Two Indian buffet restaurants give customers the opportunity to sample Indian cuisine without leaving the country.
Before you visit either restaurant, you should know that the term “curry” refers to sauce or gravy, and does not necessarily mean that curry powder is used in the dish. Also, India is a country that is as diverse as America, so expect similarly titled dishes to vary by restaurant.
Samosa Indian Vegetarian Cuisine (1214 Walnut St.) offers outstanding vegetarian dishes in a relaxed setting under a canopy of plant vines.
Samosas, or fried pastries filled with seasoned potatoes and mixed vegetables, are heavy but worth trying. A similar dish is spinach pakora, or fried balls of spinach and breading.
Definitely try the raneer saag, a spinach and cheese dish with chick peas. I’ve tried this at other places where the cheese flavor is not as prominent. In this case, the flavor and texture of the cheese make this a smooth, tasty dish. The mixed lentils are also a good option, especially ladled over the basmati rice.
I’m not a fan of okra, but the restaurant’s bindi masala, with its traditional Indian spices of cumin and turmeric, convince me that it is possible for okra to be well-prepared.
While the majority of the dishes are not spicy, the alu masala, consisting of potatoes and peas, is a little too hot for my taste.
Salad and naan bread round out the meal, as do the sweet mango chutney and the tart-tasting pickled vegetables.
For dessert, the restaurant offers cut fruit or kheer, a vanilla-flavored rice pudding with nuts. The consistency of kheer is thinner than commercial rice puddings, but it is flavorful and delicious.
Samosa brings new meaning to the term “self-service.” Expect to set your own table and get your own pitcher of water. While the policy is unique, the quality of the food and the low price ($5.99 lunch buffet) make it worthwhile.
Tandoor India Restaurant (106 S. 40th St.) offers a daily lunch and dinner buffet featuring meat and poultry dishes, as well as vegetarian dishes. The tandoor murgh, which is similar to lightly smoked and barbecued chicken, is one of my favorite dishes and is popular among many customers.
The chicken tikka masala is a curry lightly seasoned with Indian spices. Rice or naan bread make a good accompaniment for this dish.
The masala dosa, or potatoes in lentil crepes, is then topped by samber, a vegetable sauce. Neither component is too spicy, and it makes for a delicious combination.
Tandoor’s saag paneer with tofu and channa masala, or a curry with chick peas, are two additional examples of vegetarian dishes. The channa masala is on the spicy side.
Salad and samosas are also options.
The only dish I can’t recommend is the mutton curry, which the label above the buffet describes as “goat meat with bone.” For me, there is too much bone in the mix, causing more hazard than enjoyment.
Dessert includes cut fruit and a homemade cottage cheese dish called ras malai. The ras malai is small round patties of ricotta-textured cheese which sit in a bath of sweetened milk. It isn’t my favorite, but I am glad I tried it, and I would probably try it again.
Tandoor’s lunch buffet ($6.95) is particularly busy on the weekends. The large restaurant often has a line of people waiting to be seated. The wait staff is attentive and helps keep the flow of customers moving.
Either choice of restaurants is a great start if you want to sample heavenly Indian cuisine.
Mindy Ehrhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.