One recent, rainy Friday afternoon, we decided to have lunch at Neela’s. Located in downtown Napa, Neela’s offers traditional Indian Cuisine prepared in an approachable, contemporary style. Having opened on March 31st, Neela’s adds to the growing dining options (including a few of our favorites such as Ubuntu, ZuZu, Uva and others) in downtown Napa and points to yet another instance where us Napans are fortunate to be surrounded by great dining establishments.
By way of background, Neela’s is run by renowned chef and author Neela Paniz, who created the Bombay Cafe in Los Angeles several years ago.
Neela’s dining room offers an intimate dining experience. The décor is simple, contemporary (without the coldness) and colors were warm and vibrant. We were able to see Neela herself hard at work preparing thalis for her customers. Patrons are able to have full service meals at the bar while watching a fun Bollywood flick.
The servers were friendly, accommodating to their patron’s requests and were eager to answer any questions asked. On a side note, our server did mention to us that the menu was still on a trial basis, with take-out menus expected to be available in a week or two.
OK, on to the food. Our lunch menu consisted of a handful of Thali options. Thali, by way of background, is a selection of different dishes served in small bowls on a round, metal tray. Neela’s Thalis are served with rice, lentils, naan, cucumber-tomato relish, vegetable Samosa and chutney. Some of Neela’s Thali selections include the Tandoori Lamb Thali, the Lamb Vindaloo Thali and a Vegetarian Thali.
We opted for the Tandoori Chicken Thali ($12) and the Kerala Fish Thali ($15).
The Tandoori Chicken Thali was very solid, with the chicken having a nice, crispy outside and a lush, moist inside. The spices and flavors from the chicken matched quite well with the lentils and chutney. The fish for the Kerala Fish Thali was halibut. Prepared with a wonderful balance of coconut milk, curry and other wonderful spices, the fish was not too heavy or rich. It’s pretty amazing that even though the only difference between the two meals was the meat option, they were both perfectly complimented by the side dishes.
Overall, Neela’s is a wonderful addition to downtown Napa’s growing restaurant scene. Its wonderful cuisine and friendly service will definitely keep us coming back for more. Since the menu is not final (though there is very little need for improvement) Neela’s earns a very enthusiastic four corks (out of five possible).
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Have you dined at Neela’s? If so, leave us a comment and let us know what you thought and don’t forget to check out our previous restaurant reviews.