A fine line
I love spicy food, and Indian cuisine is at the top of the list. I particularly love the notion of an Indian buffet line, where I can just load up the plate with a bit of everything and descend into blissful, curried gluttony. Flavors of India—no relation to the similarly named Reno eatery—is so close to my office, I made a beeline for the lunch buffet ($9.99) the first chance I got.
The restaurant is fairly large with a full bar and covered patio dining adjacent to the main dining room. Despite it having been open only a few weeks, there were plenty of folks in for lunch. The buffet line begins with a big pot of basmati rice followed by a pile of warm naan—thin and crispy leavened flatbread with a bit of pillowy chew. I think good naan is likely the gateway drug to Indian food appreciation.
Tandoori chicken—bone-in poultry marinated in yogurt and masala spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven—was moist and full of fall-off-the-bone flavor. Butter chicken—boneless chunks of meat marinated in spices then cooked in garlic, ginger, cream and tomato sauce—had the right gravy consistency, but was very mild and the meat a bit dry.
The vegetarian fare was all pretty enjoyable, starting with a mixed vegetable dish of cauliflower, potato, broccoli, onion and yellow squash, cooked in tomato sauce and spices—not too hot and quite tender. This was followed by palak paneer. A favorite of mine, it has spinach and onion cooked in ginger, garlic and a garam masala spice blend, with cubes of fresh, housemade cheese. I was once a non-fan of cooked greens until I met up with good Southern collards and this Indian concoction. This particular rendition was very satisfying.
Aloo tikki—small croquettes of potato, onion and spices—went nicely with a dollop of fresh raita. The crispy, spicy bites were fine on their own, but the slightly sour yogurt-cucumber-onion condiment made for a nice contrast. For something completely different, I tried a scoop of dal makhani—black lentil sauteed in onion, garlic and tomato and finished with butter and cream. It was spicy, smooth and delicious over rice.
Cabbage masala and bharwan baingan—stuffed eggplant—were items new to me, and both were a welcome addition to my experience. The cabbage and pea mixture was really satisfying, although just a bit on the oily side thanks to a liberal dose of ghee (clarified butter). The tiny eggplants were stuffed with onion masala and some other veg I couldn’t identify, not that it mattered. Eggplant dishes have to work extra hard to gain my favor, and this one hit the mark.
Indian desserts are not generally my favorite part of the meal, but the kheer—rice pudding with nuts—and gulab jamun—honeyed dough balls—were not too bad. Kheer can be kind of soupy, but this was a bit thicker and closer to what I think of as rice pudding. Similarly, the honey balls were a bit denser, less squishy and more like honey soaked doughnut holes than renditions of this dessert I’ve previously tasted.
There is a “dry salad” of chopped veggies at the end of the row, along with a sharp and sour hot pickle of mango, lime, green pepper, carrot and chili—typical of the cuisine and perhaps not for first timers—and good examples of tamarind and mint chutneys. I actually dipped some naan into the mint goo as a digestif.