In my experience, some of the best places to get Indian food and snacks are sweet shops. The layout tends to be the same: Enter to a spectrum of colorful treats in the glass counter, then decide whether you’re ordering chaat (snacks) made in the kitchen, or going to the buffet. Despite a robust Indian community in NoVA, I hadn’t seen much of this setup since I arrived here. But in one shopping center on Spring Garden Drive in Springfield, there are two such specimens, Niralla Sweets and Dera Restaurant.
I chose the former because of its larger selection of treats. I was curious to check out its buffet, but not surprisingly given the times, it was closed. I asked the young man working at the counter what the specialties of the house were. Despite a language barrier, he recommended samosas. I ordered one as well as palak paneer, my usual barometer for the quality of an North Indian restaurant’s handle on vegetarian food.
My meal was packed up to go despite the fact that I intended to stay in to eat. No matter; I unwrapped a series of packages for my lunch. For $11.99, I was treated to a large container of the stew itself, a full-sized naan bread, rice, chickpea stew, and salad. I couldn’t have done much better if the buffet had been open.
Once the palak paneer cooled down enough for me to taste it, I was disappointed by the light hand with spice. It tasted like a spicy, slightly Indian-inflected creamed spinach more than the lusty dish I crave. However, the character that it lacked was indeed present in the samosa, a crispy pastry filled with piquant potato and a few peas.
And the sweets? Among the three I tried, the soft, sugary orbs of gulab jamun stood out. But each was worth trying, melting with flavors of milk and rose. After all, they’re in Niralla’s name, and they’re the real reason for a visit.
7038 Spring Garden Dr., Springfield
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