In an area where you can get a burger, taco or chow mein on nearly every corner, it's refreshing to have an eatery like Sansar. On Pacific Avenue in Stockton, Sansar is authentic Indian food. It is flavorful, homemade and refreshingly unique.
Sansar owners pride themselves on offering a gourmet experience. A combination of exotic flavors, healthful preparation and the respect for fine ingredients is what they believe has made their restaurant popular.
Sansar is open both for lunch and dinner. Lunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet, two tables filled with homemade Indian vegetable and chicken dishes, rices and desserts. Lunch is $7.95, from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily.
Dinner is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Choose from a menu full of appetizers, soup, salads, side dishes, breads, rice dishes, vegetables, poultry, Tandoori specialties, lamb, sea food and Indian sweets.
Whether you like spicy or mild, are vegetarian or "meat-etarian," or if you're not one to typically branch outside of the same-old dinner routine, it's safe to say there is still something everyone will enjoy at Sansar. If you go at lunchtime, you'll be able to taste at least 20 menu options that are each homemade and authentic to Northern India.
The restaurant is usually busy. But on a recent Monday, the restaurant only had a few customers and Anselm Fernands was running the house. Until recently, Sansar was closed on Mondays. Now it's open daily and Fernands expects Mondays will be busy as soon as people realize the restaurant is open.
Fernands has worked at Sansar since February, and already he knows the food well. Genuine and friendly, Fernands will help customers find a dish they will enjoy. He recommended people try the dessert Fernands on top of homemade rice pudding. Now, he says, everyone eats it that way.
The buffet is an ever-changing buffet of entrees and sides. On the day I visited, there was lentil soup, chef's special rice, Aloo Gobhi (potatoes stuffed with cauliflower - rather tasty), Kadi pakora (yogurt curry made with garbonzo flour), tandoori mixed with wild vegetables, palak paneer (fresh ground spinach with cottage cheese), chili chicken, butter chicken and more.
The chili chicken is like the Chinese dish. However, instead of using beef, many use chicken or vegetables that are halal.
The customer favorite is butter chicken - chunks of chicken in a orangy-colored, cream-based sauce.
"You don't feel like swallowing - you just want to taste it," Fernands said.
After my first bite, I understood. It was very flavorful. I tasted cream and spices and tender chicken. Every bite had a little kick, but the spiciness wasn't overbearing. I liked the butter chicken with slices of fresh, bubbly naan bread.
The vegetable dishes are nothing like you see anywhere else. From spinach to the Lodi-grown okra, they create flavorful dishes I was eager to taste.
There are numerous appetizers. Lamb rolls is Naan bread stuffed with minced lamb sauce, fresh herbs, onions, home-ground spices, ginger and garlic. Khas shish kababs are tender roles of succulent minced lamb, mildly spiced, coated with onion and grilled. Also choose from mussels, rack of lamb, chicken platter and many more.
Tandoori specialties include a full tandoori chicken: chicken marinated in sauce with yogurt, home-ground spices and baked in tandoor. Tandoori prawns: fresh, marinated prawns.
I wasn't too sure about the dessert, gulab jamun. At first, I thought it the sticky round treat was some sort of plum dish. I soon learned that it is actually a traditional dessert made from dry milk, semolina and cheese and fried in rose floured honey syrup. I cut one of the doughy balls in half and tasted it with an Indian rice pudding. It was like nothing I expected. It was sweet, warm and a little like a gourmet doughnut hole.
What: Sansar Authentic Indian Cuisine
Where: 7610 Pacific Ave., Suite 1 in Stockton
Specialties: Indian food, Indian beer, Indian sweets, halal food
Hours: Open daily: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch buffet, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. for dinner
Information: 957-4995. Dine-in, take-out, catering and a large banquet room are available.
Fernands says they're actually something the chefs are very particular about. Fernands has to cut the first gulab jamun ball open to make sure it's perfect all the way through because the chefs are too scared to do it themselves. If a batch isn't perfect, the entire batch gets tossed to the trash.
Attention to detail and perfection is something that Sansar prides itself on - and you can taste it.