I am really looking forward to an easy-going review experience after some drama-filled ones (including forgetting to take photos for Big Planet Pizza). I thought “Neelam” would be the place to overcome the funk. I drove by it every day on the way to my yoga class, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. It would be there in two days, right?
Then we see the “grand opening” sign as Amir and I drive in that Saturday for the lunch bunch review. Keep in mind, we are only supposed to review places open 4-6 months, and my review was due Monday morning.
Just in case, I secretly took pictures of the food, which was delicious by the way. We pay, and then after we leave, I remember I forgot to pick up an itemized bill. Unless I pick up an itemized bill, I can’t be reimbursed.
After consulting with the food editor, I write the review anyway. Just in case. It’s a good thing I did because there was no backup: The review had to run. Unfortunately, a vital part of the review was missing: Namely the name of the new manager. He had seemed suspicious of me asking about what happened to “Neelam,” so I hadn’t asked as many questions as I would normally.
Since I had to go back for the itemized bill, I thought, “No problem. I’ll ask for it then.”
Only after fighting Bike Week traffic in Daytona Beach — twice — did I realized the restaurant was closed Mondays, but it wasn’t a total loss. I went to yoga
The food editor agreed to let me plug in the information on Tuesday, and thankfully then, it went off without a hitch. The manager was very gracious when I asked for an itemized bill and spoke glowingly of his wife, whom he had been married to for 31 years.
End result? Despite the drama in finishing this “Lunch Bunch,” Amir and I loved “Aavtar” and would eat there again. You should eat there, too.
Enjoy the review here (because it’s only online two weeks):
Copy editor Sherry Mims and her husband, Amir Fleminger, braved the fierce Bike Week traffic on Atlantic Avenue to go to Neelam Authentic Indian Cuisine and were surprised to see a sign saying Aavtar instead.
Manager Vinay Rakesh says his wife, Shashi R. Bhardwaj, took over from another family member recently, but the restaurant will provide the same great food as ever.
How was the atmosphere?
We arrived for a late lunch around 2 p.m. and found the place clean and airy.
Toward the left side of the restaurant, there was a buffet with everything from the always popular Chicken Tikka Masala, chicken marinated in spices and served in tomato cream sauce, to Palak Paneer, a vegetarian dish with spinach, paneer cheese and peas, as well as desserts.
What did you order?
No surprise here — we went with the buffet ($8.95 per person) so that we could get a taste of everything.
After we filled our plates, we found warm naan, Indian bread, waiting for us.
It’s difficult to break down what tasted the best because we enjoyed everything we tried. The Palak Paneer was great, but the Samosa, a pastry shell stuffed with savory spices and vegetables, was my personal favorite. It was also quite spicy, so I was glad we had both ordered water to drink.
Amir had a tougher time deciding his favorite. “I liked all of it,” he said, although he added the halwa, a pudding-like dessert, stood out.
How much was it?
With tax and tip, the bill came to $21.06.