Everyday Eats: The "Everything" Plate at Punjabi Tandoor
Your best bet at Punjabi Tandoor is this heaping combo plate
In last year's Best Restaurants feature, locals pegged Royal India as their top pick for Indian food in San Diego, and while the Gaslamp spot does serve some decent (if fairly mild) curries, the spread at Punjabi Tandoor in Miramar is miles better... and what you loose in ambience, you definitely earn back in flavor and value. Consider their lunch specials: a host of different combinations of chicken and vegetable curries, rice, naan, and samosas, all for under $10. The restaurant is hidden away in a sleepy business park, but nearby workers and intrepid foodies have clearly caught on: there's often a line at lunch. Even so, service is speedy and many people get their order to go, meaning you shouldn't have a problem securing a seat at one of the communal tables inside, or outside (weather permitting).
I've worked my way through nearly all of the different combinations, and found that the best thing to do is stick with the last option, deemed the "everything" combo ($9.99). It means exactly that: a bit of everything on offer in the serving buffet that day. You'll get two portions of chicken curries (a spicy curry, and a creamier, more mild chicken makhani -- or butter chicken), three vegetable curries (most often it's chick peas, spinach, and mushroom), rice, a giant naan right out of the tandoori oven, a samosa (with sauce, or without) and a cup of kheer (rice pudding spiked with a pinch of cardamom). To drink there's everything from giant bottles of iced tea and lemonade to sodas, lassis, sweet and milky Indian tea, and beer.
The colorful kaleidoscope of curry makes for a massive meal that's best shared, but the leftovers heat up quick and easy for a second serving later in the day. If you think you'll be craving something more substantially sweet than the mini portion of kheer, add some gulab jamun ($2.95) to your order. The sugary orbs resemble a doughnut hole, but are made from deep-fried milk solids that are soaked in rose water syrup, making them exceptionally sweet. They're excellent straight-up, but I like them with a splash of kheer on top, or (even better) dunked in a mango lassi.
Punjabi Tandoor is located at 9235 Activity Road (map). Lunch is served Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Dinner combos are also available.