Monday, March 02, 2009

Review: Neelam

Type: Indian
Location: 295 Springfield Ave., Berkeley Heights, NJ, 07922
Phone: 908-665-2212
Price Range: Entrees $13 - $20, with most in the low - mid teens
Liquor License: BYOB
Delivery: Yes
Take Out: Yes

There is another location for Neelam in South Orange, but I've never been to that one. Entrees include tandoori specialties, chicken, seafood, lamb, and vegetarian dishes. Some Indian restaurants have beef dishes, but Neelam doesn't. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try one of the combination dinners (individual, or for two) that include soup, an entree, and dessert. These vary from day to day, so it's worth asking what the dishes are before you order a combo meal.

Papadum, along with onion chutney and some sort of green sauce are brought to the table, the way other restaurants bring out bread baskets.

The vindaloo dishes are reliably hot, but not quite spicy enough to induce sweating eyebrows. Some of my favorite dishes are chicken tikka masala, chicken dhingri, shrimp dhingri, and chicken vindaloo. I don't particularly like lamb, but have dined with others who say the lamb is nice and tender.

This location of Neelam doesn't seat that many people, so it does a lot of take-out, from orders that are phoned in for pick-up. The atmosphere is cozy, and a bit on the dark side. Service is attentive, if a bit on the slow side. This may be a function of how long Indian food takes to cook; I've never eaten at an Indian restaurant in which the food arrived fairly quickly. Parking can be a problem at the restaurant, which is in a tiny strip mall that also has a fairly popular pizzaria, but can be found within a block in some other lot.

Neelam has been around for almost three decades, which indicates to me that it's been reliable for a long time. I think the entree portions are rather large. Appetizers are available, but if you're tempted to order any, it's best to share them among the table, or you may easily be too stuffed to finish your entree. The staff is certainly willing, however, to pack up any leftovers for you to bring home. Everything I've ordered over the years reheats well, either on the stovetop in a pot, or in the microwave at low-medium power, so as not to vulcanize the animal flesh.

If you believe their yellow pages advertisement, Zagat rated it "excellent," NJ Monthly wrote "Best Indian food," and the Star-Ledger rated it 3-1/2 stars. I tend to agree.

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