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Ordinary Nawab Cooks Indian Classics Extraordinarily Well (San Mateo)

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On the recommendation of Rupinder and wendy-san (and noticing that it had received an honorable mention by The San Mateo Times in the Best Indian category), my boyfriend and I recently visited Nawab in downtown San Mateo. Since moving to the Peninsula we’ve encountered a dearth of Indian restaurants, and what restaurants we’ve visited (Clay Oven, Roti Bistro) have come up short one way or another.

We ordered the chicken tikka masala ($12) and the channa masala ($8.50). The chicken in the tikka masala consisted of large, moist boneless chunks, and the sauce had a nice soft heat, though my boyfriend said he would have preferred a sauce with a little more tomato. Our channa masala (chickpeas cooked in a ginger, tomato, and onion sauce) had nice strong flavors. In fact, it was the first time I’ve ever had this dish where I could definitely taste (and smell) the ginger. The naan was pretty standard and was nothing special. I think we also ordered the aloo paratha ($2.50), and I think we liked it.

Several weeks later we visited again with friends in tow. My boyfriend and I liked our main entrees enough from our first visit that we ordered them again (plus, we’re boring). My friends were amused by the neon color sauces that arrived with each entrée. One friend ordered the chicken korma ($11.50 – chicken breast with almond and cashew gravy) and the nawab ka khaas jhinga ($14.95 – prawns cooked in a mild coconut sauce). They were both very pleased with their dishes, and I was unable to grab a bite for myself.

The big hit seemed to be the chicken malai kabob ($12.50 – juicy boneless cubes of chicken marinated in yogurt, fresh coriander, and nutmeg) which arrived to the table on a bed of onions on top of a sizzling platter. The friend who ordered this dish raved about it. My boyfriend and I plan on varying from our test pattern of chicken tikka masala and channa masala ordering to try the chicken malai kabob on our next visit!

They enjoyed their bottle of wine (I don’t drink so I didn’t notice what they ordered). Other beverages available include lassis, mango juice, Indian style lemonade, standard juices, chai, and coffee. There is an extensive menu of breads, which make me wish I had explored it more. The menu also includes many dishes out of the tandoori oven, as well as chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian offerings.

The service was pleasant, though we waited and waited for our check on our second visit. The décor was ordinary “Indian restaurant.” Nawab serves good Indian food; it’s by no means a destination restaurant but it does what it does well – churning out good renditions of Indian classics. That makes it a strong contender for best Indian food on the Peninsula.

On both visits we were the only diners in the whole restaurant at times, which is surprising at 7 on a weekend night. This place definitely deserves more business. There is a daily lunch buffet for the reasonable price of $7.99 (I think), that I look forward to ranking against other Indian buffets of the Bay Area.

Nawab
5 S. Ellsworth Ave. (at Baldwin)
San Mateo, CA 94401
650.401.8424
Daily lunch buffet; Open daily for dinner after 5 p.m. (no hours posted online)

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