Prince of India

By | January 17, 2007

Prince of India
3614 5th Ave
Oakland, 15213
M-F: 11:30-2:30, 5-10; Sat-Sun: 12-3, 5-10

Let me tell ya, it is a good thing we are doing this Indian Food Marathon! In this week’s installment, and it is the fourth by the way, I found out that my previous perceptions about at least one restaurant were dead wrong. I used to think Prince of India was all right – not bad, even – but, Heavens to Murgatroid! Is this place a stinker! Nothing qualified as good, and one or two things were considered by most raters to be downright repulsive. It made me want to exit, double quick-time, stage left, and never ever ever come back.

I can’t tell you how upset I am that I used to like this place! I feel duped! There was perhaps one factor that caused some dishes to taste worse than others, which was that we ordered half of the veggie dishes as a 3 on the spiciness scale to accommodate a new Indian Club member, where normally we order everything a 6. You may think, ‘well that is obviously why it was so crappy,’ but I argue that the cooks were using their spicy-spices to cover up otherwise blasé flavors. This was relatively true across the board; in fact, Laura H. made the point that even dishes that were vaguely yummy were good only because they contained lots of seasoned salt, lending everything a manufactured rather than authentic taste. The flavors should be a commingling of the herbs and spices that are so prominent in Indian cuisine – not just salt. For dishes that we gave higher ratings, the saltiness and spicy level were able to mask the underdeveloped flavors, but entrées like Saag Paneer were paltry without them.

There were tons of other problems too. The Tamarind and Mint Sauces that come with the Pappadams were liquidy and tasteless, as if they took these usually thick, delicious sauces and watered them down to make them last longer (plus save some bucks). The Pappadams themselves were tooth-shatteringly crunchy. Samosas were bad too, filled with a super-mashed, almost liquefied potato. A bland crust filled with blandness, said Scott. P. Nan: doughy and truly plain. Rice: overcooked and clumpy. Tandoori Chicken: dry as hell. Biryani: meh. Chicken Tikka Masala: Neon orange. Mango Chutney: puréed and peppery with no evidence of mango ever being involved at all, in chunk form or flavor. And the Saag Paneer: WHEW BOY, did it ever suck! It was appropriately creamy, but the flavor was described as an amalgamation of condensed mushroom soup, baby food, and cafeteria, with a pitifully small number of tasteless paneer chunks floating like remote islands in a sea of nastiness.

Perhaps the best thing served at Prince of India was the Raita, which was surprisingly delightful with tangy yogurt and chunks of cool cucumber, exactly as one expects Raita to be. But, this alone cannot possibly overcome the inferiority of everything else. The saddest part of the whole night was that we had to pay for the junk at the end. It worked out to be about $17 a person, which was especially troubling because the entrées were next to impossible to split 10-ways. We got about three chick-peas each from the Channa Masala, and I had to split a paneer cheese chunk in half just so Reed could have some. We literally scraped the bottom of all the little aluminum dishes just so we could all have a little taste of everything. In constrast, this was not at all a problem at Taj Mahal, where we had exactly the same order, one extra person, only paid $14, and took home some leftovers (not to mention the fact that it was hella more delicious).

And finally, we may have to start noting an additional rating each week that addresses how the food affects you even after you’ve left the restaurant. For instance, after Taj Mahal there were reports of l’essence de curry penetrating clothing and hair, only to vanish after a couple of thorough washings. This is not so bad in my opinion, but at Prince of India the results were much worse, with Sarah S. reporting an ‘abominable abdominal’. Trust me, this is not worth risking your abdomen for. Save your calories, your money, and your appetite for something better – dethrone the Prince!


Never get the Saag Paneer!

Check out the chart! This week’s graph is cool because you can visually see that we haven’t found any kind of standout Samosa or Chicken Tikka Masala. Keep in mind that we will be returning to both Bombay Grill and Star of India before the Food-a-thon is through, so those ratings may be under- or over-inflated as of this moment.

Week 4 - Core5 - Indian Food-A-Thon

Week 4 - All - Indian Food-A-Thon

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