Review of Darbar: An Indian Restaurant in Kingston, Ontario
Overall Assessment: Not Too Bad!
Darbar is the oldest Indian restaurant in Kingston. My friends and I visited them for lunch in late July. They have reasonably priced specials for lunch and an extensive menu. I was treated to mulligatawny soup (on the house), which was a bit watery but not bad. We also ordered onion bhaji to share. They were warm and quite delicious. I ordered the chicken tandoori, which comes with rice and salad. The chicken tandoori was all right but a bit acidic for me. The chicken was also a bit dry. It was, however, well-seasoned. The rice took on a minor role and wasn't that special. The salad was a disappointment. It consisted of iceberg lettuce that was probably sitting around for too long. The chicken tandoori wasn't the best I've had, but it wasn't too bad. The best part of the meal was the free dessert, which consisted of a single milk ball. It had the right level of sweetness and a gingery flavour. The service was very good. They were prompt, friendly and efficient. Their washrooms were very dated but were clean and well-stocked. I was very happy to know that they passed their health inspections with no violations. Overall, I would recommend Darbar for Indian cuisine.
A Bit of History
Darbar distinguishes itself as one of the oldest Indian restaurants in Kingston. It is run by Ananta Kar and Ashok Kar.
When you set foot in Darbar, you immediately feel a sense of warmth. This is created by the warm colours of the decor: red, tan, gold, yellow and orange. Red wallpaper is the backdrop for Indian artwork that is displayed on one of the walls. In the side dining area, the main colour-scheme is white with murals of green plants and artwork.
The tables are elegantly dressed with white and black tablecloths with dark brown chairs accompanying them. Tables are set with wine glasses and nicely placed silverware.Soft Indian music plays in the background, creating a very calming environment. Overall, Darbar has a rich and soothing atmosphere.
My friends and I visited Darbar in late July for lunch. All of my friends ordered the specials, while I ordered from the regular menu. Their specials are roughly $9 to $12 and come with soup and dessert. We also shared onion bhaji ($5), which are deep-fried, thinly sliced onions seasoned with mild spices and battered in lentils.
We were given complimentary papadum, a thin, fried crispy wafer made of ground lentils. These were quite tasty.
I got the chicken tandoori. This is essentially roasted chicken marinated bone-in in homemade natural yoghurt and twelve spices and herbs in a tandoor, or cylindrical clay oven. This came with rice and salad for $16.
When my friends' soup arrived, one of my friends asked for one without cilantro. So I was given her soup and she got a new one without the herb. The soup was mulligatawny, a traditional Anglo-Indian spicy soup of chicken broth, vegetables, lentils and fresh lemon.
We were also treated to dessert, which I believe was gulab jamun. It is an Indian delicacy of fried milk balls in cardamon-flavoured syrup.
The soup was warm, not too spicy and had a sour note. It was a bit watery and didn't have too many vegetables or lentils. I thought it was not too bad.
The onion bhaji were quite delicious and very warm and crispy. The sauce that they were served with was quite good, as well.
The chicken tandoori was okay for me. It wasn't really that spicy. I thought it had a very dominant acidic flavour, likely coming from the yogurt. The chicken was a bit dry but well-seasoned. The rice was well-separated and wasn't too special. The salad was a disappointment. It had iceberg lettuce that could have been fresher as well as carrots and tomatoes. I thought it could have been improved with other kinds of lettuces or greens that had more flavour. Overall, the whole dish was alright, but it was not the best chicken tandoori I've ever had.
I was given a free dessert—a nice treat to end the meal. The dessert was a single milk ball in sweet syrup. It was very tasty and had a hint of ginger. It was quite nice!
We were served by a waiter and a bus person. The waiter was helpful in answering the questions we had about the specials and brought out our meals quite promptly. The bus person was quite good at refilling our water and taking away our finished dishes. Overall, I was pleased with the service. It was friendly, quick and efficient.
The state of a restaurant's washroom is an indication of their cleanliness and upkeep. I checked out their men's washroom. It was sort of drab and very old-looking. However, it was clean and well-stocked.
The Kingston Public Health Unit regularly does health inspections of food facilities and posts their results on their website. I went on their website to see how Darbar did on their last inspection. They were last inspected on June 22, 2018. I'm happy to report they had no violations. They passed their inspection!