Rising Star

A new Indian restaurant aims to please—and succeeds

FILLING UP<br>Justin Varrone and Chris Stella sample from the lunch buffet at Star of India.

Justin Varrone and Chris Stella sample from the lunch buffet at Star of India.

Star of India
685 Manzanita Court (inside the Holiday Inn)
892-9988 or 892-1500
Open every day for lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner Sun.-Thurs.5-9 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.

Star of India

685 Manzanita Ct.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 345-2491

When I arrived at my hotel in Delhi two years ago, I was exhausted from a day of travel. It was my first time in India and, being alone, I decided to take dinner in my room so as to avoid the bustle of a strange city with few women on the streets.

I had eaten Indian food once before, in high school, and I was less than impressed. But my taste buds matured along with the rest of me, so I was determined to give it a fair chance. Besides, I would be in India for two weeks—I could hardly avoid the food.

My first meal consisted of chicken biryani with butter naan and a Coke. A bit spicy for my mild palate, the biryani still blew all expectations I’d had of Indian food out of the water. And the naan was fabulous. In fact, I don’t think I had a bad meal the whole time I was in India. My horizons had broadened.

I finally made my way over to Star of India in Chico earlier this month after eyeing the “now open” signs outside the Holiday Inn, where the restaurant is located. Because of time constraints, I ordered two meals to go for a late dinner after the restaurant closed. Of course, it seemed only fitting to choose the chicken biryani ($9.95), mild. My boyfriend had the chicken vindaloo ($10.95), which is supposed to be quite spicy. Garlic and butter naan ($2.99 and $2, respectively) accompanied.

The biryani was so colorful I half expected that they hadn’t heeded my request to make it mild. I was wrong, and delighted. Large pieces of moist chicken were plentiful, and the basmati rice was spiced with cumin, saffron, ginger, garlic and cardamom, to name a few. It was delicious and the portion was huge—it made a full dinner that night and lunch the next day.

My boyfriend’s vindaloo wasn’t quite as spicy as he’d have liked (though I tasted it and it was pretty hot), but he enjoyed it. Similar to a curry, the large chunks of chicken were smothered in a thick sauce and served with basmati rice and yogurt.

The naan complemented the meal nicely, though I preferred the butter to the garlic, which was a bit overpowering.

Star of India also serves lunch, which is buffet-style (dinner is a la carte), and not wanting to miss out on the array of items that were sure to be offered, my boyfriend and I returned for a midday meal a few days later.

The interior of the restaurant is nothing to write to India about. The tables are elegant, with cloth napkins even, and the few art pieces on the wall are almost enough to distract from the hotel-conference-room feel. The servers were friendly and accommodating and made every effort to ensure our meals were to our liking.

The chicken tikka masala was by far my favorite of the buffet options, which also included lamb vindaloo, fish pakora, lentil soup and kheer, a rice-pudding-type dessert. Not at all spicy but full of flavor, the chicken tikka masala is listed under “creamy sauce delicacies” on the a la carte menu. Creamy indeed. On the spicier side, the zucchini masala was tasty, but won’t stand on its own—it was nice mixed with rice.

The pakoras—veggie and fish—were passable breaded appetizers, but on the buffet line they were cold. The burners underneath all the dishes, in fact, appeared to be off. As soon as our waiter was alerted to the matter, however, he rushed back to the kitchen and brought out a fresh pan, in addition to lighting the burners.

We finished off our meal with a delightful mango lassi, a yogurt-based drink.

Star of India lacks the ambiance of Priya Indian Cuisine, but my taste buds were just as impressed—if not more so—by this new kid in town.