A week in spice heaven: testing out the online reputation of Lyon’s best-rated Indian restaurants, Part 1
1. The Penjab
The internet was completely unanimous about this one: The Penjab is the one Indian restaurant that came out on top of everyone’s list. Opened in 1984, it’s one of the founding fathers of Indian cuisine in Lyon. It has earned an amazing reputation and I have to say: I get it.
It is perfectly located, near the Vieux Lyon metro station and right next to the Saône. It is small, intimate, with an elegant décor: a mix of more traditional pieces with modern colours and lighting.
My order consisted of:
Krahi Goshet Lamb (small pieces of lamb in a ginger, coriander and spice sauce), 12,90€
Plaow Rice, 4€
Garlic Naan (with Nigella seeds), 4€
Mango Kulfi (Indian ice cream) with a berry coulis, 4,50€
First of all, let’s talk about service. The Penjab is a family-owned business so I believe the owner was the one serving all of us in the restaurant that night, and his son seemed to be managing the bar. Honestly, I would go back just to see how Mr. Sultan is doing: he was that sweet.
Welcoming, attentive, he was always making sure I was doing alright and that the food was to my taste. Plus, the service was pretty quick, even though I definitely was not the only one eating there at the time. I couldn’t have asked for better.
Now for the food: it was delicious. Even with a terrible camera quality and very mediocre photography skills, you can see how good that looks! This was the only restaurant the offered the choice between spicy and mild, which my sensitive stomach very much appreciated. Therefore, my meal was full of flavour and spices without making my tongue fall out: two thumbs up.
The only small disappointment was the naan, which is quite sad, because my life revolves around good garlic naan. Not that it was bad in any way: I think it was just overpowered by the taste of the Nigella seeds. Hey, that could be your thing, it just wasn’t mine.
As for the bill, I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously not the cheapeast alternative when eating out but I thought it to be average prices, especially for a classier, very well reputed restaurant.
Overall, it was a very tasty experience and an enjoyable moment, for myself and my wallet, which didn’t suffer from overpricing. Definitely worth the hype, though you’ll have to keep reading to understand why it didn’t reach the number one spot on my personal list.
Bonus fact: there are USB sockets above the table right next to the entrance, against the wall, if ever you need to charge something.
My rating: 4,5 delicious frozen mangoes out of 5.
25 Bis Quai Romain Rolland
04 78 42 36 76
2. The Karachi
Another well-known veteran of Lyon’s long history in Indian food, the Karachi was opened in 1982. It’s a larger space which kept its more traditional look and also has a more elegant feel (you know it’s classy when the waiters are wearing uniforms!).
My order consisted of:
Butter Chicken (chicken in an Indian butter sauce), 16,90€
Garlic Naan (are you sensing a theme here, yet?), 3,50€
Ghulab Jaman (these are the classier, more exotic version of doughnut holes: prepared with Indian butter, covered in coconut and served with a syrup), 5,90€
Taj Majal cocktail (the most delicious fruity, creamy drink), 6,70€
Total: 35,30 €
Once again, my food was brought out very quickly and with a smile from the waiters, who were helpful and on top of everything.
As for the food, it wasn’t spicy at all but extremely flavourful and served in quite a copious amount. The naan had bits of garlic on it: can you imagine? Perfect for a first date! The cocktail was recommended to me by the server, a cold, fruity, creamy, non-alcoholic dream: I had to stop myself from drinking all of it before even starting my food.
The dessert, just like many of the dishes I ordered throughout the week, was new to me. It was served warm and had a slightly salty element to it, which was a problem for someone who has a huge sweet-tooth and immediately associates dessert to sugar. It was good, I just wouldn’t necessarily order it again: matter of personal preference.
The Karachi was yet another success and great recommendation on the internet users’ part. I wouldn’t say it was the most budget-friendly, especially if you want to try one of their drinks, but the price isn’t unjustifiable: quality is key.
Bonus fact: they sell Indian products inside the restaurant, including chickpea flour, the restaurant’s own rice and Patak sauces.
My rating: 4,5/5 for garlic breath (that’s a good thing, in my book)
206 Rue Garibaldi
04 78 95 49 23
3. The Penjabi Grill
Third on our list is the epitome of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover“. The Penjabi Grill isn’t the easiest restaurant to find: it’s right in the middle of a tiny street near Vieux Lyon, across from the Penjab, on the other side of the Saône.
The Penjabi Grill doesn’t look like much: the street (alley?) is a little deserted and narrow (I wouldn’t necessarily go there alone at night) and the restaurant itself is on the smaller side, with a more modest decor. The only thing to guide you is the sweet smell of their food and the soft sound of Indian music.
However, don’t be too quick to judge! This one is a diamond in the rough. The service wasn’t the best I had experienced, the waiter wasn’t super smiley (I’m cutting him some slack: we all have bad days, right?), but my meal came out soon after ordering.
My order consisted of:
A set menu including Bhaja (a type of onion fritter made with chickpea flour), Curry Beef and Cheese Naan, 15,50€
Banana Lassi (drink made of milk and yoghurt, comparable to a milkshake), 4€
The food is what reassured me about this place. More-than-satisfying quantities, tasty as can be but also very low on the Scoville scale and you can’t beat those prices. 15,50€ for a starter, main course and naan? In a sit-down restaurant? I was VERY pleased.
Not to mention the Lassi, which I wanted to taste at least once: it’s one of the well-known signature Indian drinks. I thought it was more of a dessert element, as it is quite sweet, but it was recommended to me as something to be consumed along with my main meal.
Apparently, it’s supposed to help cool you down while you’re eating all those spices. Although the dish wasn’t hot, it was still greatly appreciated just because it was so delicious! Move over American milkshakes, you’ve got some competition.
My rating: 4 frothy bananas out of 5
Le Penjabi Grill
7 rue du Port du Temple
04 26 07 28 68
Now I’m going to leave a bit of suspense in the air… Come back soon to read Part 2 and find out if I was able to prove the internet wrong!