By Amy L. Carlson   Published Aug 29, 2005 at 5:42 AM Photography: Eron Laber

{image1}One of the wonderful things about Milwaukee is its ethnic food scene. While our streets will always overflow with good standard bar food, we also have the lovely hole-in-the-wall ethnic establishments that can make any diner's mouth water serving delicacies from all over the globe; Mexico, Greece, Italy, Germany, Vietnam, Spain, France, even Africa and Ireland.

One of my personal favorite cuisines, partially due to my penchant for spices and spicy foods, is Indian, and Jewel of India, 1003 N. Old World Third St., excels in pleasing palates of gourmands and gourmets and everyone in between.

For the typical gourmand, or even the more typical Milwaukeean in a hurry, Jewel of India presents a stellar all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for the unbeatable price of $7.95.

Lunch goers will find a full salad bar at one station, and another full station featuring two soups, most commonly a mulligatawny (spiced lentil soup) and a chicken soup, a large selection of enjoyable meat and vegetarian entrees, including such delicacies as goat curry and vegetable biryani (mixed vegetables cooked in herbs and spices with saffron rice) and the Indian dessert gulabjaman (cinnamon pastry balls soaked in honey and rosewater). Service here is good, and you are greeted at your table with a plate of warm Indian flatbreads.

Gourmets will be more impressed with the dinner service at Jewel of India. On our recent dinner visit, we were presented with a plate of wafer-thin flatbread to accompany a complimentary carousel of three Indian sauces/dips. All three sauces had a delightful, fresh, sweet and spicy flavor to them, and the heat varied from sauce to sauce. There was a tamarind sauce, a chutney type mixture made of crushed mint, pickles, onions, and other spices and ingredients, and a red bell pepper sauce that was heavenly but had a lively kick to it at the end.

Our server -- one of the owners -- explained that the red sauce was medium heat, which gave us a gauge by which to order our entrees, since Jewel of India offers their dishes mild, medium or hot.

We started with the mixed appetizer platter for two ($6.95), which comes in vegetarian or meat varieties. The appetizer was heaped with bhajia (vegetable fritters), samosas (potato turnovers), a large Tikona (a spiced lamb meat turnover), and tandoori chicken and shrimp, which were lightly breaded.

{image2}The appetizer portion could have easily served as a meal for two, and came with another hot sauce, this time definitely with heat, and a wonderful curry flavoring. At the server's suggestion we mixed all four sauces together to create another interesting and flavorful sauce.

Our entrée selections were both exceptional. The mixed grill madras ($14.95) showcases Tandori coking at its finest. Chicken on the bone, boneless chicken, spring chicken, lamb, ground lamb rolls and shrimp were marinated in spices and a yogurt sauce and then broiled in the tandori, a pit oven made from clay. The flavors and textures of the meats in the grill madras were delightful with a layer of grilled onions beneath them and a healthy portion of perfectly cooked long grain white rice.

Lamb curry ($11.50) showcased delicately tender lamb in medium spiced curry gravy. We enjoyed our meals with an order of ginger nan ($2.95), a flatbread laced with fresh grated ginger.

For dessert, to soothe the spices we had just taken in, we sampled the mango ice cream ($2.50), a refreshing and obviously freshly homemade ice cream that was like eating a frozen, creamy, ripe mango. Rasmalai ($2.50) was a reduced milk with two circles of Bengal (homemade cheese) sprinkled with bits of pistachios. The texture of the Bengal is unique, something like a super fine cottage cheese, and the flavors of this dessert were light, sweet and refreshing, the perfect end to a meal that was bursting in size, flavor, spice and color.

Jewel of India is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30-10 p.m. Good vegetarian selections available. Call (414) 226-4700.