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May 3, 2009 07:32 AM

Neela's: new Indian restaurant in Napa

Tried the brand new Neela's last week for lunch. It's the nouvelle Indian restaurant just opened next to Pizzeria Azzuro in downtown Napa. See It was terrific and nearly full at midday.

The lunch menu is limited largely to "thalis", the multi-item platters served all at once in small metal bowls. Sort of an Indian version of a bento box lunch. The main courses included Kerala fish (red snapper), chicken tika or tandor, lamb vindaloo or tandor. All dishes included rice, salad of minced tomatoes, onions, fried vegetable fritter for dipping, and naan. The three of us ordered a selection of chutnies on the side together with Trumer Pils on tap, Taj Mahal in the large bottle and a glass of Provencal rose from the surprisingly sophisticated wine list.

The food was consistently clean, moderately seasoned (could have taken more heat) and surprisingly light in great contrast to lunch offerings, often buffet, at more traditional Indian restaurants. Freshness and simple preparation were the key.

Neela, the chef/owner, is the former owner of the Bombay Cafe in Santa Monica and author of the Bombay Cafe Cookbook. She has adapted Indian menus to a more California-like palate and presentation emphasizing the ingredients and lighter combinations.

I haven't returned yet for the more extensive dinner menu -- but will.

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  1. Thanks for the heads up. Looking forward to more tips. This seems interesting from the website ... Thursday Bread Night—a selection of stuffed flat breads served with salads and raita.

    I'd be interested to see what she has done with mitha

    975 Clinton Street, Napa, CA 94669

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I love Thursday Bread Night at Neela's. Several different Indian breads (with fillings) are served. Reasonably priced.

      In fact, I'm impressed overall with the place.

      By the way, the wine list is one of the best chosen for the food I've seen in a while.

      1. re: rworange

        I just stumbled on this thread . . . thanks fellow locals for clueing me in. I've been so wrapped up in work that I was unaware of Neela's having opened. I will check it out.

      2. Great - I'm always in market for good indian. Yeti in Glen Ellen isnt bad either, though I havent been there for about 9mths
        If you go for dinner pls let me know what youthink. How are prices? I'm home bound studying for finals for next 2 weeks but plan to get out after that

        1. Here's part of the menu

          Chaat arives in Napa ... pani puri and mini dosas with Laura Chenel goat cheese and mango chutney.

          Here's a first impression from a Napa blogger with photos

          5 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I ate there the second night they were open. Our server, when we asked how she was doing, replied something, like, "oh, another day in paradise". I was like, what, you hate your job already after two days ?!! Her attitude definitely soured our experience. However, there was a dark-skinned gentleman (can't remember his name) who I think may have been the manager, who was helping out all over the place, running food, etc. He was extremely pleasant to talk to. The food: I thought it was great. BUT way overpriced. I understand they're using some quality ingredients, but wow! $20 plus an entree? Everything we tried was great, but after dropping almost 75 bucks on food alone, for two people, and not leaving full, I felt really disappointed. I love Indian food and always hated the fact I had to travel out of town to get my fix, but it looks like I'll still have to. I would go back for lunch, hoever, to see if there's any value in that.

            1. re: brucemac707

              Not exactly in town, but probably closer that most, Allspice opened recently in American Canyon. I haven't tried it yet.

              Given the location across the street from Safeway, I hope they continue to offer goat on the menu. I get the feeling the AC crowd might not be so into that but could be wrong and I'm just dazzled by all the chains in the area.

              1. re: rworange

                Wow, that's right. I heard about this place somewhere (maybe here) a while back. Has anybody been? Maybe I'll have to take one for the team here and check it out.

              2. re: brucemac707

                We had a delicious meal there a couple weeks ago: shrimp samosas, lamb vindaloo, and a dish with potatoes and peas in a tomato sauce. Everything was fresh, well seasoned, totally enjoyable. With rice, one glass of wine, a soda, and tip we spent more than $70. Not small change for a Wednesday night.

                I agree with brucemac707 that the prices are HIGH. But we can't blame Neela's. Eating out anywhere in Napa these days is prohibitively expensive. It is disappointing that, aside from the taco trucks, great cheap food is scarce.

                1. re: Junie D

                  You're so right, Junie D. It's just that when you think of ethnic restaurants, great food and bargains seem to go hand in hand!

            2. havent eaten at neelas yet....saving up...i ate at bombay cafe a couple of times in the 90s. it was alright but a little too "fusion-y" or something. tried a little too hard. a little too gringo. i'll try neelas eventually but white tablecloths have never augured quality indian food. ive eaten indian/pakistani food all over the bay area and the fancier places have never held a candle to the simpler places like Viks, India Village and Lahore Kahari--three of my favorites.

              i am so happy Allspice has opened in American Cyn. much closer for me than berkeley.
              the guys at ALLSPICE are terrific and their generosity and sincerity are evident in the chow. possibly the best saag paneer ive ever had (and while i havent been to india, indian cuisine has been my number one for a few decades now...).

              the chef, ram, told me he cooked at the indian embassy in nyc and i believe it-- all his sauces are very layered and nuanced and have nice heat, too.

              true, the buffet is a bit lean for vegetarians (4 items, two veg, two carn) but before i could finish suggesting this, both ram and baines (the owner) were instantly offering me something else. they brought me and some other patrons (also vocally enjoying their meal) big bowls of saag paneer which was astoundingly flavorful (my wife agreed on trying the leftovers)--and at no additional charge.

              in the several times ive eaten at allspice, the food has been consistently delicious-- made with real devotion.

              if baines and ram can be flexible in this economy--more on the buffet, maybe a little lower prices if they can swing it-- they will have a very successful joint.

              each time ive been, the place has been busier than the last and folks are clearly enjoying their food.

              i'll be going back every couple of weeks for sure!

              1 Reply
              1. re: chivitopelon

                Thanks for the report on Neela's but it would probably be better as a new topic or added to this topic.

                Maybe the mods will split this out into its own topic

                Allspice Indian Resturant
                100 W American Canyon Rd, American Canyon, CA 94503