Or 3 out of 5 stars
You might want to take note that the food was outstanding during this review, but I can confirm that “Service” is not one of the thing s they are working on. So they take a ding.
Ever walk in a restaurant you’ve been going to for a while, maybe more for convenience, with acceptable but not amazing food, and then all of sudden – Whu-Bam! They’ve suddenly blown your mind? We’ve been dropping in on said restaurant for a couple of years now. Our first time was for dinner and it was outstanding. By the way, there happens to be an excellent Indian Grocery store located two doors down. I don’t know if they are related, don’t care, love them both. The store is small, but their selection of spices and rice is unmatched in Tucson. As an additional side note, if you are into basmati rice and we all should be, that little grocery store carries a 10 lb bag of “Vegi’s Basmati Rice, Mothers Choice” that is pretty awesome and affordable. As an added bonus, on occasion there is a woman there that sells homemade “samosas”, a.k.a. little pillows of fried deliciousness. There is what I will call a vortex of samosa deliciousness going on in this general location, both at the store and the restaurant.
We have over the years made this a common destination to enjoy some Indian cuisine, mostly because of the convenient location, each time we hope for another repeat performance of the original visit. But it seemed their little lunch buffet was doomed to be an exercise in mediocrity, a race to the middle. Compared to that first meal, it was clear that someone was either holding back or like a kickass band that loses their drummer, they had lost the magic. One could call them a mere cover band of their former selves. Not the real deal, slightly off key, almost annoying when compared to the original experience. But if you love Indian food, they had slid into “acceptable.” I am using past tense here, though, so stay with me.
So over the last two months, we’ve been in three times and each time it has gotten progressively and suprisingly better. This last stop was again for lunch and we received a rare treat from Sher-E-Punjab. When it comes to Indian dishes, for me, it is about the texture as much as the spiciness. On this previously mediocre buffet, we discovered some little dumplings stuffed with spinach and slow cooked in a coconut curry sauce. Holy Krishna! It was a little explosion of spicy spinach with this puffy soft dumpling surrounding. These dumplings were so subtly addicting that they should have to get a special medical spinach dumpling license just to serve them. The spinach stuffing that was just plain lustilicious, and then to marry it all in that coconut curry sauce? It felt like the chef was trying to date me. I thought, “shouldn’t it always be this way?
Then we moved through the variety of other dishes offered that day. We dined on Sher-E-Punjab’s interpretations of cauliflower and cabbage and peas, creamy spinaches, all with an incredible emphasis on the vegetarian palate. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken and lamb were great, but the chef was showing exceptional love for my vegetarian friends. So after dancing among several different dishes I came to last the thing. The obligatory and irresistible samosa. I’ve had them stuffed with all sorts of things including potatoes, peas, ground lamb, and every combination. I’ve found them frozen, had them made for me, and tried to make them myself. Sher-E Punjab’s samosas, on this day, were the definition of what a samosa should be: little pillows of fried deliciousness. I think they were stuffed with sweet potatoes and were absolutely one of the best things I have ever eaten anywhere.
I say “I think” because once you get your water at this place, that’s it for the service. For better or worse, there’s no refills, no asking if you want hot tea, iced tea, or a soda. As service goes, it is as nonexistent as service gets. I can’t complain about it because well, I never experienced it. I get the feeling that if I got up and started waiting tables they’d be okay with it and like little teli tubbies, totally awed by my ability to ask people if they would like something other than water to drink. Weeeeehw. So I think the samosas are stuffed with sweet potatoes, but as far as asking the wait staff, not possible.
So, the food is, was, is again nothing short of passion on a plate. Service is not a problem because it does not exist. It’s a buffet and so once you get your glass of water, you are set. Located on Grant and like so many places in Tucson, it’s in an old strip mall. The décor and tables are quaint and old as is the feel of the place. I can call it a great place for a date or to take your family, but I wouldn’t call it romantic. But if you love the person you are with and the food, I guess that is the definition of romantic. Medium priced. Easily in and out for $20 for two at lunch.
Go! Eat there. Everything you need to know about them is at http://sher-e-punjabtucson.com/
They can be reached at 520 624 9393 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 520 624 9393 end_of_the_skype_highlighting