Wednesday, September 4, 2013
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” How many times have we heard that? Good advice, especially when you look at mine. Nonetheless, we all do just that. If we didn’t, most book designers would be out of business.
We inevitably make assessments based on initial, often superficial, appearances. That’s true for books, for people, and even restaurants. Traveling around South Carolina I often run into restaurants that look modest from the outside, but once inside serve excellent food. Often at reasonable prices. I’ve written about a few of them in these pages. The Pumpkintown General Store and Café up near Table Rock State Park was a good example. Best cheeseburger, fries and coleslaw I’ve ever eaten. At any price!
Here’s one more to add to the list: “Village of India.” As noted on the front of the menu, they’re open seven days a week. Master Chef Daljit Singh and Neelam Rani are there every day, taking a rest only on Mondays at lunchtime. Don’t know how they do it, but the result is the best Sub-Continent food I’ve had in years.
Here’s how you find Village of India. Drive north on Two Notch Road from Columbia or from the I-20 or I-77 intersections. After several traffic lights you’ll see a fire station on the left, followed by the State Credit Union. Slow down and turn left at the next traffic light into the Northeast Shopping Center. You can’t miss the sign. Plenty of parking too!
Inside, this restaurant is beautifully appointed. Crisp tablecloths and napkins at every place setting. Tables toward the center and booths along both sides of the walls. This is a fancy place. Glad I don’t have to wash and iron all of those tablecloths and napkins!
The best is yet to come. If you arrive at lunchtime, before 2:30, you’ll see this buffet table with ten or so main dish selections. Plus salad and sweet offerings. Everything is fresh, nothing “steam tabled,” if that’s a term. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Get a plate and try a small – very small – helping of each. Be sure not to overload that first plate because you’ll be back. At least once. You’ll be amazed to discover – at least for now – that all of this costs only $7.95! What a bargain. Once you learn which dishes best suit your palate you’ll want to come for dinner when prices go up a bit. $7.95. I mean!
Master Chef and Owner, Daljit Singh, is a legend here in the Indian community. He trained for over twenty years under the strict discipline of his elder brother before branching out on his own. I’ve yet to meet his brother, but he has to be some teacher.
Mr. Singh is a perfectionist. Try, for example, his chicken tikka masala. This is a popular dish served by every Indian restaurant I’ve ever visited. Here, though, it’s different. Each cube of chicken in the onion-tomato-yogurt sauce has been roasted and seasoned perfectly. impossible with mass production. It must take forever to prepare.
Village of India also offers a catering service. They'll prepare specialized menus for any size group, Chef Singh says. From small family groups to hundreds of people.
I could go on and on about Village of India. Come out and give it a try next time you’re in Columbia. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.