Cleveland: Indian meal at Jaipur Junction spices up child’s dining repertoire


April 27, 2012

Cleveland has always had a rich ethnic-dining scene.

In the past, that has often meant pierogi, bratwurst or pasta on the plate. But in recent years, dining-out options have diversified as our city has, too.

April 27, 2012

Cleveland has always had a rich ethnic-dining scene.

In the past, that has often meant pierogi, bratwurst or pasta on the plate. But in recent years, dining-out options have diversified as our city has, too.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the southwestern suburbs, which have emerged as a hot destination for Indian dining. Fueled by a growing Indian-American population around Parma, Middleburg Heights and North Royalton, the area has seen the opening of several top-notch Indian restaurants and groceries. Two popular restaurants are the sleek-and-chic Cuisine of India and the vegetarian South-Indian Udupi Cafe, both in Parma Heights.

I've even had two East Siders recently tell me they frequently make the trip across town for both restaurants, and the grocery stores next door. (How brave of them to cross the river.)

One of the longest-running Indian restaurants in the area, Jaipur Junction, has been bringing the tastes of Northern India to North Royalton for more than a decade. Originally known as the more casual sister of Shaker Heights' Saffron Patch, it long ago earned a reputation on its own merits.

Casual is a key word at the very affordable restaurant, which is tucked into a tiny strip mall. Meals are served on paper plates with plastic utensils and there are fewer than 10 tables — meaning much of their weekday business is takeout. Weekends, on the other hand, find Jaipur Junction boisterously filled, mostly with Asian families, for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

But even during the week, those who choose to eat in will be pleasantly surprised. Despite the paper plates, the space is bright, cheery and very clean. One wall is dominated by a funky Indian cityscape, bold shades color the others, and Bollywood tunes were bouncing through the air on our recent visit. Service, often from owner Mohammed Salim is knowledgeable and prompt. The menu is a wide-ranging success of curries, chicken and seafood dishes, vegetarian favorites, tandoori entrees, breads, desserts and chai bar.

Seeking to introduce our 5-year-old to some more worldly flavors, we recently took her along on a visit. Like us, she was immediately struck by the vibrant decor and music — and then came the naan. Rarely have I had better naan– hot-from-the-oven, chewy flatbread, perfectly crisp and slightly charred outside. In addition to regular naan ($1.95 for four huge pieces), they also serve garlic- and chicken-stuffed naan. And then there's the Kashmiri naan with coconut, cashew nuts, almond and raisins ($3.95), a heavenly, slightly sweet concoction.

But children — and adults — cannot live on bread alone. We asked our waiter what could be made most mild for our Indian-food newbie, and he suggested the creamy Chicken Korma, made at the lowest spice level possible. Bingo! The creamy curry with big hunks of white meat was the perfect choice. And it still had a tiny zing — just enough for a 5-year-old.

We cranked up the heat and asked for medium for our vegetarian Mastani Palak ($8.95) and Mutter Paneer ($8.95) (We've learned from experience that Jaipur Junction likes it hot, so aim a bit milder in your requests than you do at most Indian restaurants.) The Mastani Palak, spinach cooked in freshly ground spices with chickpeas, was indeed spicy, but had a nice earthy taste in the peas and spinach. And the Mutter Paneer's homemade cheese cubes were mouth-meltingly good, delicate chunks swimming in a light curry with green peas. Both were served with heaping bowls of fluffy saffron rice pilaf ($1.95).

After such large portions, we decided to forgo dessert. But I did opt for a fresh Junction Chai to go ($1.95). Freshly brewed with heated milk and cardamom, the unsweetened drink put any kind of Starbucks "chai" to shame.

It was a sweet ending to a meal worth a drive from any side of town.

About Jaipur Junction

Where: 9377 Sprague Road, North Royalton, Cleveland, Ohio

Contact: 440-842-3555,

Website: http://www.thejaipur

Operating Hours: Noon-9 p.m. Sunday; noon-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday; noon-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday.

Prices: Appetizers, $1.50-$7.95; breads, $1.95–$2.95; entrees, $8.95-$17.95; desserts, $2.95-$3.50; week end lunch buffet, $4.95-$8.95.

Kids’ specials: Will make food with mild spice levels for kids. Kids eat for $4.95 at Saturday buffet.

Reservations: Not taken.

Credit cards: All major cards accepted.

Cuisine Type: Indian

Accessibility: Fully accessible.

Grade: * * * (out of four).

Courtesy: Laura DeMarco, The Plain Dealer