Anyway, what this post is about is The Jewel of India. (FB Page here) It's our new local Indian restaurant, braving the mercurial economic terrain of Waterville. I've eaten there twice and people keep asking how is it, so here's my answer. KennebecTom's official rating is "Awesome."
Simply, the food is delicious. Really delicious. As good as any Indian cuisine I've had - which is admittedly just a handful of places in a handful of cities.
Now, please be patient. They are mobbed and nearly over-loved right now. My wife and I had to wait for a table at lunchtime last weekend. As soon as I put the first bite of chicken biryani in my mouth, I knew the wait had been worth it. The garlic nan and vegetable samosa were fantastic.
So, when my wife won a "Teacher of the Quarter" vote at her high school, we celebrated by getting takeout. Well, it was quite a gauntlet I ran with good humor.
First, I tried calling from work for 20 minutes, but every time I got a message after two rings that the "user's mailbox had not been set up yet." Whaaaaat? I gave up and concluded an in-person order would have to be made.
I drove downtown and was only half-surprised to see every table occupied, people waiting, and the waitress busy with tallying a bill so I had to wait to report both the phone issue and place my order. Then I learned the wait would be 30 minutes. There was some communication difficulty due to language barrier, but at ethnic restaurants I consider this confidence inspiring. As you may recall, cornerstones of my immigration policy are that any foreigners can stay as long as they like if employed in cooking delicious foods of their country just like their grandma (or whatever their word is) taught them, or if volunteering to pay my income taxes.
I still had enough time before picking up a daughter at dance class, so I said fine and went across the darkened, wintery Main Street to check out the new Loyal Biscuit downtown and see if they carried my favorite cat litter. They didn't, but it's very nice inside and the clerk appeared to authentically have her own dog working the register with her.
Next I wandered down past Kringleville, set up beautifully in The Center in the front windows with a righteous Santa and helpers, but few children this early in the season. A beautiful, warm setup behind the picture windows it is. Much improvement over Santa's old shed with often muddy entrance of years past.
I walked down to Common Street Arts, just to make sure our snow removal guy did his job and had a chat with programming coordinator Lisa Wheeler, who is currently working hard to make this year's Holiday Bazaar even bigger and better than last year. Having satisfied these curiosities and savored the crisp night air amongst the historic buildings (some of which have watched over 123 prior Christmases), I strolled back to wait inside The Jewel.
The place was humming. I read the news, checked Facebook, and checked my email on my beloved iPhone, and chatted a bit with other customers, included several familiar faces. Some folks waited, some folks decided to try an alternative, but took a takeout menu with them. A quartet beside me began discussing the "Chinese restaurant around the corner" as a possibility, and I butted in that if they meant Jin Yuan, it is excellent and my favorite Chinese restaurant in town. They thanked me and took off, my opinion having clinched it, and I'll stand behind that opinion any day. It could have been a ruse to advance my position in line, but I'm not that kind of guy. It was an honest plan to drive business to another beloved restaurant in the downtown of course. I am that kind of guy.
So I stood and observed the slightly stressed young Indian man and two new waitresses confront their sudden and overwhelming popularity in a milder, culinary version of what Lorde must be going through. They have all the standard startup issues of any new restaurant - wonky phones, new procedures, untested systems, etc. I got my food, picked up my daughter, and finally made it home. And as soon as the first bite of chicken tikka masala and basmati rice hit my tongue, I made my popular "savory face" (lips pursed, eyes closed, face turned skyward), said "Mmmmm" and knew the wait was worth it.
I will stick with them for the long haul as long as they keeping cooking like this. It's delicious, fresh, and savory. I'm no regular culinary writer with a food-oriented thesaurus, so I'll have to leave it at that. They're a wonderful addition to Waterville's Downtown Dining District - as defined by yours truly.