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Feb 18, 2008 10:24 AM

New Indian restaurant, Ashoka Palace, to open in Center City in March, 2008

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, Ashoka Palace, specializing in northern Indian cuisine, will open sometime in March, 2008, at 38 S. 19th St. The former occupant was Bootsie's.

This information was given by a Kinder Jit Singh, who used to cook at Taj Mahal and Passage to India, also in Center City, Philadelphia.

If they could find such a location in Center City, I wonder why Minar Palace couldn't have done so, too. Are the owners of MP still looking or have they moved out of the area?

The only place I have found whose saag paneer comes somewhat close to their version is Chinnar in Wayne, but even their version is a very tame version of what MP did.

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  1. I am pretty sure that Minar Palace has found a location in the 'Midtown Village' area (around 13th and Sansom), I don't know when they're supposed to open though.

    9 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead

        not to get off topic, but i hate that name 'midtown village.' i was just there today... earlier i'd been shopping at RTM, and i wanted something new to eat... went by bindi and they were not open. :( read the menu, though, and though i do still want to try it, i probably won't be rushing to do so.
        according to phillyblog, minar palace will open at 1304 walnut. **edit: duh, what the poster above me just said!!** darnit, i was just there and didn't even think to take a look in the window!

        i hadn't heard anything about ashoka palace, but that's great news! not that i ever tire of tiffin, but, there are certain dishes i love that honestly they don't excel at... navrattan korma and channa masala being two of them.

        1. re: rabidog

          Interesting that you mention those two dishes, because in my book, those two dishes are polar opposites of each other in complexity, in that chana masala is such a basic dish and you really have to do alot to mess it up - in its case, less is sometimes more, witness what Chinnar does to it - it's very simple yet it is very good, vs. what you sometimes find at TOI where on some days the chick peas are drowning in a bath of sauce.

          Navrattan korma is trickier - its creamy base has to be in balance - it can be too rich or too thin. When the sauce is done right as well as the vegetables being varied and tender, it is a tasty dish. What did you wish that Tiffin did differently to these dishes?

          Good news about Minar Palace. I never read the phillyblog until recently due to the mention of the upcoming re-opening of MP. One poster was incredulous at how much attention some people are paying to this reopening (inferring that the following is somewhat fanatical). I like the saag paneer the most, and tried one or two other dishes, whose quality didn't impress me. One poster remarked about the eggplant dish being too oily. I just stayed with my favorite dish and never tried anything else. In my travels I have found it rare for a restaurant to get most dishes right, and a few out here in the western suburbs tend to do better in that regard. The remark on the blog about the excess oil on the eggplant dish at MP is a common concern people find with dishes at more than a few such restaurants. Places like Aman's in Norristown, Bawarchi, and Chinnar err on the side of less oil, and the difference and taste is noticeable. When I leave Chinnar and Bawarchi after having eaten a substantial amount, I don't feel as uncomfortable as I sometimes do when having eaten at other places that use more cream and oil. And I know, if I exercised more self discipline and just ate smaller portions, I could indulge and be ok, but in general, the more cream, and the more artful use of quality oil, the tastier is the food. (The best soups I have had have been at Taste of India and Royal India. Himalayan does a great job with its sambhar. What is similar about the treatment of soup at these places is that they are rich, thick, and full of flavor. The soup at Himalayn and Bawarchi are thinner and lighter to digest.)

          1. re: FelafelBoy

            well, agreed on the channa masala (especially considering i make a bangin version at home) ... theirs is too abrasive or too acidic... doesn't go down pleasantly for some reason.
            the korma - *too* rich. heavy on cream, low on spice. i keep thinking back to that place in montreal and how i almost fell out of my chair, the navrattan korma was so delicious. i just wanna fall out of my chair. is that too much to ask? :)
            have you seen navrattan korma at any buffets in the area? i'd like to sample the offerings before committing to a whole takeout entree.

            1. re: rabidog

              I thought with your restaurant adventures you would have met up with navrattan korma somewhere!! When I first started my Indian buffet journey, I often saw it at Taste of India and Himalyan and Royal India. For some reason, it didn't occur to me what I was eating. I had always looked at their versions as heavily creamed vegetable mush, so I stayed away from it. In recent visits, I enjoyed the version offered by Royal India. For some reason, I think that Himalyan's version was ok. I think that TOI's version was very rich, lots of cream, but I'm not sure. On one of my visits to Chinnar I had it. As with most of their dishes, it was a simplified version of what I've had elsewhere and was nothing to get excited about. I see this dish at the buffets on every fourth or so trip. In my experience it seems like one of the regular buffet dishes! I hope to make my next trip to Bawarchi as I am ready for that kind of cuisine again.

              I didn't know that you make your own baingan bharta. Probably not the right thread here to go into "home cooking", but do you bake your eggplant or broil it and then pull out the flesh and then mash it? I cannot get the right spice mixture down as I've had at restaurants. For me, it was a very long experiment, and my version did not come out like what I've had at any restaurant.

              In your last post, I wasn't clear as to what dish your reference to "abrasive and too acidic" was made to ... the chana masala, the baingan bharta, or the navrattan korma? I assume it was to the bb, since it does contain more acidic elements. By the way, if you ever want to take the easy way, try the Swad brand (also goes by the name Patel's) of baingan bharta. It is, by far, the best version of that dish of all the "boil in a bag" products that come in those paperback book looking box containers. I've tried at least six different brands if not more, and to my taste it is the best. (Some of the frozen brands are decent, such as the Green Guru, which is the vegetarian line of Deep Foods.) The Swad brand is supposedly designed to mimic restaurant recipes, and for the few varieties I have had, I have noticed that the taste is far better than the others which taste like mass produced non-restaurant, non-home cooked recipes, with sharp tasting, abrasive, acidic tasting flavors like you mentioned. The Swad flavor is more mellow yet still is spicy. After I had two servings of one of their products, I was wiping my forehead and scalp from sweat! I should have had more raita on hand to put out the fire!!)

              Have you not found that Bawarchi gets their idlis done perfectly? I have only been there a few times, and each time, I have been very happy with the quality of their idlis and vadas which go very well with their sambhar (which I wish was thicker like that served at Himalyan). On my next trip there, I hope they have more variety of vegetables in their sambhar. I haven't been to TOI on the weekend in a long time and I recall that even they loaded up their sambhar with a large variety of vegetables. Of nearby restaurants, I have noticed that only Bawarchi as a matter of course, offers idlis and vadas with the sambhar. (I'd guess that Devi in Exton probably does, too, since they do south Indian.) Chinnar has stopped doing south Indian due to the lack of interest in that cuisine. I hope Bawarchi stays in business to give us an alternative to all the north Indian style restaurants in the Chesterbrook/King of Prussia/Malvern area.

              Wonder if you have been to Aman's recently. That restaurant doesn't get much coverage on this board. Last time I was there I found the food very plain, but with my increasing preference for less oily more plain food ala Bawarchi style (and more similar to Chinnar but with more taste), I thought a trip to Aman's might be worth it, but if it was just as plain (not spicy), I'd rather frequent the places closer to me.

              One thing I have come to prefer with Bawarchi and Royal India over TOI is that they sometimes do bean dishes (dals) that are more like home cooked bean purees, in that the dishes don't consist of beans submerged in alot of liquid which is sometimes the case at TOI. Every time I have been to Bawarchi they have had such a dal that reminds me of a pureed bean dish that goes nice spooned over a bed of rice. And their rice tends to be non-oily, too. I remember the first few times I visited Gateway to India in Frazer and in the buffet was tarka dal. I thought it was the most exotic dish!! I had never seen such a dish at any of the Indian buffets I had been to. Now, I find that Bawarchi offers dishes similar to that. One bean dish I had there, as I posted in the other thread had an "off-taste", but the next week, the Chana Dal's taste made up for that. Could have been the beans used whose taste I didn't care for, or one of the spices. On a cold day, those pureed bean dishes warm the soul without feeling like the arteries are being clogged from the rich taste!

              To answer your final question, with your expertise, I think you could tell whether the navrattan korma in front of you is worth putting in your takeout tray by its very look. If you see alot of creamy liquid with bits and pieces of vegetables, I'd be careful. I'd try asking management if you could sample the dish in one of their dessert bowls before digging in.Most of these places are hospitable in that regard. I don't think you'd go wrong getting some from Chinnar, Royal India, or Himalyan. (I haven't seen this at Bawarchi.) I'd try a very small amount if you are getting some at TOI for obvious reasons! I think it is a very high calorie, high fat dish, only to be taken in very small amounts for obvious reasons.

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                wait a minute, i never mentioned eggplants!! while i do love eggplants done MY way (not indian-style, rather, on the charcoal grill, and very simple, paired with sliced tomato/pepper/red onions, i can't bring myself to like baingan bharta anywhere i've had it. you might have seen the term bangin - which refers to the sheer awesomeness of the channa masala i make at home! without getting too far into home cooking (...okay, i will) i took a sampling of 3 or 4 different recipes i found on google. i also made my own garam masala mixture out of a combination of 3 or 4 recipes found the same way. that is my general philosophy on home cooking - if/when using a recipe, don't trust just one source. i check out several recipes that recieve high ratings, and mix-and-match the techniques/ingredients to use more of my favorite things. and up the spice quantity in nearly all cases.
                followed the same method for accompanying paratha bread.

                anyway, it's way past my bedtime / and i haven't been to many of my local-to-work restaurants in a while - so i'll answer the rest when i've seen to those two things!!

                1. re: rabidog

                  Funny!! Now, I see how I misinterpreted your remarks. I took the word "bangin" in the context of the names of Indian dishes and thought you were abbreviating it. You would have not believed how involved the version of baingan bharta was that I made. It was hardly worth the effort considering that it didn't come close to what I've had at RI or TOI. The version wasn't so baingin, as you would say. It was more boing than bing.

                  As I recently posted on the other long thread on Indian restaurants, the eggplant curry I had at Bawarchi was outstanding. You might have loved it. It was very simple, just these tender whole small eggplants that looked like small punching bags similar to the shape of very large fresh figs, immersed in a thick delicious curry sauce. No other restaurant I've been to serves this dish in this manner. It really felt like I was eating a delicasy from some exotic world. It reminded me of a dish that a person would make for just a few people rather than an entire restaurant full of people.

                  I assume you are buying paratha bread somewhere. Does it come close to restaurant paratha, once you warm it up? My local Giant supermarket now carries, not only naan, but WHOLE WHEAT naan. I think my local Indian grocery doesn't even carry such bread made with whole wheat.

                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                    ^ paratha - i attempted making it several times. it is brutal (burned myself many times) but it was good. injuries aside, it is actually pretty easy to make.

                    haha, i didn't realize until you posted the eggplant dish's name how similar my term for awesome is to it! :) i think know exactly what little exotic eggplants you're talking about... was the skin spotted? last time i had them was in a thai dish at one of my favorite places back in DC probably over 4 years ago. i will have to go check that out, i loved those little things!

                    in other news, i had a night at home tonight and decided to spoil myself with wine, movie and dinner. since i was watching the darjeeling limited (which i've now seen 5 times, and i know for a fact it's going to make me crave indian food) i figured i'd just order from tiffin ahead of time. it all worked out perfectly. i had a cheapie bottle of hogue gewurztraminer which i really only like when it's with indian food, and picnicked in front of the DVD player with a bunch of tiffin entrees. hopefully without sounding like too much of a pig, i usually order 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and some naans, so i have myself an exciting, colorful plate - AND enough for at least two or three more dinners. i'm usually boring and order the same thing (paneer tikka masala) but this time i decided to shake it up. since i still have their website up (i ordered online) i'll just copy exactly what i got:

                    Moti Hari Kabab*
                    Coconut, potato, cashews, ginger and cottage cheese cutlets with herbs and spices; served with mint and tamarind chutneys

                    Chili Paneer*
                    Cubes of homemade cottage cheese cooked in a Chinese cuisine inspired sauce – medium spicy. Served with Basmati Rice and mixed pickles

                    South Indian Shrimp Curry
                    Shrimp cooked in a coconut sauce with a fragrant spice mix

                    *=these are february specials, which i guess are technically not available after... well, today. sorry guys. :(

                    every time i try one of the specials i am not disappointed. for the record, the appetizer specials always sound vastly different but always end up being very similar fried patties. they are still very delicious.
                    i really wanted to try the chili paneer because i've never had cheese with chinese cooking - and it is truly a much more chinese-tasting sauce than indian. like nothing i've had before, though the cheese takes on more of a tofu-like role in that dish whereas it seems creamier in my usual paneer tikka masala.
                    the shrimp dish, though, was definitely the best thing and it's on the regular menu at $14. sauce is creamy, a little spicy; shrimp are perfectly cooked. so well-balanced, the whole dish. good amount of shrimps in there - probably 8 jumbo ones or so. this might start to become a "must have" in my tiffin orders.

                    1. re: rabidog

                      Glad that you survived your paratha adventure. Have you thought of making simpler breads, like roti or chapati? I think they are the easiest. Naan would be worth the effort given the final product!

                      When I have sambhar, I really enjoy having idli to compliment the wetness of that soup broth. I love vadas, too, but the contrast between the moisture in the sambhar and the idli is a treat. Taste of India serves dosas with the sambhar, as does Himalyan. No idlis, there, and the one time I had sambhar at Chinnar at the weekend lunch buffet, the idlis were poorly made, overly moist.

                      I've seen in an Indian grocery store, idli makers, and yes, the thought occurred to me that it might be fun to make!

                      Your description of your Indian night at the movies with your DVD player, drink, and Tiffin shrimp sounded complete! I don't care much for shrimp, but I can imagine for a person who does like shrimp. Tiffin's shrimp dish sounds delicious.

                      I don't recall the small baby eggplant at Biwachi being "spotted" as you suggest it might be. All I know is that the texture was perfect, in that the outside was firm enough to give mild resistance to a knife slicing through it, and the inside also firm enough to maintain its body once cut, but moist enough to melt in the mouth whne consumed. It's easy to cook eggplant, so when you cut into it, it turns to mush. Not these. After each cut, all I could think of was, "how did they do that?" !!

      2. Just reviving a dead thread to say that Ashoka Palace openned yesterday. I didn't get lunch until 2pm and it was still fairly busy (didn't look it from the lack of people sitting but most folks seemed to do take-out).

        My wait took forever (about 40 minutes) since the lady (same one who was at Minar) somehow lost my order in the mix, which is something I wouldn't normally forgive (I'm a cranky hungry person) but am going to overlook it this time since they were swamped and seemingly very under-staffed since there's a Now Hiring sign on the door. The food was pretty good, though.

        Still no word on when Minar's open ... :(

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ali

          Ali, I'm curious, what did you order? I tried the lamb saag wala (lamb saag with tomatoes) today and thought it was rather tame spice-wise...

          1. re: fivefivefive

            I got chicken korma, which I always find tame spice-wise, so I don't know that it'll help for a good base of comparison for you. Like I said, the food was good. To be honest, though, I haven't exactly been clamouring to get back there despite my work being so near the place.