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Oct 20, 2005 02:36 AM

Best Indian in Philly Suburbs

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Am posting here to encourage more current reviews of Indian restaurants in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Here's a summary of the ones in the western suburbs I have been to. My reviews pertain to lunch buffets. Your dinner experience may differ from the lunch buffet experience.

For best variety and selection, particularly with deserts is Taste of India in the Gateway Shopping Center in Wayne, PA. My most recent visit allowed me to choose from 11 deserts, ranging from several kinds of fresh fruits, to dairy deserts, to the usual sweets. Its carrot halwa or gazra halwa (spelling?) was very rich and mouth watering.

For the best homemade tasting food is Gateway to India in Frazer, PA.

The most overpriced in relation to its selection and quality if Jaipur in King of Prussia, PA. The restaurant charges $1 to $2 more than most other nearby Indian restuarants for its lunch buffets, and its quality and selection does not justify that higher price.

For the most consistently tasteful, providing good flavor with an element of richness, Gateway to India gets my vote. Excellent vegetable soup, small but decent salad selection, decent selection of main dishes for their lunch buffet and very artfully stored in beautiful serving bowls, very few and unremarkable deserts. Dosas with tasteful filling served with the lunch on a custom basis - mild mint chutney served on the side. Entrees were memorable, particularly their tadka dal and most other dishes. Unremarkable are their deserts. Excellent rice - flavorful and not oily.
Beautiful interior to the restaurant. Most dishes were memorable for their freshness and lack of any hint of sacrificing quality for quantity by adding cream or other additions to spread out the dish, which at times is my experience with some of the dishes at A Taste of India. Very hospitable servers and host.

Desi Village in King of Prussia - nice interior, large selection, and fresh tasting dishes. Have had minimal buffet experience there. Excellent samosas when they have them. Few and unremarkable deserts. Friendly staff.

Taste of India in Wayne is many people's favorites due to their large selection of buffet selections, including a large variety of salads and deserts. Excellent mulligatawney and very flavorful tomato soup. Chicken soup was unremarkable the last time I had it - tasted like something out of a can, decent, but not in the same league as their other dishes. Note that most of their dishes at the lunch buffet are quite spicy, full of flavor. One negative is that they tend to be gloppy, rich with cream, and oily, That can be viewed as a positive if you like alot of richness and flavor. The same dishes I have had elsewhere have been prepared with less cream, oil, and have been just as flavorful (comparison made to what Gateway to India does). Excellent deserts. This restaurant has alot of repeat customers. Some days during the week are quite busy, so during peak times, expect to have 10 people waiting in line in front of you at the buffet table! Worth the wait, though. I have noticed that in recent visits the chefs have been using alot of potatoes in their dishes to the exclusion of the other elements, i.e. Alu Gobi seemed to have a ration of potatoes to cauliflower of 5 to 1. Note that some people love the spice mixture that is infused in most dishes. I am one of those lovers! Also note that the chefs tend to intentionally embellish dishes, to make them more and better than many other restaurants. For example, the other day, instead of just serving plain brown lentils in one of its buffet dishes, red kidney beans were added (this addition improved the dish). Some of their deserts consist of interesting combinations of elements. Its chana masala consists of more than just chick peas, which is what the dish seems to be at the Himalayan Restaurant. Hard working staff.

Himalayan Restaurant in Frazer offers a very large selection. A bit less expensive than most other restaurants. Plain interior. Its soups are thin and not that flavorful. They do best with their main entrees. Its version of Chana Masala is not as rich as that of Taste of India. I'd say that the HR offers as large of a selection of salads, appetizers, deserts, entrees, etc. at its lunch buffet as any place I have been to.

Royal India in Frazer (this restaurant, HR, and Gateway to India are within 1/2 mile of each other on the same side of rte 30, the other name of Lancaster Ave) is at least $1 less than most other restaurants and bills itself as offering Indian-Chinese food. It looked like there were a few dishes that were Asian in content. The food smelled good and looked freshly made for a small crowd. Decent selection, but the lower price reflects the plainer interior and intention of the restaurant.

Jaipur in King of Prussia - the lunch buffet I partook of was a large disappointment. The best part of the buffet was the sambar which was very good, as was the Vada which was eaten with the Sambar. Warm Naan was brought to my table after I had eaten my salad and Sambar. Many food containers at the buffet station were near empty and the servers didn't seem concerned with restocking them. Two dishes in particular were heavily flavored with overly sweet tomato paste - the Tandori chicken and a vegetable dish. They were quite unsatisfactory. The saag chole had the taste of burned spices. Two deserts were offered, both unremarkable. This restaurant has a tastefully decored interior. The fact that this restaurant charges $1 to $2 more than surrounding Indian restaurants does not correspond to the quality of food and the selection of their lunch buffet.

I went to Amman's in Norristown once, and found its food very plain, light on oil, cream, and flavor. Dishes tasted very fresh, like the chef had prepared them just for a few people.

So, in summary, of those restaurants I have visited, for the best meal, I'd choose Gateway to India. For selection and taste, I'd go to Taste of India or Desi Village.

Will look forward to reviews by others on Indian restaurants in the far northern (Montgomeryville), and western suburbs (Exton), as well as Bensalem.

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  1. Forgot to mention a takeout Indian restaurant at the King of Prussia Mall food court. The food displayed behind the counter at this restaurant looked and smelled good. Portion sizes for entrees are appetizer-sized. $6 to $7 worth of food at this restaurant will get you the equivalent of at least 1/5 the quantity of food you can get at lunch buffets at any other Indian restaurant offering a lunch buffet. In other words, all things being equal, by comparison to other Indian restaurants, you will be paying a premium to eat at the mall. I have seen some people walk away in astonishment after viewing the portion sizes after being told the cost for their food.

    The owner must think that there will be enough street traffic in the mall to draw in enough people who will pay whatever price is asked for the food in order to allow the restaurant to thrive. The restaurant owner has a right to make money as do other businesses, but for anyone who has eaten at other Indian restaurants, this place's pricing is out of line. And as an added insult, the sizes of dishes are that of a child portion.

    4 Replies
    1. re: FelafelBoy

      Don't forget India Gardens in West Chester (in a strip mall on Gay St.). I've been going there for more than two years and always found it to be the equal of the three in Frazer you mentioned, but further from home.

      A few weeks ago, I went again, and was reminded of how good it was. And I was astounded at how low the prices were. It took some argument on their part to convince me they hadn't made a mistake in the bill (in my favor).


      1. re: Francis

        Francis - Are you able to describe in more detail information on India Gardens?

        For its lunch buffet, was their soup, a salad selection, number of vegetarian entrees, how intense was the spice mixture, North Indian cooking (creamy, sweet, etc.), quality of rice (biryani?, basmati?),number and kinds of deserts offered, price, etc.

        Some restaurants tend to serve the same standby dishes.
        My favorites include chana masala, alu gobi, saag paneer, baingan bharts, chicken tikka masala. I have been to a few restaurants that have served dishes made with okra, but that rarely happens.

        Years ago, there used to be a restaurant called "Govinda's" run by the Hare Krishnas. They had a great selection of vegetarian dishes for their lunch and dinner buffet. The place burned down. Its replacement on the 1400 block, I think, of South St. in center city, Phila. is very upscale now. It serves fusion type food and not the usual typical Indian food some of us seek.

        1. re: Francis

          Francis - Are you able to describe in more detail information on India Gardens?

          For its lunch buffet, was their soup, a salad selection, number of vegetarian entrees, how intense was the spice mixture, North Indian cooking (creamy, sweet, etc.), quality of rice (biryani?, basmati?),number and kinds of deserts offered, price, etc.

          Some restaurants tend to serve the same standby dishes.
          My favorites include chana masala, alu gobi, saag paneer, baingan bharta, chicken tikka masala. I have been to a few restaurants that have served dishes made with okra, but that rarely happens.

          Years ago, there used to be a restaurant called "Govinda's" run by the Hare Krishnas. They had a great selection of vegetarian dishes for their lunch and dinner buffet. The place burned down. Its replacement on the 1400 block, I think, of South St. in center city, Phila. is very upscale now. It serves fusion type food and not the usual typical Indian food some of us seek.

          1. re: Francis

            I agree, India Garden in West Chester has the best tasting indian food I've tasted in the area, and also by far the most affordable. I've been going there since 2003 and the food and service has always been excellent. It's a nice, small, quaint, family run restaurant. My wife and I always comment about how much better the food and service is here compared with places like Himalayan in Malvern. I almost always order off the menu and everything from Chicken Madrasi to Chicken Muglai to the veg items have been flavorful, spicy (can ask for varying degrees of spice), and artfully prepared. I especially love the bread (naans, parathas, etc.) items. The cook seems to be very skillful at blending spices to create delectable dishes no matter what you order. However, I wouldn't order the lunch buffet since the selection is very limited, although for $5.95 it is very affordable.

        2. For the 202 corridor

          Jaipur - Much of their food is rich and spicy, and they seem to specialize in Punjabi food. Their vegetarian dishes aren't quite as good as other places. As said above, they are also more expensive than other restaurants.

          Devi (Exton). I've had their dinner buffet, which is quite a bargain at 8 bucks. They have all the standard vegetable dishes, since this is a southern Indian vegetarian restaurant. Dosas are gigantic. Probably the biggest I've ever seen. Some dishes are a little heavy handed with the hot oil, but overall, this place is a great value $$

          Amon's. The weekend buffet is great, and there often are some homestyle dishes you don't expect to see at a restaurant, like kadhi pakora. The owner is a Singaporean Sikh, so you'll also find a lot of Indo-chinese influenced dishes. The food is very fresh, and can be very spicy if you request it spicy.

          Desi Village - This place has great service. The buffet has all the standard dishes, and the spice levels seemed to be just right. A la carte, the dishes were very fresh, though at a higher price point than Devi or Amon's. Good place to go when at the mall.

          Overall, you can't go wrong with any of the restaurants along 202.

          3 Replies
          1. re: JohnS

            JohnS - Nice review.

            What form did Amon's Indo-Chinese dishes take? I can't imagine soy based sauces mixing with Indian spices.

            I know that the Thai cuisine very successfully mixes Indian with Asian flavors.

            My last experience there included tasting dishes that were very bland, as though the spices were intentionally toned down for the buffet. I was told that they did that to appeal to the majority of buffet eaters, but as you said, dishes could be ordered with more "heat." It is a treat to be offered dishes that are more "homestyle" not frequently seen elsewhere.

            I thought Devi's dinner buffet was closer to $9. If your report is current, then $8 is a great bargain, but I'd check again for the price.

            You said the Jaipur food is spicy. My terms would be, unskillfully prepared with the mixture of spices. I say that in comparison to all the other restaurants. It's a comparative term. They just didn't get it right the last time I was there. Anyone with more training and taste would have not put out many of the dishes as they were done. Or as they say, "not ready for prime time."

            Forgot to mention Uduppi Dosa in Bensalem. Very rich and spicy food. For some too hot. Have not been to the site. Went to a catered event by them. Large portions.

            1. re: FelafelBoy

              They used more of a SE Asian style curry, like Singapore, Malaysian style curries.

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                I found Uduppi Dosa to be bland beyond imagining. Desi Village in Langhorne is the best I've been to in the area.

            2. My vote for the best Indian food I've had would be Khajuraho in Ardmore. Living in Lansdale I frequent Sultan often, which I think is good but not great. I think that Greater India (in the adjacent shopping center from Sultan) is merely average. Spice Grill in Chalfont I thought was very good but alas they have closed. In Philadelphia, I have enjoyed eating at Karma.

              1. I am amazed at the rude behavior by staff and manager of Taste of India Wayne recently. when I browsed net I could get similar experience by others. I would, however agree about above average food that cooks prepare at this restaurant

                all their good work is ruied by extremely incompetent service by front staff and manager. It is rare to find such rude staff at restaurants. The owner must have gone lengths to recruit them.

                1. Missing in this thread is my personal fave for the northern 'burbs: Palace of Asia in Fort Washington, maybe in the whole Del Valley, including Center City and university Indian. Though the staff changes frequently, the food stays consistently great; I have eaten there regularly, myself, en familie and/or with clients for about 10 years. They started a lunch buffet a year or two ago, and lunch food changes frequently enough that I am never bored. (Of course, this is my favorite cuisine, so am not unprejudiced).

                  Sultan's in North Wales/ Lansdale is not quite as good, IMHO. Well, actually their mango lassis are superior to Palace of Asia. Some of my family do like Sultan's better. But if I am choosing, it is P of A. Have not yet tried Greater India near Sultan's.

                  We are vegetarian yogis, so can only address the vegetarian side of the menu.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Bodhayan

                    Interestingly enough, the owners of Palace of Asia in Ft. Washington just recently took over at Sultan (which I have eaten at hundreds of times sine they first opened about 10 years ago). The food is very good and a step up from what it used to be. They are fixing up the place and it already looks much nicer. DO NOT go to Greater India in the next shopping center, it is boring and not very good at all.

                    1. re: Schpsychman

                      i'm not too familiar with where ft. washington is... have never tried these places. it must be a ways away from these other joints, many of which are situated only a couple minutes' drive apart (NOT that one could ever stomach indian-buffet-hopping all in one day!)

                      check out these two threads for more extensive, and more recent reviews of many of the western suburban indian offerings. i'm about to post in one of them myself, still full from lunch at chinnar.


                      1. re: rabidog

                        I had forgotten about this thread I started over a year ago. It got resurrected by interested folks.

                        P of A in Ft. Washington, last time I was there many years ago, I was able to get to by taking the turnpike to the Ft. Washington exit, and getting onto 309. Years ago the place was just minutes from entering onto 309, and located off the the right.

                        Sultan is up in Montgomeryville. I normally take Trooper Rd (363, I think) all the way into Lansdale. The road becomes Valley Forge Rd. It is a very pleasant drive - few lights, various shopping centers and farms along the way, including farm stands. Make a right onto Main St. in Lansdale (you will be entering the commercial district) and continue all the way (three to five miles or so) until you hit a very large shopping center on the left side.

                        In that plaza is Sultan, Holly Hill Health (large health food store including various exotic foods), nearby is Greater India next to the huge Korean/International supermarket (definitely worth a visit - one of the largest such markets I have visited).

                        These places are FAR from the restaurants you normally go to, so be ready to drive for at least 30 to 40 minutes one way, barring any traffic.

                        From the one description of Palace of Asia's lunch buffet, that sounded interesting. Last time I was there, the place was very fancy. I wonder if their prices match their decor. It is amazing how inexpensive the buffet is at TOI considering what you are getting. (for that price, we patrons will just have to accept that their service is what it is)

                        Rabidog - knowing how thorough your reviews are, the board is anxiously awaiting your trip to Sultan and Palace of Asia!! I had read that Sultan wasn't that good, but now that we know that management of P of A has taken over the restaurant, maybe its quality will have changed.

                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                          haha... from the sounds of it, this might have to be a weekend venture. but with a lot on my list to try (or, on my plate) i might wait to see if these joints get more good reviews.

                          1. re: rabidog

                            A previous post by someone in this thread said that the new management of Sultan had a connection with Palace of Asia. I called Sultan and was told that this is not the case. There is new management, but not connected to PoA.

                            Supposedly S has five vegetarian entrees, and sambar occassionally. $9.95.

                            I intend to go next weekend to the same plaza in which this restaurant is located for a large health store fair, and if time permits try the lunch buffet. If I make it there, I will comment.

                            rabidog - as I said - this place is a drive from the western suburbs, so if you make it there, you can also visit the huge Korean/International supermarket within walking distance, as well as Greater India, as well as the health food store to make your lengthy drive memorable. Reminds me when I used to make the drive down to the Great Valley Shopping center and visit all the interesting places in the plaza after eating at Himalayan - the raw foods restaurant (no longer there), the Vegan/Asian restaurant, health food store, and the Indian/Asian food market owned by the Himalayan management. The video store is sort of fun to browse through, too.

                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                              That's odd, because I frequent Sultan all the time (it's 5 minutes from my house) and was told by the new management that they previously owned Palace of Asia, guess I misheard them. Nonetheless, I have to take exception to the people who say Sultan was/is poor. I have eaten at many Indian restaurants (Taste of India, Aman's, Karma, Khajuraho, etc.) and, while I do not think Sultan is the best of these, they are nonetheless good IMHO. Under the new management (whoever they are) I feel the food has improved, though a recent tasting of their pakoras had me very disappointed. I will be interested to hear of your opinion about the place FelafelBoy, though I never judge an Indian restaurant by its lunch buffet. I beg you though, not to try Greater India, unless you want bland and boring food. Do try Assi, the huge Asian supermarket within walking distance of both.

                              1. re: Schpsychman

                                Regarding: Sultan Indian Cuisine ...

                                Due to having munched on alot of food samples at a health fair on Saturday and not leaving the fair until about 2pm, I did not have a desire to chow down at the lunch buffet at Sultan, but since I was steps away from the place, I did want to see what I was missing.

                                The restaurant offers a very pleasant ambience in which to eat. Servers were very pleasant. When I left, the host told me that the cost was more that day due to additional items that were offered that normally are not available. I had to ask her to repeat herself as her words caught me off guard. The selection I saw is normal fair for places like Himalayan, TOI, RI, and other similar places. I guess on the weekend, It would seem that Sultan offers a smaller selection, as well, perhaps during the week. I didn't ask if soup is offered during the week. I was surprised to not see sambar at the buffet.

                                In general, I liked what I saw, and the aroma coming from the kitchen and food was pleasant also. The preparation of dishes reminded me of what I might see at a Royal India, in that for example, the chana masala was not swimming in a soupy liquid as is now the style at TOI. In fact, the chana masala look reminded me of what I had seen at Gateway to India in Frazer, now deceased.

                                The buffet consisted of a functional but attractively displayed salad consisting of the basic salad vegetables - iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumber. There were two different kinds of fried/breaded starches - looked like potato fritters - they were not pakoras, or if they were, they look flattened. There were but three chutneys.

                                There was a tray of food labeled as pakoras and looked like they were resting in some sort of a cream sauce. I had seen something similar to this at TOI. The pakoras in this particular dish are oversized and the outside crust/coating is soft due to sitting in the sauce.

                                Other entrees consisted of aloo saag (pureed spinach and potatoes) which looked ok, chana masala, dal makhani (more similar to what I had seen at RI than at TOI), a cauliflower dish (didn't look as appetizing as the treatment given to it by TOI), two or three chicken dishes and a lamb dish.

                                There was also an attractively displayed large bowl containing tomato soup.

                                Rice and naan were also available.

                                Desserts consisted of gulab jamun, two Indian pastries, one or two dairy desserts and a tray of freshly cut watermelon and other fruits.

                                There was a small plate of a chick pea salad, very plain looking.

                                So ... in general, the food and variety looked appealing, and if I had gone there on an empty stomach, it would have been a pleasant experience.

                                For a weekend lunch buffet, however, I want my sambar (!!!!), and having a choice of dosa, vada, or idli, is also a special treat. I will continue to go to restaurants closer to where I live for a similar kind of buffet, available to me during the week.

                                Rabidog - based on my reading of your experience, unless you want to eat at a restaurant simply because you haven't eaten there before, I can say that I doubt you will find anything at Sultan that you haven't found elsewhere, and at least as good. If you are in the Lansdale/North Wales area and want Indian food, you should enjoy the food that Sultan provides, but I wouldn't make a special trip given the availability of other Indian restaurants closer to you, that can provide at least the same quality and selection of food. I emphasize again that the ambience at Sultan is very pleasant and relaxing. On this day, at about 2pm on Saturday, the restaurant was half filled, with about 15 to 20 people.

                                On my drive up to the Montgomery Commons Shopping Center in which Sultan is located, I noticed as I drove on Main St. (rte 63?) heading east, just before approacing Broad St. in Lansdale, off to my left, a restaurant that had a big sign proclaiming "French-Thai" food. Now, THAT might have been a new experience for me!!

                            2. re: rabidog

                              Maybe we should organize an Indian food club that tries different Indian restaurants and perhaps occasionally even has a pot luck.

                              1. re: percyn

                                i would be interested, if you get something like this up and running!