Tammie Gitt for Sentinel
Despite being located on North Hanover Street, Jewels of India is something of a hidden gem in downtown Carlisle, partly because of renovations to the original space and partly because of changes made during the pandemic.
Jewels of India opened in the former Andalusian restaurant at 26 N. Hanover St. in 2018. The owners transformed the Andalusian open bar near the front of the restaurant into an enclosed kitchen area that houses the ovens tandoori.
Next, the front seats near the windows were removed, making it easier to take takeout orders during the pandemic.
Combined, these two factors make it easy to think Jewels of India is closed or not open for indoor dining. But go on. A whole different world awaits beyond the take-out counter where the dining area bursts with bright colors accented by chandeliers, cascading light fixtures and statues to give the restaurant its distinct Indian character.
A small but friendly staff quickly showed me a seat and answered all my questions. The first of these concerned the lunch buffet, which is no longer served in order to reduce food waste.
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There are plenty of choices on the regular menu, which includes descriptions of the different dishes for those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine. I asked the waiter for recommendations and she quickly pointed me to the Chicken Tikka Masala, marinated pieces of chicken cooked in the tandoor oven and covered in a creamy tomato sauce with onions, peppers and spices and their homemade curry , a basic chicken curry with tomatoes, onion, ginger and garlic.
Lamb and seafood specialties ranging from salmon cooked in coconut, tamarind and Indian spices to scallops and prawns cooked in different combinations of curry or pepper sauces are also featured on the menu.
The menu also includes a sizable vegetarian section with dishes like Palak Paneer, fresh ground spinach cooked with herbs, spices and cottage cheese, and Avial, a mixed vegetable cooked in coconut sauce. with turmeric, coriander and coconut oil.
If tandoori oven specialties are more your pace, there are skewers, lamb chops and paneer tikka, a dish in which cubes of cheese marinated in yoghurt and spices are cooked in a clay oven with peppers and onions.
I went with the Chicken Tikka Masala with Garlic Naan, a delicious baked bread with good amounts of garlic. On its own, naan could easily be a quick and easy side dish for people who work downtown and need a little something to liven up the standard office lunch.
When the bowl of basmati rice arrived before the main course, I knew I would have to ask for a box for the leftovers. The bowl of rice was easily enough to feed a few people or, as the waiter told me, to give you a total of three meals. The rice was perfectly cooked, just in the right place between being too gummy and being too dry.
The Chicken Tikka Masala came in an equal sized bowl with large chunks of chicken swimming in a rusty red sauce. Jewels of India gives you the option to choose your spice level, so I opted for medium, which gave the dish enough spice to kick it up without burning your taste buds.
I skipped the dessert, but seriously considered the rasmalai, which are pancakes of Indian cheese in a cardamom-flavored milk and sugar syrup. I also think you can’t go wrong with gulag jamun, which are doughnut-like balls of dough in a honey syrup.
While I highly recommend dining there to soak up the atmosphere, Jewels of India should be high on the take-out list for those with a bit more adventurous taste. Either way, you get a tasty break from everyday cooking, and it’s something we can all use from time to time.