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Side Dish: Palak Paneer at Royal Indian Grill in Danville

Say cheese when ordering Indian.


Nicholas Boer

I’m not sure why, but I never order dishes made with paneer, a simple fresh cheese commonly served at Indian restaurants. Paneer’s texture is more like firm tofu than cheddar or chevre, and it’s as mild as milk, so being squeamish about chunks of cheese is no excuse. In fact, this snow-white protein makes the perfect foil for colorful, complex Indian sauces: a soft background note for spicy goodness.

This weekend, short on time, I asked Royal Indian Grille’s owner/server to navigate the dauntingly long menu for us. Palak paneer was among the classic dishes he suggested. While the food took some time to arrive on this busy Saturday night, eating it didn’t. Our chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo were some of the best and authentic tasting I’ve ever tried, so for the paneer to stand out is saying something. It was as silky as the spinach sauce in which it was simmered; each cube of cheese a welcome surprise.

Royal’s culinary style—more flavorful and aromatic than rich and creamy—turned out to be the perfect vehicle for this toothsome treasure. I’d gush on, but I don’t want a cheesy ending (oh well, too late).

629 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, (925) 743-1747, royalindiangrill.net. Lunch and dinner daily.