It seems strange to write a review on a place I have been going to for years, but I have realized that a lot of people still have not tried Essence of India and may be interesting in learning more about it.
Essence of India is an Indian restaurant (duh) located in the New Leaf Market shopping center. The interior is dark and old but the decor is very Indian. The entire room is filled with tables and chairs, and a small bar sits in the back. I’ve been going to Essence for years now, and the same group of people have been serving there the whole time. They are always very polite and friendly.
I’ve been to Essence once for dinner and numerous times for lunch. That’s because, in my opinion, their lunch menu is a good deal. For only $7.99, you get soup, salad, an entree, rice, naan and dessert. Though there are more options, the dinner menu can get pricey. For the sake of this review, I will just be talking about the lunch special.
The soup served during lunch is a tasty vegetable soup (maybe lentil?). The salad seems like a handful of generic bagged salad, and the salad dressing tastes like a creamy Italian dressing. I could take it or leave it. The rice is always cooked perfectly and served family-style on a large plate. One of my favorite things at Essence of India is the naan. I could seriously eat a basket full of it! It has a perfect balance of airiness, softness and crispiness. Side note – wouldn’t a naan pizza be fabulous? Back to the Essence lunch. The lunch special menu is limited but there are still close to 20 entree choices. I always go with one of the vegetarian options – typically either the mixed vegetable curry or the aloo chole. At my last trip, I went with the mixed vegetable curry. I honestly do love this dish even though I am fairly sure they are using a bag of mixed frozen veggies. The curry is really good. You get to choose the heat level, and I typically go for medium, which is just right for me. The dessert is different each day, but on my recent visit was a fruit pudding (with what tasted like canned fruit). Maybe that’s why I can’t bring myself to buy dinner there – I feel like they are taking a lot of shortcuts. The mixed vegetable curry alone is $10.95 at night. I don’t mind paying $7.99 for the full meal that comes with it at lunch, but I personally do not think frozen veggies in curry sauce are worth $10.95. I will mention that my husband got the chicken curry lunch special and loved it! The food has always tasted good to me, but I wish Essence would put more emphasis on cooking from scratch and using fresh products. I DO like this restaurant, but I think Essence of India could be even better with some changes.
Price: $7.99 for lunch, dinner can add up quickly
Atmosphere and cleanliness: Old, dark, needs updating but they try to keep it clean
Food: Good but could be better
Service: Always on the ball