Flatiron Lunch: Punjab Palace Has A Massive Number of Options

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Between the wholesale suppliers, flower shops and textile businesses, there’s amazingly little to eat in the space between Koreatown and Madison Square Park. If you look, though, there are a couple gems. The first time I walked into Punjab Palace, there was a posting in the doorway with a list of the new rules for taxi drivers being implemented by the TLC. Clearly, this was a good choice. See the wealth of options after the jump.

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Every time I walk in, I have more or less the same experience. I look up at the menu, bewildered at all the options for a few minutes until the staff draws my attention to one of the many delicious options on the steam trays. If you take nothing else away from this week’s post and you go to Punjab Palace, remember this: ignore the menu. The seemingly exhaustive list of foods available are more like guidelines than what’s actually available on any given day.

You should also ignore the lunch special of chicken (or veggies) on rice for $5.99. I’ve never tried it. There’s no point. I can get cheaper street meat on the street and for a dollar more, I can get one of the fresh meat offerings, rice and a pile of veggies. There’s a salad too, if that’s your thing.

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I discovered on my first visit the value of their “Roast Chicken”.  The menu gave no hint that this would be an entire half a chicken. I even ordered naan thinking there was going to be room left. I rarely walk out of lunch with leftovers, but this was a first.

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From then on, I knew to get a good look at what I’m ordering. Each time, there is a different option, some more exotic than others… like these grilled whole fish.  For those who aren’t into eating a whole fish, there are more common items like kefta and chicken tikka chunks.

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The one time I tried the goat curry, I was a little disappointed. The sauce was spicy and the meat had just the right balance of gaminess that goat lovers enjoy. The problem was that I ended up with some bonier pieces and I just wanted more meat. Still, even then, all the sides will fill you up any time.

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Most recently, I stopped in and was recommended the Chicken Tikka Masala. It was wonderful. The sauce was a thick curried yogurt mixture that finished with a citrusy tang in every bite. The chicken was tender and smoky and when it was gone, the basmati rice served as a perfect vehicle for gobbling down the rest of the sauce.

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In all these visits, I can’t claim that I’ve ever really thought much about the veggie portion of the meals. Lentils, kidney beans, eggplant, spinach and chickpeas (channa) are all available, although I usually stick to the channa or spinach. The channa is best when mixed in with the sauces from the meat. That was certainly the case with the masala sauce, which was much more flavorful than the sauce the chickpeas came in.

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Finally, a warning: After last week’s Chinese-Indian success at Chinese Mirch, my interest was piqued by a sign on the door saying that they now serve Halal Chinese food. Unfortunately, when I investigated, I found this: a steam tray full of the most generic looking Chinese food I’ve seen in some time. Skip it.

I only just scraped the surface of all the food Punjab Palace serves on any given day, much less the variety of options they switch up over the course of the week.

The +

  • The rotating menu means there’s something new every day.
  • They make food that you’re not going to find at a lot of other spots in the area
  • With all this food, I need to wear my elastic waist slacks.

The -

  • What’s the point of this extensive menu if it’s not all here?
  • Dude, that fish still has its face.
  • I can’t eat nearly this much food.

Punjab Palace, 11 W. 30th (btw. B’way+5th), 646-654-1369

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