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5 Star Punjabi: LIC

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Anyone been there relatively recently? I haven't been for 2 years or so and will probably be going next week. Input on what's good greatfully accepted (as long as it's recent). Thanks.

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  1. I ate there last night. They've finished renovating the old diner area, and it's nice to be back in there. They kept most of the stuff that made it classic; I think they did a good job.

    My favorite dishes are the Tawa chicken and the sag (sans paneer!). The expensive item on the bread menu (can't remember the name), which is actually two fried flats of bread and a chickpea-based stew to eat with them, is also very good, and you can't go wrong with the dal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ratatosk

      Oh, and I recommend roti instead of naan.

    2. Three of us braved the cold on Tuesday night and made our way to 5 Star Punjabi to see if the place had changed since the renovation. I am amazed to report that it did. I had been to this place 4 or 5 times a few years back and had not been impressed. It seems to have improved.

      There's not much around in that desolate neighborhood just south of the Queensboro bridge. It reminds me a lot of the area adjacent to Shea Stadium dominated by junkyards and feral dogs. It has an abandoned look to it.

      The restaurant got it's start as an Indian cab stand with all that implies. (Cheap prices, weird location, bright lighting, diner style ambiance.) While it's recently been renovated they have accomplished the magical trick of making the "new" place look like it has been around for 20 years. The tables are chipped, the chairs are worn. I strongly suspect they bought used furniture to do their renovation.

      We sampled 2 or 3 different vegetable dishes (chickpeas, lentils, sag paneer), a goat curry and the chicken tikka masala along with a garlic nan and an onion kulcha. All the dishes were workmanlike ... maybe a tad better than that. It would make for a decent takeout meal. We ordered way too much food for three people in the interests of getting a broad sample. There was plenty left over at the end of the meal but not because we disliked any one dish - we were just full. The fact that we didn't pack up any to take home should tell you that we didn't think it was worth carrying away.

      The only thing less that decent was the vegetable samosas, whose skin was so thick and dense it could have been been used as body armor.

      There are various bottles of hard liquor behind the counter, a somewhat novel feature in a diner. This is not really the type of place where you would order a cocktail unless your need was dire. Three flat screen TVs above the counter feature Bollywood films and Indian satellite TV. There is also a small religious shrine next to the liquor bottles and cash register.

      5 Star Punjabi attracts an eclectic crowd. Mysterious single men would occasionally walk in and disappear into the back of the restaurant. A couple of groups of hipsters came in, dressed in random mix and match outfits. I assume they're drawn by the combination of decent food, cheap prices and the overwhelmingly weird atmosphere.

      5 Star Punjabi has recently opened a catering hall next to the diner. If it's anything like the restaurant it must be a marvel to behold.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        I haven't been since they completed the renovation, but have been several times in the last year. For sure, "5 stars" is a pipe dream, but I've found meals or take out from there more satisfying and a better value than some of the places on 6th St. in the city. And as an Indian spot, it's certainly better than anything else in northern Brooklyn. If you're taking the subway there as a destination spot, you should probably hit those liquor bottles. But with a car, it's not inconvenient, and it's definitely cheap...The neighborhood is light industrial, car repair shops, taxi garages, and actually an up and coming area for art studios.

        1. re: Silverjay

          Slightly better than 6th St? Yes. Only a destination if you happen to be driving by.

          Here's a fun fact - Bobby Flay tapes his "Boy Meets Grill" show on a rooftop garden a few blocks away on Vernon Blvd. One block north there's a hot sheets motel frequented by hookers and their clients. It's that kind of neighborhood.

          (Edit - I corrected the Flay show's title. Thanks Silverjay.)

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Just north of the bridge is the city's largest project housing....And it's "Boy Meets Grill" actually. And besides him and the motel, there's also a new park, some nice softball fields, the brand new NYC blood bank, along with about a dozen or so new condos under construction. The neighborhood's worst days are most likely behind it.

            1. re: Silverjay

              You left out the new gas fired generator right by the river. :-) It's going to be awhile before luxury housing gets built next to 5 Star Punjabi.

              If you go south a few blocks things get better right around the City Lights complex. There are some decent bars and restaurants there.

      2. Bob- The aforementioned "hot sheets" motel a few blocks away has been knocked down and is being made into....a luxury hotel! Who knew. I read about it in the Times- my boyfriend didn't believe me until we drove by! I guess the neighboorhood is really changing.
        (sorry that had nothing to do with food, i just had to add my 0.02 cents!)

        1. So, as one of the other 2 with Bob Martinez at 5 Star Punjabi the other night, I just wanted to say that I thought it was a bit better than Bob did. None of the grease of the lesser 6th St spots and better flavor than many. The goat curry, the chick pea dish and the spinach dish were the best; the chicken dish and the lentil dishes were ok; the apps of samosas and assorted pakora were worthless. The nan was good. I dont eat home enough to take home food, otherwise I would have :-)

          All in all, I think it's a little better than Kinara in Bklyn and that's one of the top 2 or 3 Bklyn places I know of. Better than the current Jackson Diner. But not a destination place, unless just for the novelty of it. How's that?

          1. This whole neighborhood was rezoned in the last few years and is definitely on the way up. The art studio my wife once rented over there for $600 month is now a much more expensive apartment. A lot of the land under the current buildings has been snapped up and there will be big changes soon. The 23rd-Ely subway station gives the area very quick access to Manhattan. 5 Star was part of the old, unimproved, neighborhood of industry, artist's studios, cab garages, and food for local workers. We used to go get cheap, decent carryout from there when no other restaurants with edible food were open anywhere nearby. Perhaps they saw the changes coming and this is part of the reason for their expansion into the big catering hall type facility they've become?

            1. that area is where silvercup studios was recently approved to build a huge complex of several sound stages along with several high rise mixed use condo/rental buildings. MAJOR changes coming to that area.

              1. Dare I ask if the bathrooms have gotten any better? I have a friend who is fairly "sturdy" but she won't go back there because of the smell in the bathrooms.

                On a happier note, has anyone had the butter chicken there? I haven't been in a long time, but that used to be my favorite dish.

                1 Reply
                1. re: AngelaH

                  The downstairs men's room was pretty decent. More interesting still is that there's a private dining room in the basement. Upholstered dining room chairs, golden tablecloths, pictures on the walls and assorted Indian sculptures. If there is an Indian gang like The Sopranos this is their version of the back room at the BadaBing.

                2. It becomes a "destination place" if you want Indian food at 2AM. As such, I've been there a number of times. The menu is not robust - you can easily go wrong, and end up with a mediocre (for NYC outer boroughs, which translates to significantly better than 6th street) meal. And a truly great restaurant should definitely have a robust menu - weakest link and all that. But if you order the right dishes, I think you can get a really first-rate meal there. I remember when I gave up on the Indian half of the menu and started ordering from the (disappointingly small) Punjabi section; it was as though scales had fallen from my eyes. After exhausting the Punjabi section, I tentatively started reexploring the Indian side (these 2AM meals seem to come up surprisingly often), and some of the veggie dishes are very good. I never get anything from the non-veggie Indian section of the menu anymore, and more than half the time I end up with one of the Punjabi chicken dishes and some roti.

                  My friend who lives near the place, and goes there shockingly often, claims to have had some sort of mythical pumpkin curry that made him weep, but they've never had it when I've been there, and it's not on the menu.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ratatosk

                    "some sort of mythical pumpkin curry that made him weep" ...that line made me snort out loud and I just got a lot of funny looks from my co-workers.

                    What do you like best from the Punjabi menu, ratatosk?

                    1. re: ballulah

                      I always confuse the tawa chicken and the chicken kadai, but I think I like the tawa chicken best off the Punjabi menu. They're both good, though, and really pretty similar. As it happens, I was just there again last night, and we were talking about how there are two printed menus and a third actual list of the dishes they serve there, and how none of these lists completely contains any of the others. As though to illustrate the point, one of my friends ordered a chicken vindaloo, which is not on either of the printed menus, but which they were happy to serve. It was outstanding. The sauce was very tomotoey, and quite spicy. I'll definitely be ordering it again and again.