apart and turn to mush. I would say, if I came back, I would go for the plain naan instead of butter because the butter made the naan unnecessarily oily.
For me, the sauce, as good as it is, isn’t a big deal. I’ve been told though, that the sauce to some is like liquid gold and should never go to waste. This notion was reinforced by the waiter asking us whether we wanted to pack the sauce to go and when we said no he asked if we were sure. As delicious as it was, sauce, like carbs (rice, fries, etc.) aren’t worth packing away as leftovers.
Overall, I’d say despite the service, the food was amazing and I would definitely come back here again for lunch or dinner. However, I’d say if I were to go again, I’d like to go with a lot more people so we can try out more dishes. Generally speaking, the restaurant was pretty quiet; there was only one other table besides us in there. I wouldn’t be surprised if this place were to close down due to low turnout of customers. Based on everything today, I’d still give this place a 3.9/5.