Palatial buffet

India Palace

When you order chicken makhani, it’s worth the $3 upgrade to get the thali sides.

When you order chicken makhani, it’s worth the $3 upgrade to get the thali sides.

photo by rebecca huval

Notable dishes: Fish tikka masala, vegetable chau chau
Good for: All-you-can-eat lunch buffet

India Palace

8865 Folsom Blvd.
Rosemont, CA 95826

(916) 226-9188

Rosemont isn’t what you’d call a food destination, but recently, the neighborhood has added travel-worthy stops: the Texmex joint 19th Hole Cantina and, since November, India Palace.

And who doesn’t love a good all-you-can-eat Indian buffet? Certainly Sacramento does. At midday, the cozy Curry Club downtown is often crammed with state workers. But at India Palace, the name describes how you feel inside the restaurant, at least in terms of spaciousness. Even a single diner can have a thronelike, plush booth all to herself during the lunch rush.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the “rush” consists of a dozen parties of office workers taking up only half of the tables. They come for the all-you-can-eat curry, naan, samosas and noodles for $9.95.

Possibly the only Indian restaurant in the surrounds, it doesn’t need to be as good as it is. Each entree category on the menu—chicken, lamb, vegetable, tandoori—has as many as 20 options. There are even a few Tibetan influences like chicken momo ($11.95), the bitty steamed dumplings, and vegetable chau chau ($9.95), pan-fried, delightfully sour, buoyant noodles.

On the day I visited, the lunch buffet offered many dishes worth sampling: vegetable korma, chicken makhani (a.k.a. butter chicken) and chicken pakora.

The latter was akin to popcorn chicken: chunks of fried meat battered with savory chickpea flour and sprinkled with herbs. They had just the right amount of dry crunch on the outside, with steamy chicken on the inside.

The curries tended toward creamy rather than spicy. When made-to-order, you get to choose your own spiciness level; I might suggest aiming one step higher than normal.

You can opt to have your entree with the thali for an extra $3, and I say go for it. It gets you not just the fun metal cafeteria tray, but also basmati rice, crackly naan, raita (the cooling yogurt-and-cucumber condiment), achar (pickled vegetables like cauliflowers and peas in oil and tangy spices) and the vegetable curry of the day.

The only reason to opt out of the thali? The assortment of other naans and breads in adventurous flavor combinations. There’s garlic cilantro naan, chili cheese naan, raisin-and-nut-stuffed naan, goat cheese naan. That last one pairs best with a spicier curry, cooling it down with soft creaminess.

Of the curries I tried, the fish tikka masala ($13.95) stood out. Perhaps it’s a predictable choice, but whatever: This curry was red with tomatoes and a chili-pepper burn, sweet with cream and the maplelike herb fenugreek. The salmon inside soaked it up while maintaining its flaky texture.

Also worth a try: the rich chicken makhani ($11.95) and the bright yellow, subtle vegetable korma.

Less great? The dal makhani ($9.95). Bitter and tasting sharply of spinach, the dish had an overly foamy texture.

But still, India Palace is worth your time—especially when you can enjoy a $10 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet in a palatial booth.