I have some questions about Five Star Punjabi Diner in Long Island City. First is the name. Is it Five Star Diner, as the sign says? Is it Five Star Punjabi Diner, as my friends call it and as it's listed on Yelp? Is it Five Star Banquet & Restaurant as listed on nymag.com? Probably only questions a nitipicky mind would ask.
The most pressing question I have, though, is whether it's good.
My friends who live in the area SWEAR by it and eat there all the time. Cab drivers coming from a nearby taxi base are also frequent customers. When I've gone it's been tasty but a bit inconsistent. I've mostly stuck to the butter chicken and the saag paneer plus the variety of side dishes. When I've had the buffet lunch on weekends ($8.99; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the chicken has been a little dry (as expected when it's held in a chafing pan) but the cuts have been fine. But I've also gotten the butter chicken to order in the evening, and I've had mostly moist chicken but with a lot of gristle and cartilage left in it. That doesn't bother me so much, as I like chicken nankatsu (cartilage) at Japanese yakitoriya and izakaya.
All that aside, the samosas there are insane, and I'd almost go back just for a plate full of them. I don't know how much butter goes into them, but it tastes like you're eating a pancake. They are hot, rich, and delicious.
And here's the naan there. It, too, has been inconsistent when I've gone. The one on the left was just beautiful and blistered on an earlier visit, but on a more recent visit, I've gotten a serviceable but not as great naan. I don't know. Maybe that's the pizza-lover in me talking — I like the char.
I guess I'm mostly asking you all out there if you've been and what you think. I'm on the fence about it and wondering if I should go back for anything other than the atmosphere and samosa—and the weird-ass goldfish bowls on the diner counter. (I am not making that up.)
Five Star Punjabi Diner
13-15 43rd Avenue, Long Island City NY 11101 (at 21st Street; map) 718-784-7444