So saucy

The serving trays are golden, and the food within them is near sublime at India Garden.

The serving trays are golden, and the food within them is near sublime at India Garden.

Photo by David Robert

Indian food has long been a favorite of mine, so I had been all hot and bothered ever since the “Coming soon: India Garden” sign first appeared in the window of a defunct vegetarian restaurant near the corner of S. Virginia and Mt. Rose streets a few months ago. I found myself eagerly awaiting their opening, like a kid who can’t sleep on Christmas Eve, hunkered in a car seat, salivating as visions of curry-drops danced in my head. You’d probably guess that with such internally generated hype, I’d be destined for surefire disappointment, but nay, fear not friends, for India Garden is a veritable Garden of Earthly Pleasure! Rejoice!

I’ve eaten there three times already, twice for dinner and once, most recently, for their excellent lunch buffet ($6.95). I’d recommend the buffet for newcomers, because, firstly, it’s a great, inexpensive deal. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to try a variety of dishes all at once—and since it’s a buffet, you have the chance to see what you’re getting and choose your own adventurous portions. Plus, there are different dishes available every day, which is, you know, thrilling. The buffet also includes their enjoyable, basic naan bread, and there are a variety of more exotic naan variants to order.

The buffet is served in glorious golden trays, and it’s all fresh—one never gets the feeling that the food has been sitting out all day. It’s also very clean, and none of the supposedly “vegetarian” dishes are contaminated by strange meat-like substances—which can be, not to name names, an occasional worry at other restaurants I’ve frequented.

The day I went through the buffet, there were many tasty dishes, including “dal makhani,” a lentil dish, “aloo mutter,” a good little pea-based dish, some pokora vegetables—fried in chickpea batter, flavorful and slightly sweet—and the highlight: “chicken tikki masala,” which has a creamy tomato sauce that I seriously can’t get enough of. I’d have it fed to me intravenously if I could, although that would bypass my taste buds and therefore be completely pointless … so never mind. It’s a fantastic sauce, though, and I’ve noticed it on other dishes, including vegetarian ones, so watch for it—it’s redder than a blushing Bolshevik. You can’t miss it.

Everything in the buffet is clearly labeled, with just one or two exceptions. There was a tasty, reddish liquid I thought was a sauce, but my friend Tim was sipping like soup.

“Oh, I thought that was a sauce,” I said.

“Well,” he responded, “it’s a pretty good soup if it is a sauce.”

The only real drawback of the buffet is that the food is catered to the lowest-common spice denominator—which is to say, quite mild. So, if you’re like me and like your spiciness to be Dune-style, bending-the-fabric-of-time mind-blowing, you’ll need to go for dinner and ask them to really turn it up because they don’t seem to be naturally predisposed to serious spice intensity.

Neither of my dining companions exploited the advantages of the buffet format to the degree that I did. After I returned from my third visit to the golden trays, with yet another full plate (this time including some of the delicious rice pudding), Tim laughed and said, “I don’t think I take the phrase ‘all you can eat’ as literally as you do … “

“Well, dude, when the food’s this good—why the heck not?"