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Archive for Sunday, November 28, 1999

PALACE OF INDIAN FOODS OPENS IN LAWRENCE

November 28, 1999

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The Choong family of Kansas City has brought one of its popular India Palace restaurants to Lawrence.

Gurdev Choong's friends in Lawrence had begged him for several years to consider opening an Indian restaurant here.

They made the case that it would save them a half-hour drive to Choong's two India Palace restaurants in Overland Park.

And, they pointed out, Lawrence didn't have any Indian restaurants of its own, so the market would belong to him.

"I have many good friends and customers in Lawrence, professors from the university, who've asked us to come here," said the 42-year-old Choong.

"A friend called me late one night and said she'd found the right spot (for a restaurant). My brother and I came here the next day, looked inside it and talked to the landlord."

Choong's friends have had their hopes fulfilled -- Lawrence now has its own India Palace, at 129 E. 10th.

It's the fourth restaurant in the Choong family business.

Choong immigrated to the United States from India in 1985, settling in Boston. More family members followed him to Massachusetts later.

After gaining experience by working in several Indian restaurants there, he opened his first India Palace in Boston in 1991.

Acting on a tip from a friend, he visited Kansas City to see if a market existed for an Indian restaurant. The city had only one at the time.

"I looked around, and I said, 'This is the place I'm going to be.' Kansas is clean, and the people are nice and friendly."

He opened his Overland Park restaurants in June 1995 and April 1997.

Choong now lives with his family in Olathe. He will commute to Lawrence to run the restaurant here.

Northern Indian cuisine

All the India Palace locations have received warm reviews from publications in Boston and Kansas City, and have built a loyal clientele, Choong said.

Even the nationally recognized Zagat Restaurant Survey has taken favorable notice of the string of restaurants.

"We're proud of that. We must be doing something good."

The 2,200-square-foot Lawrence restaurant will offer meals cooked in the northern-Indian style.

It's the kind of food Choong enjoyed while growing up in the Punjab region of India, about 200 miles from New Delhi.

Dishes range from mild to hot, and the amount of spices used can be adjusted to suit each customer's taste.

Those who love Indian food, or who are new to it, should find much to enjoy on the extensive menu.

It features a wide range of meals, including chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp and many vegetarian dishes.

A specialty is the tandoori cooking, in which ingredients are marinated in yogurt and spices and baked on skewers in a clay oven special-ordered from London.

The tandoori oven imparts a distinctive, rich flavor and color to the food cooked inside it.

For an appetizer, customers might try vegetable samosas -- spicy turnovers stuffed with potatoes and green peas -- or paneer pakoras, fresh homemade cheese, deep fried in spicy chick-pea batter.

You could follow that with chicken tandoori or lamb tikka masala, tender pieces of lamb cooked with onion, garlic and ginger in a mild tomato-based sauce.

Add an order of aloo nan -- bread baked in the tandoori oven and stuffed with potato and spices -- or paratha, multi-layered whole wheat bread cooked with butter on a griddle.

And end your meal with kheer (rice pudding with raisins and almonds) or mango ice cream.

India Palace offers a variety of beer and ales, such as Indian Taj Mahal, St. Pauli Girl, Boulevard Pale Ale and Foster's Lager.

The wine list includes Jakob Demmer Piesporter Michelsberg, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, Indigo Hills Pinot Noir and J. Lohr Cypress Merlot.

"I love the restaurant business, but there's headaches, too. That's in any business, though," Choong said.

"It's very hard work. You have to have your own family to help you run it."

-- Jim Baker's phone message number is 832-7173; his e-mail address is jbaker@ljworld.com.

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