However, when it comes to Indian food there are two main restaurants to choose from: India Pavilion and Kaarma. I took it upon myself to investigate which was the overall better choice. After ordering and consuming the same meal from both restaurants — malai kofta, naan, and a mango lassi — I judged each location based on its ambience, service, value, and of course food. Here are the results:
IP – 9/10
Kaarma – 6/10
In this category, there was no competition. The owners of India Pavilion have clearly put a large effort into creating a unique environment with their many tapestries and wooden sculptures. Also, even subtle differences, such as nicer glasses for a mango lassis, proved to make a large difference in the overall vibe of the restaurant.
Kaarma was very loud and crowded, given that it is much smaller. Kaarma had bellydancers performing, whereas India Pavilion did not. However, the dancers weren’t very good and made the atmosphere even more hectic than it already was. Some people seemed to appreciate Kaarma’s loudness, laughing, cheering, and sipping beer with their friends as the dancers performed.
IP – 7/10
Kaarma – 4/10
The wait for my meal at both restaurants was about the same and unusually long for an Indian restaurant. However, Kaarma only had two waitress in the entire restaurant on a packed Friday night, and they both seemed frazzled. My friends and I had to ask at least three times before they even gave us our water. The waitstaff at IP was overall more pleasant and alert.
Also, the owner of IP was extremely nice and considerate while I was checking out, asking how I like the meal and if I had any suggestions, whereas the owner of Kaarma just seemed keen on getting my money and then getting me out to make more space for others.
IP – 5/10
Kaarma – 7/10
Neither restaurant is an everyday option in terms of affordability for a broke college kid, but they are a nice once a week option. Overall, Kaarma’s prices were a little bit better — Mango Lassi was $2.00 compared to $2.50 at India Pavilion, and Malai Kofta was $9.95 compared to $10.95 — but the main difference was in the amount of food. At Kaarma, I was given significantly more food and basically had lunch for the next day to take home, while I did not have any leftovers at IP.
Kaarma – 9/10
In the most important category, there was little difference between the two restaurants. These are two of the best Indian restaurants I’ve been to, and I consider myself a qualified Indian food critic because I’m Indian and my mom is a fantastic cook. The malai kofta (main course I ordered) at both India Pavilion and Kaarma was equally amazing. The rice at Kaarma was a little drier, but the naan was amazing, which made the difference for me. Both mango lassis were fantastic.
I left both restaurants so full that I felt as if my center of gravity had been thrown off, because I just couldn’t stop myself from eating more. Being a vegetarian, I could not confirm this, but I have been told by many that Kaarma has better meat.
In conclusion, India Pavilion and Kaarma both shine where it most counts, the quality of the food. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind spending a few extra bucks on a quieter, nice environment, then Indian Pavilion might be the more ideal choice for you. But if you want leftovers and a more relaxed ambiance, Kaarma is definitely the way to go.
My preference would probably be India Pavilion, but they’re both surprisingly authentic Indian restaurants in the State College bubble. As one of my friends said, “I’d take a girl out on a first date to India Pavilion, but to bro it out with my friends, I’d choose Kaarma.” I’ll leave you with this profound thought to reflect on.
Have a different opinion? Let us know in the comments below!