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Indian Restaurants near K of P

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Karen Mar 20, 2006 11:07 AM

Have heard of Jaipur (any opinions?) but need suggestions for Indian restaurants in the suburbs. Thanks.

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  1. c
    Carol RE: Karen Mar 20, 2006 12:13 PM

    I like Taste of India in the Gateway Shopping Center (near Trader Joe's).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Carol
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      EMZ RE: Carol Mar 20, 2006 01:13 PM

      Ditto for Taste of India, especially for lunch buffet:)

      1. re: EMZ
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        taxchic RE: EMZ Mar 20, 2006 02:02 PM

        I forgot about that place until you mentioned. Yeah, they are good too. Better than that place in ARdmore everyone is all frothy at the mouth over.

        1. re: taxchic
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          FelafelBoy RE: taxchic May 17, 2006 10:42 PM

          Favorites depend on what someone is looking for - for me, my criteria have to do with variety and selection, affordability, flavor (spice mixture), intensity of flavor (not just hot, but spices intelligently combined), peaceful environment, friendly and accommodating service.

          In almost all of these criteria, Gateway to India and Himalayan in Malvern qualify (though not all perfect in all respects - Himalayan falls short in flavor on a few of their dishes and Gateway to India does not compare in the dessert category to most of these other restaurants). A Taste of India in Devon/Wayne on some days can be VERY GOOD, and on some other days, disappointing. Desi Village in King of Prussia seems to do a good job with catering, but their lunch buffet seems to offer less value for one's dollar as compared to some of these other places.

          Walk into Jaipur for the lunch buffet and see for yourself how it compares to these other restaurants. Repeat customers return to specific restaurants for a reason. Once you have been to these various restaurant, see which ones you want to return to.

          Royal India in Malvern is a higher energy type place with Indian music videos playing on an overhead screen and restaurant visiters wanting to get in and out. At Gateway to India, people seem to relish the "dining experience" and engage in quieter conversation, peaceful Indian music airs in the background.

          Posters have mentioned some places that have signs reminding people to use dishes in a careful way, otherwise they will get charged. I have also seen signs warning people to not take more than they can eat. It's understandable from the restaurant's point of view. Once a restaurant has gotten burned badly, you can understand them not wanting to have customers abuse the affordability of the lunch buffet.

          And yet I wonder why at the better restaurants, there are no such signs.

          Anyone eat at Taj Mahal in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center in Wayne? Last time I was there many years ago, the food was very bland, even moreso than at Aman's in Norristown.

          From my criteria list, in the KOP area my favorite Indian restaurants range from (best first) Gateway to India, A Taste of India (on one of their better days -beware of those days where they substitute starchy bread/potato type dishes in place of a legitimate entree), Himalayan, Royal India, Desi Village, (Indian Delight in the food court of the King of Prussia Mall - only if you have no concern over paying high prices for small sized dishes) to Aman's to Jaipur. (Haven't been to Taj Mahal recently enough to include this restaurant.)

          So, there it is - I hope a list based on more objective criteria having to do with number of dishes, flavor, artful presentation, variety, service, pricing, consistency, etc. For those restaurant goers that want blander food, their preference for a restuarant will be different from the other person who wants spicier flavor. Ditto with particular dishes - some prefer more meat dishes, others more vegetarian dishes. Some prefer "oilier" dishes, others less oily. By visiting various restaurants you will be able to detect the subtle - and not so subtle differences between the restaurants.

          1. re: FelafelBoy
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            FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Jun 2, 2006 12:20 AM

            My review of Taj Mahal located 10 minutes from King of Prussia in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center is posted on the "Indian Row in Malvern" thread dated about May 2006.

            In short, very enjoyable. Is south Indian cooking, very different from north Indian which is found in most Indian restuarants in our area.

            Some dishes were similar to that offered at Jaipur for its lunch buffet (such as the sambar) but was better. If you have a choice between Taj Mahal and Jaipur, I think you will have a more interesting experience at TM.

            Read the post on the other thread to get the full review.

    2. t
      taxchic RE: Karen Mar 20, 2006 12:14 PM

      I really like Desi Village. I am non-Indian, but have always thought if you see people of Indian descent in a restaurant, it is good Indian. I always have at Desi, and have always loved the food. (Silly way to judge, but it has never proved me wrong.)

      They also get extra points for asking you if you want something American mild, etc. or Indian mild....hilarious.

      3 Replies
      1. re: taxchic
        rabidog RE: taxchic May 16, 2007 12:43 PM

        man, bad luck i've been having lately!!! wait til you hear about my latest indian buffet excursion...........

        i have both a lunch meeting and a dinner meeting scheduled for today, and i'm usually a pretty finnicky eater on business meetings - i generally eat verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slow (because i talk a lot?), so i never finish when everyone else is done, and i don't like to be the one to hold up a table - so when i have a business lunch or dinner i often leave hungry. though with TWO meetings today, skipping both meals simply wasn't an option, so i went to a late lunch - i happened to be driving past desi village, so i decided that's where i was going to stop. i was one of two occupied tables, and the table closest to the door/host stand, which would prove interesting later.

        the buffet was........ well, weird. when i first walked in, i did a double-take -- the buffet area was HUGE! i was definitely excited... until i got up to the buffet itself. everything was spaced out very strategically. i could tell from first up-close glance that it was not veggie-friendly -- it's the first indian buffet i think i've seen where i've noticed the meat entrees come first, and the veggie entrees are stashed back in a corner. there were 4 veggie entrees. i cannot remember the names of them, but they were:
        1. something with mushrooms - didn't try
        2. dal mahkani - tasted too much like a texas chili!
        3. something with potatoes & peas, spicy sauce - a bit bland
        4. vegetables in a creamy yellow curry - types of vegetables lended themselves too much to overcooking and were not ingredients i would have ever picked for a simmering stew - broc, carrots, squash, zuc.
        the naan was very dough-y (which i actually sorta like) and the veggie pakoras were a little too dry.
        the salad offered was very nice. an added bonus was the availability of spices in shakers. i made all of my dishes hot-hot-hot - usually a non-option on buffets! there were no veggie soups. i didn't bother with the chutneys, and i didn't bother with dessert for reasons forthcoming....

        a few bites into my plate, someone else walked into the restaurant with a clipboard. i was sitting right by the host stand, so i heard him clearly announce himself as the health inspector. he took no cautions in being discreet. i observed everything until the inspector headed back into the kitchen. first up, he admonished them for not having a current license. there were threats made of shutting them down for the expired license. there was a bit of back-and-forth about who the actual owner of the place was. next, the inspector walked back to the buffet, asking what each item was. he stuck what i'm guessing is a thermometer in each one of the meats. he announced fairly loudly (they were all the way across the restaurant at that point) that all of the meat dishes would need to be removed from the buffet and discarded immediately. the head guy motioned for one of his staff to take care of this, and upon bringing it back into the kitchen i THINK i heard someone from the kitchen yell out "transfer??" (which to me would indicate to put back into a storage container for serving the next day? - my theory, only) and the staff member who brought the dishes back answered "discard."

        so there's my experience at desi village. the lack of selection, lack of attention (granted, they were all preoccupied!) and above-mentioned incident are enough to keep me from EVER going back.

        1. re: rabidog
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          pamd RE: rabidog May 18, 2007 09:48 AM

          wow- you sure have had some bad luck lately, unfortunately. I actually have not been back to DV in a long time for the buffet b/c I prefer TOI for consistent selection. I did enjoy the made to order dinners though. I do wonder in general though about buffets compared to ordering specific meals. Just hits hard when you actually see the inspection!

          1. re: rabidog
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            FelafelBoy RE: rabidog May 18, 2007 12:03 PM

            Wow!! Will post later (my long post about my recent TOI adventure got wiped out due to computer problems last night), but wanted to let you know we appreciate hearing of such an adventure. Seems like the Board of Health has been following you around recently. I ate once at DV which was good, but have walked in and out after viewing their lunch buffet entries.

            You can read my latest adventures at Bawarchi at the bottom of this thread. Recent trip to TOI was VERY GOOD, and reminded me of what a great job they do. Even their mango cubes had extra goodies going on. Can't wait to get back there again!!!

        2. d
          Diane RE: Karen Mar 20, 2006 03:55 PM

          I have always enjoyed eating at Jaipur. The staff is always pleasant and attentive to its customers. I also think that the food is wonderful.

          1. e
            Ed RE: Karen Mar 20, 2006 07:14 PM

            I've been to Jaipur several times. The food is pretty decent but I have a problem with the attitude. There are signs warning of an extra charge if you use a dessert dish for chutney or mixed pickles. Also, leaving food on your plate may result in an additional charge (according to another sign). Please... we are responsible adults. Have not been to Desi or Taste of India, but have heard good comments about the latter.

            A bit further away is the Jewel of India in Ardmore, serving good Northern and Southern Indian food. An another attitude problem (IMHO) is at Kujuraho around the corner. (Please don't sneer when my son takes a large helping of rice.)

            For a good small Indian grocery store with homemade samosas and roti, fried hot peppers, and sometimes Biryanis, try Bharat Bazaar on Beidler Road in KofP.

            1. j
              Jersey City Mods RE: Karen Mar 23, 2006 11:59 AM

              I like Jaipur better than the Taste of India in Devon. I have only gotten takeout so I don't know about the attitude. I usually don't go for all-you-can eat buffets though because the food is usually too bland.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jersey City Mods
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                FelafelBoy RE: Jersey City Mods Jun 13, 2006 01:29 AM

                An Indian contact who is knowledgeable about restaurants told me that Jaipur had different management in the past. Food quality under the previous management was different according to him, and better. He was not impressed on the current
                operation.

                There are at least six other Indian restaurants within a 20 minute drive of Jaipur (Amon's/A Taste of India/Taj Mahal/Royal India/Himalayan/Gateway to India). Drive a little further to West Chester, Exton, or Ardmore and you will have even more to choose from.

              2. f
                FelafelBoy RE: Karen Dec 21, 2006 04:03 AM

                Am posting here to keep the comments relevant to Indian restaurants in the King of Prussia/Wayne area.

                The Wednesday before Christmas weekend had a huge crowd for the lunch buffet at A Taste of India. I have never seen it that crowded, even to the extent of seeing people still waiting to be seated as late as 1pm. The size of the crowd was more typical of a very busy Friday lunch buffet. So, with the big crowd, I experienced some major problems as a customer.

                First let me say, that I had its chicken soup for the second time after years of passing up on it since the first sample.
                I do recommend the soup. It was not your typical bland chicken soup. The ingredients label referred to an addition of Chinese/Oriental spices. To my taste buds, the soup had the signature flavor of its Indian (rather than Chinese/Oriental) spice mixture that infuses most of its dishes. The spicing was very mild (too mild for my preferences), and the soup had an orangish tinge, and was a bit on the thick side. I wasn't sure if some tomato paste or cream had been added, but the richness and mild chicken flavor hinted at that. The soup was full of small bits of tender chicken and perhaps carrots and another unknown vegetable (onions?). I had to add substantial black pepper to increase the heat and bite of the soup, but it was so satisfying I went back for seconds, and if there was nothing else to eat on the buffet, I would have filled up on more of the soup.

                Second, after the rich meal, I had little desire for the soupy looking carrot halwa (rich in butter and cream?). A less soupy carrot halwa as that served at Royal India might have gotten my attention. The fresh watermelon slices were the perfect finish to a delicious buffet featuring a "small cabbage" (brussel sprouts) dish, saag paneer, chana masala, a turnip/carrot dish, and the usual other dishes.

                As a customer, I had some challenges to deal with. If not for ATOI's accommodation of my preferences in the past, its high quality of food, I would have considered looking elsewhere for future meals.

                I waited for at least 15 minutes to be seated, and noticed a large group of people just walk by others who were waiting, and seated themselves. Nothing was done by the host to keep control of who should have been seated first based on their longest wait.
                When a table opened up, the host motioned to a twosome to follow her. They respectfully reminded the host that I had been waiting longer. (I told myself that with the big crowd, that the numbers were overwhelming the host and that a plan for seating people from memory of who came in first devolved to pointing to whoever was closest to the tables. A simple way of handling this would have been to ask, "who is next?")

                Once seated, I placed my belongings to indicate an "occupied" status of the table. When I returned to the table, it was full of salt and pepper shakers and a water pitcher to be used elsewhere. I thought that upon the server noticing that I had returned with my food, that the items placed on my table for storage would be quickly removed. The other table was having its "table cloth" redone. I waited, and waited, and the server didn't react. I gently said that I was about to sit down. I was told to sit down, that all was ok. I reminded the server that the table was being used as a storage area and I was about to eat. The table was very small, so the placement of the shakers and pitcher was intruding significantly in my eating area on the table. The cloth was put on the adjacent table and the shakers were removed from my table and the pitcher was also taken off the table. (Perhaps with the crowd, there was no other place, in their thinking, to put the shakers, and I'd just have to suck up the fact that "my" eating space was to be shared for a greater purpose.) What was ironic about this situation, too, is that when I was seated, there were no salt and pepper shakers on my table and I had to search other tables for them.

                After finishing the soup, going to the buffet area and returning to my table, I now noticed that there was no fork. I searched around the restaurant for some extra silverware, couldn't find a fork, and asked a server for one. I was given silverware wrapped in a napkin. I returned to my table, unwrapped the napkin and saw a spoon and knife, but no fork. I moved through the crowd of buffet patrons and tracked down the server and finally was given a fork. (Perhaps in the very crowded and busy conditions, setting the table properly was overlooked.)

                Throughout my meal, I had to tell different servers to NOT remove a plate that still contained food. This happened at least five times for the same plate, one containing a bit of raita used for dipping by the naan. (I did have one plate removed that still had food on it, when I was at the buffet table.) Perhaps the servers were instructed to remove plates that looked empty as soon as possible to keep the supply of clean plates circulating. Towards the end, I came close to screaming out, "don't touch this, please leave me alone, I'm not through!!"

                And in one of the rare times there, my glass of water was not refilled for almost the entire meal. I attributed this to the fact that the serving staff may have been overwhelmed.

                While moving from the buffet area to tables, servers made a bumping physical contact with me as they brushed by. I attributed this to them trying to accommodate the huge crowd in the fastest manner to the exclusion of respecting some common courtesy.

                Upon leaving, I handed the host a $20 for my buffet meal. I got back about one dollar. I explained that the buffet was about $9 and that the 20 should get back about $11. After further discussion and explanation, I was asked if I had a $10 whereby I would more easily get the right change back. I interpreted this exchange to be that the host, who didn't speak English well, had delayed her requesting a $10 bill so as to more easily work with the cash on hand. What was odd about this exchange, is that, in all the years, I have been to ATOI, I have never had such an exchange or problems with payment.

                I mention this experience, as an example, that even at a very good restuarant, that there can be off days in service, very off. And that this can happen when the staff is overwhelmed with a very large crowd and is doing the best it can do with less than perfect procedures for handling the size of the crowd. The food was very good, but when a customer goes through such an experience as I did from start to finish, it feels more like a battle than an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

                My lesson learned is to realize that an overwhelmed staff in very crowded conditions for a 90 minute session can act in ways different from that occurring in a more relaxed environment.

                I have encountered some of these incidents before at ATOI, where new servers do not recognize adequately when to take away a plate and when to leave the patron alone. I have also encountered more than a few times where my table has been used as a resting ground for pitchers to be used for other tables. Last week, a server rested used plates from other tables, that had been collected, on my table while I was eating. Some practices are absolutely inexcusable, and some of the ones I have mentioned in this post are examples of them.

                I still highly recommend ATOI, but beware of crowds, and some of the actions by inexperienced servers I have detailed.

                1. m
                  munch_kin RE: Karen Dec 22, 2006 02:42 PM

                  I know that Exton is about 30 minutes from K of P, but since I drive much more than that to get to a good Indian dining establishment, I figure I would post it.
                  Most Indian restaurants cook North Indian styles, usually with heavy sauces. Most substitute lamb for goat, which is what is used predominantly in India. Brits like the lamb, so I imagine that is where the tradition comes from.

                  Devi (in the shopping center at Rt30 and Rt100) serves South Indian style vegetarian only. That is where most of my Indian friends in the area eat. Across route 100, off Swedesford Rd, next to Exton Mall, is another Taste of India. I think it is better than the one at K of P, even though it's owned by the same person. I had goat at the K of P location that was so disgusting! It was just fat and gristle. Not the case at the Exton location.

                  I didn't mean to not post about K of P Indian restaurants, but it is worth driving a little longer for something good, like Devi. Heck, I drive to NYC to eat!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: munch_kin
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                    FelafelBoy RE: munch_kin Dec 23, 2006 04:12 AM

                    munch_kin - no need to apologize for posting in this thread! I did so only because the restaurant I ate in was located in KOP/Wayne area and that others looking for reviews of such restaurants would have an easier time locating the comments.

                    I always appreciate reviews of various Indian restaurants in the area, particularly those places I seldom or never visit. My main exposure to south Indian food was with Taj Mahal in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center during their brief cooking in that style. It was a very different experience from eating dishes in the sauces you mentioned (and which I enjoy very much, due to their richness and sweetness ... I don't know what spices ATOI uses, but I swear, when I leave, some aftertaste stays with me, that I wish would not wear off!! The aftertaste at Gateway to India was different and not nearly as pleasant, although it was decent in the dishes.)

                    I have heard that Devi ALWAYS offers sambar and rasam. A newspaper review last year or so, said that Devi is not for those seeking a lower carbohydrate/starch diet, meaning that much of the food was heavy in rice, flour (dosa?), fried starchy food. I have no idea whether that was a generalization.

                    For the lunch buffets, are there many vegetarian dishes to compliment your dosa, vada, sambar, rasam, etc? Do the sauces have more of a sour taste (tamarind?) than one would get at Himalayan, Royal India, or A Taste of India? Do they make saag paneer (maybe not a south Indian dish), or do south Indian versions of dishes more known in the north?

                    Interesting that you say the Exton branch of ATOI is better than that in Wayne. (I've heard it's bigger. Do they have the same number of selections at lunch?) You just mentioned that the goat was better. Maybe just an off day at the Wayne location. I have noticed that once in awhile at various restaurants, there are off days regarding such poultry offerings (not many I can recall at ATOI, moreso at H and RI). Taj Mahal in Chesterbrook did bizarre things with their tandoor chicken, cutting the pieces up into very small pieces that were bite sized, but sometimes there was no meat on the bone to eat. Gateway to India cuts the chicken pieces up a little bit bigger but still a far cry from what you get at ATOI which can be counted on for plenty of chicken and large pieces in a tasty tandoor marinade. Not all places get the marinade right and cook the chicken so that it is a bit crispy and yet still moist.

                    One of these days, I'll make it down to Devi. Is there much more food there on the weekend for the lunch buffet than what is served during the week (they charge $10.95 for the weekend lunch buffet, more than other Indian restuarants in the area)? I've read that ATOI offers more on the weekend for their buffet. It would be great if all these places made their sambar as good/spicy as that at Himalayan.

                    1. re: FelafelBoy
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                      munch_kin RE: FelafelBoy Dec 25, 2006 12:32 AM

                      I thought I would post a link to a review of Devi by Craig LaBan of the Inquirer. (I was looking for my menu to give you the highlights, but must have given it away!) The review is pretty detailed and amusing, since it contrasts Devi with Cheeseburger in Paradise (aka Cheeseburger in Purgatory.)
                      I know Devi must have a website, too....

                      Link to review:

                      http://ae.philly.com/entertainment/ui...

                  2. f
                    FelafelBoy RE: Karen Dec 25, 2006 05:17 AM

                    munch_kin - that review you linked to by Craig LaBan was, as you said, very detailed. I suppose the dishes he listed were the same ones you saw at the lunch buffet at which you ate.
                    I'd look forward to a thicker dal makhani. I've seen some sambar's that are thin, my preference is for the thicker ones. My guess is that the one at Devi is thin. I think of south Indian sauces being thin, while north Indian sauces are thicker.

                    By the way, beware of popup ads showing up immediately when you link to that philly.com site.

                    The interior of Devi looks like a very casual no-frills place, no pretentiousness.

                    I think of papadam's being a south Indian bread. A few times, Gateway to India had them at their lunch buffet as well as naan. I've never seem them at other north Indian style restaurants in the western suburbs at the lunch buffets.

                    I do recall reading the review you supplied here. The review I referred to, I think appeared in a small local suburban paper called "The Trend" and was written by its restaurant reviewer, who as I recall, mentioned the carb factor, perhaps from the abundance of dosas, vadas, bhaturas, etc. I'd like to explore the place for its emphasis on vegetarian food and dishes that are not served at other nearby Indian restaurants.

                    Anyone been to Bawarchi yet ... formerly Taj Mahal at the Chesterbrook Shopping Center? I am curious if their cooking changed from its previous efforts.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: FelafelBoy
                      rabidog RE: FelafelBoy Dec 27, 2006 09:07 PM

                      bawarchi --- that must have been the sign my coworker passed by! i have not been yet, but i'll try to make it tomororw, if not then next week. i work across the street. did the owners change, as well?

                      you know, *just* when the exton ATOI opened, i noticed a sharp decline in service at the devon ATOI. i chalked it up to overworked owners, and possibly a chef from the kitchen had moved to that new location? (speculation only!!) during that visit (this was several months ago) i had a terrible experience there similar to what felafelboy had described in a post - we were a table of two sitting at a four-top, and the remaining two place settings were used to pile clean plates! (we were at that awful table at the end, right next to the buffet.) i had nowhere to put my dirty plate when i came back with a fresh one, so hoping they'd get the message i stacked it on top of the clean plates. it was eventually picked up, but i also find this practice unacceptable. i also could not get refills on my water, so took to pouring my own out of one of the many pitchers that was also left on my table. maybe it was the bad table experience, but i could also swear the food was lacking a lot as well. since that time i feel service and food have returned back to their normal standards, though lately i find myself enjoying royal india just as much and going there as often in order to escape the ATOI crowds.

                      as for the former taj mahal and especially devi... perhaps it's just that i'm not a fan of southern indian cuisine, i don't know. i may have to try both again, but i didn't like either of them too much at all. compared to all the other indian restaurants in this area, the flavor at these two lacks severely. but again, maybe i am just not used to southern indian cuisine.

                      1. re: rabidog
                        m
                        munch_kin RE: rabidog Dec 28, 2006 12:19 AM

                        You might just not like South Indian cuisine, which is fine!

                        I did go to ATOI in Exton, today. We almost went to Devi, but decided to "go for the goat." The goat was pretty skeletal :>(
                        Other than that, it was pretty good.

                        You may enjoy Persian food the best, since that is where N. Indian style restaurant cooking has it's roots (Mogul court cooking.)
                        I actually like Persian better, since it is a more basic style of cooking. It reminds me of the difference between the cooking styles of Greece as compared with Italy. The former is less complicated than the latter.

                        Of course this is a broad generalization, since each region has a style that is unique.

                        1. re: rabidog
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                          FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Dec 29, 2006 06:44 AM

                          rabidog - interesting theory regarding connecting the opening up of the Exton ATOI stretching management and help too thin. Too bad that you, too, had unsatisfactory service at ATOI those few times. The placement of used dishes on customer's tables is inexcusable, and perhaps due to the overwhelming of tasks by the owner and his wife, that they don't have time to train the new servers properly. When I was there on that extremely busy day, I think their main concern was getting food out, and getting people in and out. When the place is that crowded, you become more aware of the limitations that its size places on everyone.

                          You said you don't care for south Indian as much as north. If you have the opportunity, go to Himalayan for its weekend buffet. They make a mean sambar. That's one of the few south Indian dishes you will get there, so you can still have your north Indian delicasies and get something that you otherwise wouldn't get at a restaurant offering north Indian food. The few times I have been to H on the weekend, the sambar was to die for - very spicy, very thick, and overflowing in all kinds of flavors and ingredients. As I said before, its version of sambar, along with Taj Mahal when they were doing south Indian are my reference points for great sambar. I'm concerned that Devi's sambar may be too thin to my liking. I will make it there.

                          I don't know if the ownership of Taj Mahal has changed. The staff inside looked different, but you think if a place changes its name, something has to change. When I called them, they told me the cooking is still north Indian but spicier than before. From what I saw from looking inside, the setup looks similar. Unless they draw larger crowds, I don't know how they can put out the spread that H and ATOI do. Even RI gets a big crowd during a 45 minute window, and then few people show up. I wonder if anyone has gotten to RI after 1pm and still found food in the buffet trays. I think they just barely make enough for the lunch crowd.

                          My preference is for them to turn off the MTV Indian dancing/Ballywood videos during lunch. I prefer the quieter background music heard elsewhere. Maybe they want a more energetic atmosphere. If you go from that atmosphere to Gateway to India, it's like going to a different world, one meant to express fine dining. Different agendas, I guess. Of these local restaurants we've discussed in this area, I think the staff at ATOI has it the hardest when there are big crowds. H is so large, a big crowd just doesn't seem to impact their operation. A big crowd at RI DOES impact the supply of food, and that I consider a problem - a few times I have been there, they have run out of food which didn't get refilled for a lengthy time. But the food is tasty, so you just gotta put up with the less than ideal situation.

                          I envy your close living location to Tiffin!! Then again, also envy the location of your work site, being next to all these restaurants!

                          When you went to Devi, were there the same number of vegetarian dishes as you would find at ATOI, and did the buffet come with the south Indian "soup", the sambar, along with the fried doughnut-type rolls, the vadas, rice, and dessert? I'd love to sample authentic hard core vegetarian dishes like one would get in south India. My recollection of these dishes, though, is that the flavor is more sour, than rich and sweet, like I associate with that served at ATOI, H, and RI.

                          1. re: FelafelBoy
                            rabidog RE: FelafelBoy Dec 29, 2006 01:14 PM

                            haha, my home and work locations are great, but i'll bet you *wouldn't* envy my commute between the two!!

                            devi is 100% vegetarian, so i'd have to say you'll get at least as many vege dishes, if not more. my trip there was several months ago so is not as fresh in my mind, but from what i do remember, you are right - the dishes were sour instead of rich, which was the main reason i didn't like it as much as the others. also more watery and harder to soak up. i do remember them making me a fresh dosa with a mint chutney, but that was probably the best part of the meal. the other stuff just wasn't filling. a single plate at any of the other buffets and i am stuffed, but at devi i left still fairly hungry after one plate - i didn't bother going back for a second, since none of the dishes i'd sampled on the first round really called out to me again. as far as dessert goes, and the other things you mention, i think my visit was too long ago to recall those accurately. but if you do go there, clear your palate and expect something completely different!

                            as far as the places running out of food - my one rule with indian buffet restaurants is, if i can't step through their enterance by 11:45am, i dine elsewhere. 11:45am is the sweet spot for any of the busier buffets.
                            last time i went to royal india, i showed up maybe *too* early (11:30 precisely) - they put a round of stuff out after i got my plate! i assumed they were waiting to see if they'd draw a big crowd that day. they also do not let the fresh naan go free-flowing there; sometimes it's hard to wait the time it takes to prepare a fresh one! these, plus the bollywood videos, those are really my two complaints with that place. otherwise, i like how its tucked away, the vibrant decor, and the richness of the food.

                            1. re: rabidog
                              m
                              munch_kin RE: rabidog Dec 30, 2006 12:25 AM

                              You hit it right on the head. North Indian restaurant cooking has rich sauces with yogurt and fat. Southern Indian has thinner sauces and many taste of the sour mango, tamarind and pomegranite.

                              Sour is a big part of Asian taste, in general. Not something to be found in commercial Northern style cookery. (Except for some of the condiments that include pickeled mangos and tamarinds.) The condiment onion bhajia is a little sour.

                              Southern Indian cooking is vegetarian, since the poplulace is mainly Hindu.

                      2. rabidog RE: Karen Dec 28, 2006 03:55 PM

                        mmm, actually the persian grill on germantown ave in lafayette hill is one of the next places on my list to try! has anyone ever been there?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: rabidog
                          m
                          munch_kin RE: rabidog Dec 30, 2006 12:11 AM

                          Yes, that is on another thread. I first met Rauf soon after he purchased the property (a former pizza place.) That was about twenty years ago. I heard he has since retired and sold the place.
                          The rice is something I really love. They serve the bottom layer (all crispy and delicious) to family and friends!

                          1. re: rabidog
                            t
                            taradiddle RE: rabidog Jul 7, 2007 02:41 PM

                            I agree: the Persian Grille is wonderful. As munch_kin mentioned, the rice is great! I love the fessonjoon, which is worth trying anywhere you can, IMO.
                            My family and I have been going to the PG for quite some time, and have experienced only a slight difference with the change in management. I do strongly recommend it for lunch or for dinner. There's a bar if that's for you.

                          2. f
                            FelafelBoy RE: Karen Dec 30, 2006 09:04 PM

                            After not having had the weekend lunch buffet at Taste of India for over 4 years, I was inspired to return after reading rabidog's recommendation, referring to the abundance of food put out on the weekend.

                            In short, this visit made up for my last time at TOI during the week on an extremely busy day. Almost everything seemed different this time. I visted the restaurant on a Saturday at about 12:10pm. The place was 1/5 filled, ambience was much quieter, and the patrons did not seem in a frenetic mode as is sometimes the case during the week when people have limited time during their work lunch break and are letting out whatever pentup energy has been suppressed during the morning hours.

                            Quiet music played in the background, and as Rabidog alerted, TOI had alot of extra food out. I didn't realise they could put out so much extra stuff. What caught my attention was an extra table that had some salad appetizers including two large dispensers of liquids, one of which struck me as their version of mango lassi, something that Royal India sometimes has out for the lunch buffet during the week, but this liquid was PINK.
                            More about that later.

                            Unlike my last visit, servers were very attentive and even though there was not a server by my table, each time my glass of water became empty, it got refilled without having to wait for more than 30 seconds, or even having to request that the glass be refilled. Consistently. It's like servers attention was on nothing other than doing their job and taking care of patrons.

                            I had just skimmed a book on south Indian cooking the day before, and was surprised to learn that there are different kinds of sambars. So when I tasted the sambar at TOI this day, the difference between this version and what I had at Himalayan meant something to me. This version was very good, spicy, but much more sour and brown than what I had at H. I spoke with a woman from India who was also eating at the restaurant and she told me that H's version is more tomato based and not as sour. I thought both were very good, but my preference is for H's version which can be enjoyed by itself more than that of TOI's, which is best enjoyed with the dosas, which on this day were scrumptious. Though they were piled up in the buffet tray, they tasted like they were just taken off the grill. They were crispy on the outside, chewy and light on the inside, and filled with alot of stuffing - mashed potatoes, peas, scallions, and perhaps one other vegetable. These were among the best dosas I have had in the last year.

                            The Mulligatawney soup, while not as spicy as I can recall from prior years was still very good. The chat salad consisting of chick peas, potatoes, cilantro, red onions, and spices topped with raita was very refreshing. At this point, I should have gone for the pink drink and desserts. But I didn't and almost exploded because of being "overwhelmed" with the selection.

                            On this day, the chana masala had too much salt in it. Other dishes were ok. TOI makes their pakoras differently than what you get at H and GTI, which is more like besan coated vegetables which is what I am more used to than the breading ROI uses.

                            I poured a little bit of the pink drink in a glass and quickly got that it was a rose water flavored type lassi (yogurt, sugar, rosewater essence, and perhaps salt or some other ingredient). The label on the dispenser identified it as "ROOAFZA." Googling the term led me to a spell-corrected "roohafza."

                            The server told me that the flavoring is used in India to be put over ice cream. It was a very refreshing flavor, in a very different way than mango lassi is, more of a "flowery" type taste.

                            I hadn't seen mango pudding squares in over a year there, so I skipped all the other desserts which consisted of more of a selection than I see during the week (there was a cream of wheat halwa on this day) and grabbed two small squares. The mango pudding squares had some sort of a pink drizzle on top of them. When I bit into the squares, I realized the topping was of the same flavor as the "roohafza." The flavor combination between the mango and the rose water was HEAVENLY. I had never had this combination of flavors before and it reminded me of the very first time I tasted the Indian dessert called Shrikand which is made from yogurt, saffron, cardamom, sugar, and other flavors - the experience is one of "it doesn't get any better than this." When you get older, you think you have tasted it all and nothing can wake you up. This was one of those times of being introduced to a very enjoyable flavor for the first time.

                            If I would have known what the ending flavors of my meal would have been, I would have skipped the main courses. No kidding.

                            I would have been very happy and fully contented having just had the soup, dosas, sambar, salad, a drink, and a dessert.

                            My discomfort with my indiscretionary choice of almost everything was due to my inexperience in handling the weekend lunch buffet. Next time I will know better.

                            I also regret not having made verbal contact with another single diner who had come in after me. Looked like my soulmate. Oh well.

                            For someone who wants not only to enjoy a lunch buffet of Indian food, but also wants to have the experience of feasting, I strongly recommend TOI for the weekend. The ambience is much more low key than during the week, and the selection of food is greater. For about $10, it's well worth the experience.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: FelafelBoy
                              p
                              pamd RE: FelafelBoy Jan 4, 2007 01:41 PM

                              Interesting...we were there as well on Saturday, however, a bit later, and it was packed, just about every table filled. People must get a later start on weekends. Also, it was mostly Indian families, very few American tables. We really enjoyed the variety as well- and not being a vegetarian- I tried the garlic cauliflower- something I have never had & thought it was very tasty. That's what I love about buffets- trying new things that I would not know to order.

                              1. re: pamd
                                f
                                FelafelBoy RE: pamd Jan 5, 2007 04:08 AM

                                pamd - Wow! The place was still packed even in later afternoon.

                                I didn't know what you were talking about at first with your reference to the "garlic cauliflower-something." I think what you were referring to, if it was the same thing I had, which was the only "appetizer" I had from that large tray which also contained the samosas and pakoras - it was a crispy fried cauliflower in some sort of sweet orangish coating. It was very good. I wasn't aware of a garlic-y taste, due to the strong sweet taste. These reminded me of a chewy vegetable chip. Maybe when you were there, TOI put out some other cauliflower dish. The only food that was out were the items I mentioned - there was no main vegetable side dish consisting of cauliflower.

                                1. re: FelafelBoy
                                  p
                                  pamd RE: FelafelBoy Jan 5, 2007 09:42 PM

                                  I was refering to the same orangish sweet thing on the large tray- reminded me of sweeter general tso in an odd way. I just called it garlic cauliflower because that's what the sign said!

                                  We left so full (and I'm in my 9th pregnancy month!) because of the great selection that day. My husband ate so much he said he'd never go back when we left....until a few days later when the fullness had worn off:)

                                  1. re: pamd
                                    f
                                    FelafelBoy RE: pamd Jan 6, 2007 05:01 AM

                                    pamd - Ok. You know that cauliflower treat reminded me of something you'd find at a Chinese restaurant the fact that it was so sweet and crispy. There wasn't much of a cauliflower taste to it - more of a crispy sweet orangish fried chip-like chewy fritter. (If you go to Gateway to India, some of their appetizers are labeled as "vegetable fritters" referring to "pakoras." Their fritters could consist of potatoes or various vegetables - as I said before, somehow the way they cook them allows for the breading coating to be distanced or puffed away from the interior vegetable. The ones I've had at Royal India and TOI have the breading coating not puffed away and resembling more traditional deep fried battered vegetables that you or I might make.)

                                    I didn't want to sound sacriligeous here, but since you said it first, let me repeat what your husband said ... there have been more than a few times, that I said as I left the restaurant that I would never go back ... not because I had a bad experience but because I ate in an undisciplined way and left feeling ready to explode, or as in the last time, when I visited a small food store afterwards, not being in the mood to buy even nuts, not hungry, not wanting to think about food at all, and then, like you said, about two days later, having this desire to revisit the place. I'm starting to get that way about GTI, tho' I really prefer the spice mixture at the other Indian restaurants more. I think it might be that the food is so delicious, that it's difficult to just take a small portion of food and leave with room for more, or as they say in the betting world, you don't want to leave with anything left on the table. I don't have this experience at other ethnic restaurants - I really believe there is something about the spice mixture that causes one to enjoy the food in a different way than you might enjoy a stir fry, or some other item. Maybe it's the fat element used, the spices, the richness and sweetness that causes this loss of control.

                                    Hope you have a healthy baby, and just as it is said that playing classical music for an unborn baby entrains the baby for a higher calling, so to are you setting the stage for a higher taste for the young one by taking in good food. He/she might say in later years, "I can't explain it, but I have this irresistable urge for curried dishes." No baby food for the young one, right into sambar and gulab jamun! (funny that it's listed in wikipedia!)

                                    1. re: FelafelBoy
                                      p
                                      pamd RE: FelafelBoy Jan 7, 2007 12:47 AM

                                      thanks Felafelboy. actually, I ate spicy & ethnic foods while pregnant & nursing my son (he's now about 2) and he loves spicy food-includng garlic stuff & Indian, etc...so I don't go for people who say not to eat that stuff.

                              2. re: FelafelBoy
                                PattiCakes RE: FelafelBoy Jul 18, 2007 07:30 AM

                                Is your post referring to TOI in Wayne or in Exton? I'd like to make a trip -- sounds like a great adventure for the weekend. What would you say is optimum arrival time for the buffet?

                                1. re: PattiCakes
                                  p
                                  pamd RE: PattiCakes Aug 7, 2007 01:09 PM

                                  Wayne TOI. We usually like to go by 1:00. Since they do get crowded, they do constantly refresh the buffet which is nice, but less likely to wait for a table if in before 1 on a weekend. Summer though is different as people seem to travel on the weekends more.

                                  Also......FYI, a new Indian restaurant is opening in Berwyn- in between Cosi & Lotus Inn (I think where the mexican place ZuZu was)...please report if anyone tries it when open!

                              3. rabidog RE: Karen Jan 1, 2007 03:45 PM

                                i'm officially craving indian food after reading that!!!

                                i'm glad ATOI redeemed themselves after your last visit. the weekend buffet is truly a wonderfully overwhelming thing. since moving to the city in august i haven't had a chance to make it out to the weekend buffet but i do very much recall the rosewater drink. (when i went, it didn't have the label you mentioned on it, i think it was just labeled "rosewater" then) i wasn't sure what to make of it, so i got a glass to go with my main courses. a nice cool contrast to the spicy food (is it just me, or did the weekend buffet offerings stike you as spicier than the weekdays?). it is such an odd taste, something completely unfamiliar to me (just when you think you've had it all, you're right!) and i could only describe it as drinking an edible perfume, in a good way.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: rabidog
                                  f
                                  FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Jan 2, 2007 03:26 AM

                                  rabidog - I did pay attention to the spice level after reading your comment about TOI on the weekend. I had hoped that the food would be spicier thinking that more patrons on the weekend were from India, so the restaurant didn't need to cater as much to American taste, but from what I saw, there was not an abundance of Indian families, any moreso than what I saw at Himalayan which draws a decent crowd from India on the weekend.

                                  I did not notice a spice difference in the Mulligatawney Soup (it was mildly spiced, less desirable than my preference for heat, but it was still very good, but not like it was made years ago). Other dishes I had were spiced the way I have had them during the week ... the veg dishes I had included eggplant with potatoes (their version of bangan bharta, which this was not, is normally a spicier eggplant dish), baby cabbage (curried brussel sprouts), chana masala (which had too much salt added to it to the point of being near unpleasant), paneer tikka masala (rich, and sweet, pleasantly flavored), chicken tikka masala (same sauce as the paneer version), and tandori chicken (coating was the usual). I skipped on the samosas and pakoras which looked like deep fried potato and pea filling in a flour batter.

                                  The masala dosas which I have only had at TOI on the weekend was filled with, as I mentioned earlier, ALOT of stuffing (I compare the quantity of filling to what I have had at Gateway to India (GTI) and Himalayan (H). The filling consisted of more stuff, and everything tasted fresher, the potatoes tasted like they had just been made, scallions having just been stir fried (they were crispy, not soggy in the least), and other unrecognized mashed vegetables still very fresh; if there was any dish that I would call surprisingly tasty to me this day, it was the masala dosas - I wouldn't say they were hot, but I would say that it would be hard to imagine them tasting any fresher ... GTI's version is more delicate, both in the texture of the dosa and the flavoring of the filling and the chutney ... H's version is decent but tastes like mass produced more gummy dosa with a splattering of fried vegetables sprinkled on the surface of the dosa ... I have not had Royal India's version.)

                                  Good explanation of the Roohafza. It did taste like drinking the liquid essence of a flower, the perfume, which I think is exactly what rosewater essence is!! I just took a half glass of this, wanting to try a small amount first. I found the taste so rich and different, a small amount was adequate. As I mentioned, the server told me that it is used as a topping for ice cream in India. In researching this subject on the Internet, the flavor appears to be used in a syrup which is what the ice cream topping is. The experience of the flavor combination of it on top of the mango pudding squares was something I had never had anywhere before, not even close, including TOI.

                                  I enjoyed the Roohafza on the mango pudding alot, and getting a sip of it in a glass was a pleasant treat. My preference is for mango lassi. That, I could drink in a larger quantity of, the taste of the Roohafza was so powerful on its own, that I just desired a small amount, so as to not drown out the other flavors I had had earlier.

                                  You know, sometimes my internal body clock directs me to TOI, while other times it steers me elsewhere. My TOI sambar experience reminded me of how much I enjoyed the sambar at H. It is not sour, is more tomato based, and very spicy. The tradeoff is that the main soup and dosas are not as good as what you get at TOI. I also miss good pakoras. Both TOI and RI, for some reason, do not make them in a way that results in a puffy besan coating, where the breading is puffed up away from the filling. I find that when I bite into pakoras at both these places, the vegetable filling is merged right into the coating which at times can be oily. Most of the times when I had the pakoras at Gateway to India, they were made in the way that I thought they should be made, with a coating that is separated from the filling and tastes of spices mixed in with the flour. My basis for my opinions on the "right" way to make pakoras comes also from my experience of having had Indian food made by the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) folks, who on their best days (and they do have off days) make some of the best Indian food, and do so in a way that is more faithful to traditional Asian Indian vs. Asian American Indian cooking.

                                  If you look at a particular local paper, you will see coupons for the buffet at TOI and H. While the lassi is unlimited at TOI, H gets you one free lassi drink, which is fine, because it is brought out in a large glass which should be enough for one person.

                                  I needed at least 24 hours to digest the TOI buffet. So often, after I indulge, I tell myself that I will never return due to my discomfort for having overeaten, and then a few days later crave the same food. I don't have the same "pull" with most other foods, though a good stir fry dish and spring egg rolls can bring on craving for that kind of food, too.

                                  By the way, in a previous post on this thread I made about pakora breading batter, the last abbreviation of a restaurant should have been "TOI", not "ROI", where the confusion could have been made for Royal India being referred to.

                                  Whoever posts on their experience of Bawarchi, the new version of the former Taj Mahal in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center, will have the honors of being the first reviewer for that establishment.

                                  1. re: FelafelBoy
                                    m
                                    munch_kin RE: FelafelBoy Jan 2, 2007 02:04 PM

                                    Thanks for the detailed review! I don't usually get a chance to hit the buffets on the weekends. It IS hard not to overindulge at these buffets. I try to not overload my plate with too much rice and lots of naan and pakora. Of course, many of the sauces are rich with ghee. I like to save room for Rasmali, if I can.
                                    I am becoming addicted to dosas, but they are SOOO filling.....

                                    TOI in Exton mentioned, when we were there last week, that there is quite a bit more variety on the weekend. Actually, we tried to go there yesterday, but it was closed.

                                    Ended up across RT100, but Devi had closed about five minutes previouly, so we went next door to Asia Fusion (I think that is the name.) That turned out to be good, except the heat was not working. (The plates were really cold.) We just had to drink hot tea!

                                    1. re: munch_kin
                                      f
                                      FelafelBoy RE: munch_kin Jan 4, 2007 05:12 AM

                                      munch_kin - I have said it before, and I will say it again ... lunch buffets, particularly at the better Indian restaurants like TOI and H, are not for amateurs. You must enter at your own risk, have a plan, be conscious with what you are doing, and adjust as needed.
                                      The challenge is to enjoy as much as you can in an intelligent way. There is always another day.

                                      I hadn't had dosas this good in a very long time (they tasted much better than those I had at H, not to say that the ones at H or GTI were bad, but they reminded me of a recipe someone would have that was good, and they were asked to magnify it both in freshness, texture and filling freshness/crispness), so I ate them like they were the main course. Next time I will use the sambar more as the "sauce" for the dosas instead of a stand alone soup, which the sambar at H more effectively serves as (its sambar is so delicious, it can be eaten as a stand alone soup).

                                      There were simply too many good things at TOI the Saturday I was there, so it was necessary to NOT take everything, but rather to choose selectively. If TOI had made their pakoras the way I prefer, that would have created more of a problem. As it was, they did me a favor by presenting samosas and pakoras for those who were looking for doughy fried fillers. I'd rather enjoy the other foods.

                                      If you haven't had their chickpea/potato salad/chat at their additional salad table on the weekend, it's worth sampling. With a raita topping, the salad was a very refreshing compliment to the sourness of the sambar and the other dishes.

                                      As I said, I could have easily made a meal of just the Mulligatawney soup, the dosas, sambar, chickpea salad, (there was no iceberg lettuce of raw green cabbage to be found in any of their cold salads this day!), the Roohafza, and the mango pudding squares. And of course, lots of water. Taking very small amounts of a few of the main dishes made the most sense, something which I will do next time. You are right - filling up on naan, pakoras, and rice is self-defeating, unless the rice is used as part of other dishes. There are too many other dishes to enjoy to just fill up on starch, particularly that heavily deep fried.

                                      Rasmali is not one of my favorite desserts but I can see why you like it - it can be refreshing. Have you, too, not found a difference in the quality of dosas in each restaurant? Each place I go to makes them a bit differently. I can say that I do like the way Gateway to India makes them, as well as with their stuffing. Their approach is to make a very refined (in the sense of subtlety) version vs. TOI's version is just as good, but sort of in the opposite way - the goodness hits you right away!

                                      Chowhound didn't date your post numerically, so I can only guess that the day you referred to with the closed restaurant was for New Year's Day. Didn't know that Asia Fusion was next door to Devi. I had heard that Devi specializes in dosas. I saw pictures of their family sized dosa - it was huge - nice as a novely, but I'd rather be impressed with quality and flavor than size.

                                      And let us know of any sambar adventures you have. So far, I have been able to identify two different kinds - one quite sour at TOI, more tamarind based, which was brownish and had some noticeable chunks of vegetables swimming around in the liquid - and the other, less sour, more sweetish almost creamy, with a noticeable tomato flavor and more pureed vegetables, with noticeable peppers hiding themselves from obvious view. I thought both versions of the sambar were special, and eaten with the dosas, to be followed later on in the meal with a mango lassi or that Roohafza with mango pudding squares was as good as it gets for a weekend food treat.

                                      1. re: FelafelBoy
                                        f
                                        FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Jan 5, 2007 04:10 AM

                                        In my previous post, the last line in the second last paragraph should have been written as ...

                                        I saw pictures of their family sized dosa - it was huge - nice as a novelty, but I'd rather be impressed with quality and flavor than size.

                                        and not as ...

                                        I saw pictures of their family sized dosa - it was huge - nice as a novely, but I'd rather be impressed with quality and flavor than size.

                                        (novely was meant to have been "novelty.")

                                        1. re: FelafelBoy
                                          m
                                          munch_kin RE: FelafelBoy Jan 11, 2007 10:58 PM

                                          I like the word "novely", btw, it sounds like a lovely novel!
                                          (Or something that resembles a novel.)

                                          You got me thinking about all the different types of sambar.
                                          At Devi, they were both lentil-based. One featured hot red peppers. It wasn't too hot, but left a slow burn.
                                          (The worst burn I got was from mirichi pakora at Palace of Asai.) I could see the cooks watching me take the first bite.) Devi had idli (lentil crumpets) to soak up the sambar. I didn't like them on their own, but they were pretty neutral once they had absorbed the sambar.

                                          The dosas are the best I have had at a restaurant, but I have only had dosas at about ten places, so I am no expert! I make french crepes, but I sure couldn't make one of these, without a lot of practice. They were really thin and light. They have a large selection of sambars on the weekend buffet, or so I am told.

                                          I need to try Himalayan and Gateway as soon as possible....

                                          I have never made sambar at home, btw,
                                          Here is a link; let me know what you think!

                                          http://www.recipezaar.com/89803

                                2. f
                                  FelafelBoy RE: Karen Jan 8, 2007 02:50 AM

                                  Weekend at Himalayan restaurant - there was the same pink colored liquid that I saw at TOI but this one was labeled "strawberry milk." There were regulars in the house and I asked one of them if that drink contained Roohafza and he said yes. I had asked because the drink tasted like a pleasantly flavored strawberry milkshake with barely a flavor of rosewater. He reminded me that he liked H because its spices were more subtle and resembled Indian food he was used to in his country (India).

                                  When he made that comment, it struck me that the theme of mild application of spices seemed to be the case for all of the dishes, with the exception of the sambar. The dosas had a filling of potatoes and some sort of a black colored large seed, could have been some sort of a small cooked bean. There were no fried scallions and other vegetables like what I had at TOI. The dough tasted a little less moist (oily?) that what I had at TOI, were more breadlike than crepe-like.

                                  There was a dish that looked like cubed sweet potatoes, but they didn't taste as sweet, but had a very pleasant flavor and was not oily. I remembered that the label for the food was "shalgam." The house regular told me it meant turnips. I'm not a fan of turnips but this dish was tasty. Other dishes were mildly spiced and not overwhelming.

                                  On this day, there was a variety of pakoras consisting of five different vegetables. I skipped on the potato filled ones, and enjoyed two in particular, not sure what green vegetables they were, perhaps some sort of pepper and the vegetable methi. Whatever names they were, on this day, they were very good, and the coating was more on the puffy side as I had referred to on an earlier post ... and there were five delicious chutneys to choose from. The tamarind, mint, and red onion ones on my plate mixed together, and they tasted all the more delicious on the pakoras.

                                  I ordered a vegetable soup, and a version was brought to me that I had never had there. It was a thick puree of tomatoes, lentils, and ginger, in the H's spice mixture. It was delicious and worth of being placed in my top five soups eaten at Indian restaurants. As I said before, I had never seen this soup before at this restaurant.

                                  The two salads were your normal plain ones, and topped with the raita, were refreshing. After had all my main courses, I refreshed a little bit with the "strawberry milk." I finished my meal with the mango lassi (free with a newspaper's coupon), and had little space left for any of the more than ten desserts. (The coupon includes free cold drinks at the weekend buffet also- found at the soda dispensing machine ... I guess one would use this if they didn't want the lassi.)

                                  I left having eaten more strategically than my last adventure at TOI, and felt more comfortable ... with little room to spare. I think it can be attributed not only to the more judicious amount of food eaten, but to the manner in which these foods were cooked.

                                  And not to be overlooked, the servers were very pleasant. I have noticed that at this restaurant, all the servers tend to be very hospitable, accommodating, and welcoming. I guess the service, quality, price, and selection are some of the reasons why this place has the regulars it does.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: FelafelBoy
                                    f
                                    FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Jan 8, 2007 05:24 AM

                                    Can't edit my last post, so I will add the editing here. (Even though the "edit" option is displayed at the bottom of my most recent post, it is not responding to my entered edited post - might be due to a time expiration period.)

                                    I do prefer the version of tandoori chicken as made by TOI. It's crispier (the exterior looks and tastes char-grilled), more tender, is of a temperature and texture that suggests it was just taken from the oven, and the marinade flavor is more to my liking. The version at H uses a marinade that is sweeter, and the warm chicken itself is chewier, almost to the point of being a little undercooked. On this day, the tandoori chicken was beautifully displayed in the buffet tray mixed in with alot of very colorful vegetables (onions, red peppers, red onions, green peppers). (The appearance of the tandoori chicken exceeded the quality of its taste and texture for me.)

                                    The pureed vegetable soup originating from tomatoes and lentils was so pureed that you would not know by looking at the soup what was its consistency.

                                  2. s
                                    scrapple RE: Karen Jan 10, 2007 09:01 AM

                                    I've been to most of the Indian restaurants noted here, ATOI, Royal India, Gateway to India, Himalayan, Devi, Desi Village, Aman's, Jaipur.

                                    My favorite out of all of them is still Aman's. It may be personal preference, but I prefer a lighter and more subtle use of spices. It reminds me moreso of the home-cooking I had in Indian home kitchens. Certain spices still stand out, but unless you specifically request your food extremely spicy, the spice-level will never be overwhelmingly so, allowing you to still taste the meat or vegetables (ordered vindaloo once and yes, it was still atomic). I really think they do vegetarian better than anyone. The lentil and chickpea preparations are outstanding, as are their dosas and kadhi.

                                    They also appear to use less oil or butter, which is comforting because it always feels like you're eating a good healthy meal here rather than a bowl full of grease. And in the summertime the chef here seems to go mango-crazy. Which is a good thing in my book.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: scrapple
                                      rabidog RE: scrapple Jan 11, 2007 12:15 AM

                                      i've only had one meal at aman (take out) but even though i asked for extra-extra spicy, i found it wasn't terribly. instead, the dishes there were too rich and creamy for me. until then i didn't know there was such thing as *too* rich. maybe will try again soon... but in responding to main line tracey, hard to visit a so-so place again when we have so many stellar choices in such a small area. in my order of preference they are:
                                      1: a taste of india
                                      2: royal india
                                      3: gateway to india
                                      ...the others don't really stand out enough to me to rank. i go to ATOI because it's my favorite and the second-closest to my work at only a mile or so away. i go to RI to escape the crowds and bask in secluded funky purple surroundings. i go to GTI when i've forgotten why i like them so much. :)

                                      1. re: scrapple
                                        b
                                        brentk RE: scrapple Jan 18, 2007 12:05 PM

                                        I enjoyed reading this thread as I was planning an upcoming trip to Philadelphia and spending two nights in KofP.

                                        I decided to go to Aman's one night and had the impression from this thread that it was a vegetarian restaurant.

                                        Perhaps that was mistaken, but the restaurant appears to have changed its orientation.

                                        While it is possible to substitute vegetarian items for many of the meats on the menu, the menu is not noticeably vegetarian. There are also several dosas on the menu, which is a bit of a nod to the south of India but it appears that the dishes are from all over - although I am no expert on Indian regional food geography.

                                        I had the Vegetable Jalfezi, a dish I have not encountered previously, and asked for it to be prepared "extra hot," as I was worried that "hot" would not be hot enough at Aman's. Well I can report that "extra hot" was plenty hot. I enjoyed it, but those who are sensitive to "hot" dishes would have a hard time enjoying the dish.

                                        I found it to be well-spiced and not at all greasy. The bread was crisped by the tandoor oven and was a nice complement.

                                        All in all, I would recommend Aman's as a good choice in the area.

                                        1. re: brentk
                                          l
                                          leepinleemur RE: brentk Jan 18, 2007 05:14 PM

                                          Aman was never vegetarian focused. Desi and Exton and I think Uduppi Dosa House in Bucks County are vegetarian only.

                                          1. re: brentk
                                            k
                                            Kater RE: brentk Jan 20, 2007 05:01 PM

                                            We generally like Aman's but have found them to be really spotty. Last weekend, for the second time, our takeout order was completely wrong and we happened to get an order that should have cost nearly half what we'd paid. It would have taken Husband 30 minutes to drive back so we made due. And having only half what we'd ordered was something we could deal with but the dishes the other customer had chosen happened to be really yucky and must have been ordered "Super-Mild" or something.

                                            Yes, Husband should check the order I suppose but the restaurant should also consider making an effort to give the customer what they order and pay for.

                                            1. re: Kater
                                              f
                                              FelafelBoy RE: Kater Jan 20, 2007 08:34 PM

                                              Kater - just out of curiosity, what do you like from Aman's? What dishes would you recommend and why? What do you mean by spotty other than sometimes the food is good and sometimes not? When it's good, what does that mean, when bad, what does that mean?

                                              Some of us who have posted on this thread have had an experience with Aman's spice in dishes to be on the mild side relative to other Indian restaurants.

                                              What kind of soups do they have in the buffet these days? Last time I was there for the buffet, the soup was a vegetable broth with small cubes of tofu. Very healthy, but not exotic enough for me!!

                                              Regarding the mistake made on your takeout order ... I would have called the restaurant to make them aware that someone was not paying attention. You never know if they might have made the mistake up to you in some way.

                                              1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                k
                                                Kater RE: FelafelBoy Jan 21, 2007 02:39 PM

                                                In comparison with the restaurants closer to KOP I would agree that Aman's tends to be mild, at least as a default. In fact, we ordered again this weekend (no problems this time!) and I made a mental note to specifically ask for hotter dishes, also some of the dishes were undersalted.

                                                But we like quite a few offerings at Aman's; their cauliflower is great (order it hot) as is their butter chicken, chicken goan, and we really like their biryani.

                                                My young son is a big fan of their lunch buffet and we're usually quite pleased. The last few times they've offered a very nice tomato soup with corriander. There's usually at least one spicier dish on the buffet and they often feature a terrific goat curry. My son's favorite is saag paneer, though I feel that the dish is often lackluster I would say that Aman's does a reasonable job with it.

                                                Probably my favorite thing about Aman's is that is is considerably less oily than many of the Indian restaurants in our area. Of course, the Chicken Goan and Makhani are highly caloric dishes but when you balance then with several other dishes you can assemble an Indian meal that is more healthful than many!

                                        2. m
                                          Main Line Tracey RE: Karen Jan 10, 2007 07:03 PM

                                          I read through the whole thread, and I have a question for the board. Rated by everyone, which Indian restaurant has the best buffet? (Preferably not heavy on the grease and a good value) Any area will do as KOP/Norristown/Malvern are all pretty much the same distance. Thanks!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Main Line Tracey
                                            f
                                            FelafelBoy RE: Main Line Tracey Jan 11, 2007 05:52 AM

                                            Main Line Tracey - rabidog has alot of dining out experience and I respect, or should I say that I tend to agree with his reviews and tastes, so I'd say that his ranking of places in his last post bear credibility in my book.

                                            I think you need to look at what you are in the mood for. Each restaurant does a better job than others in different areas

                                            For example, Gateway to India gives you the feeling of dining at a royal place - no other place I have been to offers its food for its lunch buffet in as beautiful containers (other than what it uses for its salad items) as it does. I went there after I had a cruddy experience at another Indian restaurant and needed a restoration of my experience of "dining" and having a special experience at an exotic restaurant vs. fighting crowds that surrounded my eating area and then having to wait in a long line at one particular restaurant on a Friday (TOI can get to be this way at times, but the experience I refer to took place at another restaurant, one which I will never return to on that day near noon).

                                            For pure variety of selection for a lunch buffet, I'd choose Taste of India in Wayne (I haven't been to the Exton location, so I can't vouch for that facility - I have heard that its space is larger, so maybe they put out more, but how much of a selection does one need anyways past a certain number of foods?) for its weekend buffet.

                                            Himalayan in Malvern has a large variety of items also, not as many desserts or salads, but still a large number of items to choose from.

                                            Royal India has a nice selection, but has slightly fewer items.

                                            Gateway to India has the fewest items past your main dishes and side dishes for the lunch buffet (their dessert selections seem like an after thought - there was only one time I have been there when there was one memorable dessert. Himalayan and Taste of India always put out fresh fruit in addition to all their other traditional Indian desserts. And a few times I have been to Gateway to India where they got one or two dishes so poorly made that they were inedible. But when they do get a dish right, it is a different creature from what you get at Taste of India and Himalayan and more like what you would get at Aman's, meaning more subtle use of spices and tasting like the chef made the dish just for one person instead of for a large crowd of people and having to use sauces to stretch the appearance and quantity of the dish.

                                            So, when I choose to go to one of these places for a buffet, the question I ask, is not which is the best place, but among the good restaurants I know that exist, what am I in the mood for? Sometimes I want to drown in exuberance and choose Taste of India's for its over the top use of spices and richness. Other times, I desire a more refined taste, am not so concerned with quantity, but choose to enjoy a few select dishes like Tarka Dal, Saag Paneer, pakoras, vegetable soup, rice biryani that GTI does a great job with.

                                            Other times, I do want a large selection, want to eat in the most hassle-free place, crave a very pleasant spice flavor that agrees with me, and choose Himalayan.

                                            Other times, I desire a more down to earth, simple, and straightforward flavor and choose Royal India. (its version of carrot halwa reminded me that such a dish can still be very good without being as rich and full of butter and sugar as found in TOI's version).

                                            Desi Village did not have enough of a variety of dishes or the kinds of soup I like, or presentation of dishes to have me choose that over going to other similar restaurants.

                                            The new Bawarchi may offer some dishes that other restaurants don't offer. (I haven't been here since it reopened, but did speak to a guy from India, who told me that the food there since it reopened is good, and somewhat spicy.)

                                            So, it all boils down to, what are you in the mood for? Variety, particular dishes, ambience, desserts, soups, spice preference?

                                            If you like richer, spicier food, you cannot go wrong going to TOI, RI, or H for the lunch buffet. (If you hit GTI on the right day, you will enjoy your experience there, too. They cook for fewer people, so you will find that the food will taste as having been prepared "fresher.") I suggest you try all these restaurants, including Aman's (which I agree does make their food in a way that uses less oil and butter and spices in a more measured way, and in that sense, may be healthier for you - for my taste, what is lost in this exchange is flavor.), Jaipur, Bawarchi, and Devi Village, and compare your experience with the others.

                                            Looking at your question which included "not heavy on the grease and a good value", setting aside MY preference and honoring your requirements, I'd say that on a good day, you are best off at Royal India or Gateway to India. Keep in mind a few things about these places - their food tastes different from each other (I prefer the spice flavor at RI. GTI uses some spice combination that I cannot place. The aftertaste is not as pleasing as what I find from RI. Note that RI sometimes does an Asian thing to one or two of it dishes, whereas GTI tends to stick more purely to the Indian cuisine) - that if you get to these places past a certain time, they tend to not replace the food in buffet trays within a reasonable time (this delay for refilling rarely occurs at TOI and H) ... and - if you go to RI during peak lunch time, particularly on a Friday, expect a very crowded scene. If you enjoy watching Bollywood music videos, RI has them running during lunch time, or at least they did the last time I was there. (I did not recommend TOI or H as your top choice because of your preference for lower fat preparation. But you must try all of the top four for the experience!!!! You will find that you will have to return, again and again.) And for the good value part, look in the local paper, "The Trend", for coupons for the lunch buffets for a few of these restaurants that come out once a month, or so it seems. Sometimes in those mailer envelopes that include 20 or so coupons for various businesses, you will find coupons for these restaurants, too. It will lower the price for the buffet by a dollar. RI doesn't do the dollar coupon thing because its normal lunch buffet price is one dollar below their competition.

                                            And last, especially with the weekend lunch buffet at H and TOI, you look at what they put out, what you consume, and ask yourself, is this price good value? Not even a consideration. If you were to order these items ala carte at dinner, the price wouldn't even be close to what is charged for the lunch buffet. No matter what day you go for their lunch buffet, it's a great bargain, even if all you get is soup, salad, one dish, and dessert. (RI is the least expensive, Desi the most expensive, with TOI coming in second, but for its lunch buffet, you are getting great value for your $10+. H offers great value, too for its weekend lunch buffet. Jaipur offers fewer items in its lunch buffet, yet charges an amount on par with the big boys - in that sense, it's not good value.)

                                            1. re: FelafelBoy
                                              m
                                              Main Line Tracey RE: FelafelBoy Jan 11, 2007 11:36 AM

                                              Wow! Thank you so much for the amazingly in-depth answer. From your recs, we will be visiting Royal India.

                                          2. s
                                            samy RE: Main Line Tracey Feb 26, 2007 03:39 PM

                                            I am really surprised by this review as I was there on 18th feb, and the food was definetly wonderful, I am a software consultant and have been here for 12 years and have travelled a lot and have tasted in various international and indian resturants. This is one of my best experiances, they have wide variety of food, both mix of north indian and south indian. I was surprised on the unlimited free dosas which very few Indian resturants in US offer.
                                            The course of meal started with soup, there were 4 variety of vegetarian dishes, and three chicken dry items, like chicken kabab, tandoori and chicken 65. Mutton curry was wonderful and not to mention the fish fry was the best. They had Nans, Puri which covers both north and south indian, they had vada special that day. Chicken biryani reminded me the taste of Hyderabadi Bawarchi biryani. And the final touch of masala tea cannot be forgetten.
                                            There around 18 people when I was in the resturant.
                                            It really reminded me The Bawarchi in Hyderabad, just missing the pan shop which is right outside the The bawarchi in hyd and the Sandya 70mm and the traffic on the road.

                                            1. rabidog RE: Karen Jan 11, 2007 06:00 PM

                                              bawarchi - http://www.thebawarchi.com/

                                              i've just returned from bawarchi, and i took a business card which led me to the above-mentioned webpage.

                                              the decor is largely the same as its predecessor, the taj mahal. i think they may have updated the chairs and the wallpaper with something slightly more upscale, but there are not a lot of wall decorations and it has that same stark feel to it that taj did. there were not many other patrons besides us. maybe three other tables filled at the height of the lunch buffet rush.

                                              bear in mind when reading the following that i think i have fully decided at this point that i much prefer northern indian cuisine, and this is most definitely southern. i've found the difference between the two most evident in the chutneys, where i really experienced the "sour" flavor felafelboy mentions. between my dining companion and i, we tried all of the chutneys to begin, (there are about 6) and the only one we liked was the mango. first and foremost, our main complaint with the restaurant was not related to my preference of northern vs. southern: the food was cold! well, not cold, but certainly not hot, either. towards the end some new, hot naan was put out, but even the stews were lukewarm. my second complaint; there were only three main vegetarian dishes (i've forgotten their official names); a buttery orange-colored dish with cheese cubes, a yellow dish of lentils, and the potato chunks with a dark orange paste. that's it. there was a fried rice and a white rice, and two soups: a tomato, and a sambar. i had the sambar, which was good and spicy. (and hot enough, unlike everything else) i think that was my favorite bit of the buffet. the cheese-cubes dish (paneer?) was my second favorite, but i really wanted to toss it in a microwave for a minute or so to be sure. the second round of naan was quite good, nice and chewy - if nothing more chewy than i am used to, but very good. i don't think i really liked the yellow lentils. again, the sour flavor combination is not my preference. the potatoes weren't as flavorful as i would have hoped. the dosas i picked up from the buffet were not terribly fresh, but then fresh dosas ended up being brought to our table. we ended up skipping dessert, i didn't pace myself appropriately.

                                              actually in retrospect (bear in mind the food is still settling in my stomach) i think the main reasons for my not particularly liking this restaurant come down to reasons outside my northern vs. southern taste preference. 1: lack of vegetarian selection (the meat section was not huge either). 2: temperature of the food. fix those two things, maybe add a plate of samosas and pakoras (my guilty pleasures, sorely missing from the buffet spread here), and you've probably got a restaurant i'd visit more often. oh, and they deliver.

                                              i would rank this place above devi for sure, and under himalayan. i will have to visit a few more times (possibly a friday) to see if there is a larger buffet spread and if the temperature issues are fixed.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: rabidog
                                                f
                                                FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Jan 12, 2007 03:11 AM

                                                rabidog - great to read a review of Bawarchi. I didn't know it was doing south Indian. When I called, they said they were doing north Indian, but your description sounds like a south Indian flavor.
                                                In looking at their website, the area of Hyderabad is referenced for its cuisine, which refers to a south Indian region. Last visit to its website had much of it under construction, so we'll have to wait to get more information. Maybe its operation is also under construction and a work in progress. They might have found your feedback on your lunch experience worthwhile for future efforts.

                                                How this place can compete with the other restaurants with the quality you described is beyond me. No excuse for food that's hot.
                                                (TOI's tandoori chicken is normally hotter than that I've had in other restaurants, as is their soup.) Given the competition, and if it is doing south Indian, at least offer four vegetarian dishes. The offering of sambar with dosas is a south Indian thing from what I understand. Other Indian restaraunts we've discussed before offer that only on the weekend (other than Devi in Exton ... in my last post, I mistakingly referred to Desi Village as Devi Village ... I meant Desi Village ... and yes, Devi is the most expensive in this area for buffets).

                                                The dishes you were referring to sounded like paneer tikka masala (cheese cubes in the cream sauce), and perhaps tarka dal or some other dal/lentil dish.

                                                I would have liked to have joined you for the sambar! If sambar is very spicy, I can dine on that and dosas, and perhaps a salad and one dish.

                                                Chutneys are a delicious topping for food, and if they were sour, and you wanted sweet, other than the mango, it would have been disappointing. If you ever go to H on the weekend, I'm sure you'd rate H much higher than what you had at B. Their selection of chutneys is more on the sweet side. Last time I was there, I tried all of them ... coconut, red onion, tamarind, mint!!

                                                Was the tomato soup spicy? What kinds of desserts did you see? Was there a salad? Was the price for the lunch buffet around $8.50?
                                                The dosas I had at Taj Mahal last year were nothing special.

                                                As occurred with Taj Mahal, the location does not attract many people for Indian food. Without a larger crowd, a place like this can't afford to put out as large of a selection as other restaurants.

                                                1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                  f
                                                  FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Jan 12, 2007 07:54 AM

                                                  rabidog - I wanted to add a comment regarding the chutneys at Bawarchi. If there is some common touches with the former restaurant, this might be one of them. I now recall that the chutneys at Taj Mahal were highly unmemorable, very bland. I think only one was palatable. Of all the Indian restaurants I had been to, (including Aman's and Desi Village along with all my other favorite places) their chutneys were the most unremarkable. I wonder if the recipe for those chutneys was passed on to Bawarchi. If this place is doing south Indian, it might be fairest to compare the quality and taste of the food to that served at the other south Indian restaurant, Devi, in Exton. That way it would be comparing apples to apples, or in this case, mangos to mangos.

                                                  1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                    rabidog RE: FelafelBoy Jan 12, 2007 01:18 PM

                                                    a very plain salad (iceberg, tomato, white onion) was out... and as for the tomato soup, i just didn't have room to try. though it looked and smelled good, so i do plan on paying a return visit to try this and give them another chance.

                                                    as far as desserts go, on a once-over i didn't see anything that really tempted me (i'm one who's prone to over-doing appetizers and skipping dessert anyway). they were far off to the back of the buffet - i'll make a note next time i go.

                                                    the staff was different yesterday from the one visit i had previously paid to the taj mahal, but i haven't visited either version enough times to know if management was actually changed, or if it was just the name and a slight facelift. other than that, it's very similar to its predecessor.
                                                    you are absolutely right about the location. that shopping center is a train wreck - parking and the one-ways are a disaster, and many shops are hidden from plain view. since i relocated to work in this area in jan 05, the restaurant next door (now dylan's) has changed hands at least three times - wild tuna to tupelo's to dylan's. places have a really hard time getting business over there, sometimes by no fault of their own. i mean, how many times did i drive right past it on my way to TOI without even remembering it?

                                                2. p
                                                  photorc RE: Karen Jan 12, 2007 04:32 PM

                                                  Having yet to venture out to the western outposts of Indian nirvanna, I have two questions:

                                                  Which of the favorite restaurants have buffets on weekends with significantly different and wothwhile dishes that aren't available on the weekday buffets - restaurants you would make a point of going to on the weekend either instead of, or in addition to, weekdays?

                                                  Are there some restaurants who just don't strut their stuff in buffets? I've been disappointed with the buffet at Kujuraho several times and wonder if their stellar reputation is based on dinner only. Are there some restaurants which you feel must be experienced from the dinner menu to be appreciated?

                                                  I've started to put together a list of the places mentioned to help wrap my brain around more information than my brain can handle these days. If others can add more detail to the list, I think it might be useful to many of us. Addresses, phone numbers, hours, types of cuisine, specialties, bufffet prices, and other bits of information would all be appreciated, and I think would be a great resource for those looking in the future.

                                                  Taste of India
                                                  Gateway Shopping Center, Wayne, also Exton

                                                  Himalayan
                                                  Malvern

                                                  Gateway to India
                                                  Malvern

                                                  Royal India
                                                  Malvern

                                                  Barwachi (replaced Taj Mahal)
                                                  Southern Indian
                                                  Chesterbrook Village, Wayne

                                                  Devi
                                                  Southern, sambar daily
                                                  Exton

                                                  Desi Village
                                                  King of Prussia

                                                  Indian Delight
                                                  K of P Mall

                                                  Jaipur
                                                  King of Prussia

                                                  Kujuraho
                                                  Ardmore

                                                  Jewel of India
                                                  Ardmore

                                                  Bharat Bazaar
                                                  Beidler Road in KofP

                                                  Aman
                                                  vegetarian
                                                  Norristown

                                                  The gas station on DeKalb Pike
                                                  King of Prussia

                                                  1. rabidog RE: Karen Jan 13, 2007 03:44 AM

                                                    in answer to your first two questions:

                                                    somewhere buried deep down in that mix of posts above, i stated a love for the Taste of India weekend buffet. felafelboy seemed impressed as well. when indian-loving guests come in from out of town, this is always where i take them and they are always impressed. about 19 times out of 20, though, i go here during the weekdays because i work so close by.

                                                    as far as restaurants whose sit-down service exceeds their buffets, i can't comment on all of them. gateway to india stands out in my mind, though. i visited for dinner once, my first visit there, and subsequent visits have not proved as mind-blowing. i had a vegetarian sampler platter, i believe (either that, or my carnivorous dining companions decided they'd order meat-free that night so i'd get to try a variety of dishes) and that was hands-down some of the best indian food i've had in my life. we ordered extra spicy and they complied.
                                                    i can also remember a time i got extra spicy takeout from Taste of India to take back home to my former home in Conshy, and traffic on i-76 backed up so bad that by the time i got home, half of the paneer makhani and all of the samosas were gone. my bad.

                                                    in short, if you are making your first venture out into the heavenly western suburbs, i really think you should start with Taste of India for any type of meal, any time of day, and work your way out from there. they're practically always open, as well (7 days a week according to their neon sign). royal india and gateway to india are my other two faves. i'm not sure if too many of the others would warrant extensive travel if you have a decent indian place near your home. in my case, tiffin.

                                                    Bharat Bazaar
                                                    Beidler Road in KofP --- this place i've not heard of. anyone been?

                                                    next week, if i have time before i leave for vacation, i'm going to try to hit jaipur and desi village. i think i have been to one or the other, or both, but honestly it occurred right when i first moved to the area when i was continuously LOST for months. that whole 202/252/30/29 mess left my head spinning. i will report back.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: rabidog
                                                      f
                                                      FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Jan 13, 2007 05:03 AM

                                                      first rabidog - the tomato soup you referred to at Bawarchi may have been an item called "Rasam." It looks like tomato soup, but is much spicier, and is common in south Indian meals, from what I understand. Bawarchi is south Indian cuisine, so it is expected for such a soup to be offered. $8.95/weekdays, $9.95/Fri-Sun for the lunch buffet. I do look forward to a more current review of Desi Village and Jaipur. Other than the vada and the sambar, Jaipur's lunch buffet was subpar. Desi Village prepares their dishes differently than the other places we have discussed. (you mentioned that B has white onions in its salad - same thing that Taj Mahal did. I wonder if this is a south Indian thing of using raw white onions vs. raw red onions which I have found used at TOI, H, and RI. I much prefer the sweeter taste of raw red onions to that of the white onions. Could be that north/south taste preference.)

                                                      photorc - I agree with rabidog's recommendation for your entrance to weekend buffets at the western suburban Indian restaurants. In general, I have found that the major difference in the offerings at these places on the weekends vs. that offered during the week, is that the restaurants doing the north Indian thing (all but Desi in Exton and Bawarchi in Wayne) offer sambar and dosas (which they don't have during the week), as well as chats (a kind of salad/snack), additional desserts, and free drinks, such as lassi.

                                                      I have found that they all seem to still offer the same main dishes that they recirculate during the week, and that includes TOI. (That's one of the reasons I go to various places ... once in awhile you will get a dish that the others don't do.) I have never been to GTI on the weekend and so cannot comment on any additional items they may put out.

                                                      If you want to eat a particular dish that is not commonly put out at the buffet, best to go at dinner time, or order from the menu during lunch and hope your meal comes without much delay. From what I've seen, most people who come at lunchtime, take advantage of the buffet, and for value and selection, you cannot beat it.

                                                      If you have never been to these places on the weekend, the issue of what place puts out special dishes that aren't served during the week need not be of concern. The experience of their offering may take you weeks or months to sample, before you start saying, "I'm tired of the same old thing, I want to go for dinner and try something new." I'd suggest going to different places and enjoy.
                                                      I've never been to RI for a weekend lunch buffet, so I cannot say if they put out more than during the week, but I'd guess they do put out sambar and dosas since they charge a dollar more for the Fri-Sun period. I was told that Bawarchi adds chats and different kinds of puris.

                                                      Regardless of the number of items put out at these places (and I think this consideration only comes into play if you cannot get out here during the week or have eaten at these places only during the week), I'd look at going to all of these places to enjoy the different experience at each of them. (For example, I'd guess you will find fewer items at GTI than at the other places, but the uniqueness of its presentation of buffet items and its different spice treatment will make up for the quantity issue.)

                                                      I would recommend that you go to the weekend lunch buffet with somewhat of an empty stomach, look at the offerings, and pace yourself! Many people pass up on soups, and they are missing something worthwhile. I was told that RI's chef specializes in soup, and the tomato and vegetable soups I have had there have been delicious. TOI's soups are rich and worth trying. I have had soups at H that have been thin, and some that have been very good. GTI's vegetable soup is memorable. I have had soups at other Indian restaurants that are no more than average, or forgettable.
                                                      (Reminds me of the saying, "what if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it ..." ... or in this case, "what if a restaurant offers extraordinary soup and no one cares to taste it?" It is as though the chef's efforts and skills go wasted and unappreciated.)

                                                      To get down to the Malvern stretch, take 202 south to the rte 29 Malvern exit, turn left at the exit light and at the next light (by the small shopping center on the right) turn left. Continue to the second light which will be at the intersection with Lancaster Ave (rte 30) and turn right. RI comes up first on the right, up about 1/2 mile, on the side of a small grocery store, another 1/2 mile up on the right in the Great Valley Shopping Center is H, up another 1/2 to 3/4 mile is GTI. Further up in Exton is Devi and the Exton branch of TOI.

                                                      devi 610 594 9250, toi 610 293 9779, ri (Malvern) 610 540 0253, ri (King of Prussia) 610 265 3074, b 610 251 9959, gti 610 296 1999, j 610 265 0996, gti 610 206 1999, amam's 610 277 5565, desi 610 265 8500.

                                                      For the north suburban Indian restaurants with the buffet:
                                                      Greater India 215 412 3690, Sultan 215 393 5555 (both these places in North Wales are minutes away from each other}. GI advertises that its lunch buffet is served 6 days a week (owned and operated by a very nice American born lady).

                                                      I don't have the number for Palace of Asia in Ft. Washington.

                                                      Last visit to Bharat Bazaar in King of Prussia (near the old location for Genuardi's on Beidler Rd.) was irrelevant to me - the store had just opened, and had a small number of prepackaged foods and a very limited number of frozen foods. Fresh ready to eat foods consisted just of samosas and some other fried dough vegetable filled snacks.

                                                      Keep in mind that Royal India in King of Prussia offers freshly made food in the back of the gas station/grocery store. There are a few tables to sit down at and there is a small kitchen where you can see your food being made. Most main dishes cost $5 and up. This place is not to be confused with a "restaurant." That's not its purpose. If you need a quick fix for an authentic Indian dish, made fresh, it's a convenient place to just drop in and get something.

                                                      And to comment on rabidog's thoughts of the Chesterbrook Shopping Center's location and ability to draw traffic ... it is at least a 5 minute drive away from the Gateway Shopping Center and the other plazas on Swedesford Rd. which included Barnes and Nobles and many restaurants. The CSC is an ideal location for those people working in that immediate vicinity, but for other poeple, you have to make a little extra drive out of your way to get to this very pleasant shopping center. It has a very nice courtyard to enjoy food outside. (The designer ruined the environment somewhat by blasting a narrow stream of water upward in the center of the courtyard in a way that is not only not aesthetically pleasing, but whose sound makes it hard to hear your neighbor - in short, it is both loud in sound, and garish in sight.) There is a delicatessen type restaurant in this center, can't recall its name - it always seems to be the busiest of all these places, and its dining area is quite large, so they are filling in for a need. Last time I ate there, the portions were huge, enough for two people. I do think that the more minimal offering of restaurants that populate the space which has Indian food, be it Taj Mahal or now, Bawarchi, simply does not motivate people to make the extra trip there whereas they can get more at other restaurants. I will make the extra trip to satisfy my occassional craving for south Indian fare (sambar and dosas anytime, not just on the weekend) and to sample some dishes that the other restaurants normally don't do. (TOI rarely makes tarka dal during the week ... for awhile, I was always able to get it at GTI, then they stopped offering it as frequently.)

                                                      As far as locations, Desi Village is in a difficult place to get to due to the traffic pattern, Jaipur is the easiest, Aman's is convenient for folks living/working in that part of Norristown, TOI easy during the weekend, tough with all the traffic coming in and out of the shopping center during the week, RI, H, and GTI easy once you get onto Rte 30.

                                                      Have fun exploring these different places and let us know what you liked and any insightful things we have not covered and/or would be interested in hearing about. (If you are like me, you will also pay attention to what kind of music is being played in the background!!)

                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                        FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Jan 15, 2007 01:16 AM

                                                        Correction on two items in my previous post - directions to the portion of rte 30 leading to Paradise (or at least a taste of it) from 202 south should include the first rte 29 exit (unmarked town on the sign, just the reference to rte 29), not the sign that says rte 29/Malvern, which would take you to the second exit from 202 in this area. Turn left at the light at the end of the exit. Continue to next light, look for sign that says rte 29 south, turn left and continue to intersection with rte 30 and turn right. Continue to the addresses for the restaurant of your choice.

                                                        And next correction ... Price for the lunch buffet at Himalayan (H) is $7.50 for weekdays, $8.50 for the weekend. Royal India is $7.50 for weekdays, $8.99 for Fri-Sun. I'd say it's a toss up for which place offers best "value" for the buck.

                                                        The soup I referred to at H that I enjoyed so much was not "vegetable" soup but the Mulligatawney (which can be made with a chicken broth base, other times, it is vegetarian), which they make thinner than that at TOI but still very good.

                                                        My most recent adventure at H was very satisfying. I am convinced that what H does is a toned down version of what TOI does. For example, the carrot halwa was made without the same amount of butter and intensity of sugar and spices. It was more solid than soupy which is what you get at TOI and yet still enjoyable. The raita is thinner but still good. Dosas were still thick and filled with flavorful potato/veg filling, but they weren't crispy like what you get at TOI (most likely due to the oil used in their cooking)).

                                                        Not to overdue this, but the sambar I had today, knocked my socks off, as they say. While most other dishes were pleasantly flavored, this "soup" was swimming with explosive spices. It had various vegetables in it, including small chunks of tomatoes. It was so "otherworldly" that I had two bowls. The masala dosas helped to keep the heat from the soup turning into a two alarm fire at my table. After two bowls, perspiration came, reminding me of my reaction to the food at TOI years ago which caused the same reaction. (Either, the food was spicier years ago at TOI, or I have adjusted to such spice.) In any case, I felt it best, to move on to the milder dishes. I passed on the dal makhani which looked similar to the same dish at TOI. (The preparation of it at RI included red kidney beans. I was told that that kind of dal has some name in it referring to the number of different kinds of beans in the dish, so technically, it was not the same dal makhani that I have referred to as too plain.)

                                                        I've seen something like this at TOI, but I tried the dish at H. It was sliced cold bananas in some sort of mild spicy powder. For some reason, it tasted delicious and a perfect compliment to the cucumber, lettuce, red onion, and tomato in the salad. I would have never thought that the two would compliment each other, but they did.

                                                        Most dishes I ate in small quantities due to the amount of soup, sambar, dosas, salad, and delicious pakoras I had begun with. The paneer in the tikka paneer masala was very moist and tender. Sometimes at other restaurants they can be hard and dry. A small amount of the cabbage masala with the other dishes was satisfying. Sort of funny to think that the highlight of my lunch buffet was the sambar, mango lassi, and bananas. But without everything else, they would not have tasted as good as they did!

                                                        The perfect item to finish off this meal with, to cool down with, was the mango lassi. In its own cooling and soothing way, it was as delicious as the sambar was. So, for some of the few dishes here, at H, that worked very well, it made up for the lack of some of the more intense dishes and additional items, I would have gotten at TOI.
                                                        And with the coupon and a tip, I came in under $10.

                                                        And the hospitality of the servers made the trip to H, an enjoyable one again. I really do feel that the people who serve here are not just putting in time, but act in a way that tells me that nothing matters most at that moment than taking care of the patron, with a smile.

                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                          photorc RE: FelafelBoy Jan 18, 2007 06:56 PM

                                                          Thanks for all the info!

                                                          Do I understand correctly that the back of the gas station in K of P is a branch of Royal India in Malvern? If so, how does the food compare? I'm wondering if this might be another good source, along with Tiffin, to replace Minar Palace to provide food for the freezer.

                                                          1. re: photorc
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                                                            FelafelBoy RE: photorc Jan 20, 2007 02:43 AM

                                                            Not exactly "the back of the gas station", but rather in the rear corner of the building which houses the area where people pay for their gas and where food is stored on shelves and in freezer storage areas. This is not technically a "restaurant" but rather a place that has a stove where meals are made fresh as ordered. There are three or four tables where you can sit down. It's more of a takeout facility, sort of like what I remember International Foods as doing (located on Walnut St near 42nd in West Philly). I would not compare this facility to Minar Palace for takeout as far as quality and selection. I have rarely been there where I have seen more than one or two people ordering, but perhaps it is busier during lunch and dinner time. I'm always there during non-peak times. I've seen the people who serve as cashiers, who really have multiple functions there, and they seem to know what they are doing with cooking. So, to answer your question, don't be underwhelmed with their facilities. They are small, but if you are cooking for one or two people at a time, how much room do you need??

                                                            I have only had their food when they first opened up the food facility. They had an "open house" and served up a "thali" for each person. Couldn't complain. Just wish that more people would order at this place so they could open us a McDonald's type place, where volume of purchasing would enable them to serve a chana masala dish with basmati rice for $3, or inexpensive samosas to go with chutney. I guess what I am fantasizing about is being on the streets of India and buying off street vendors.

                                                            If you want to stock up, and if you can do without freshly cooked Indian food, and don't mind inferior (while still having somewhat of a decent taste) quality, try the boil-in-a-bag (or microwave) dinners. They are relatively inexpensive. This place (US Petro) has at least seven different brands offering many different kinds of dishes. Be aware that some brands cater to south Indian tastes, some to north Indian taste. There is a difference in taste. I prefer the north Indian. One of my favortie brands is the SWAD brand. Their baingan bharta is the best I have had for these kinds of products. Chana masala in each different brand differs from each other. No two are the same. Some taste poor, some ok, and very few get close to having been freshly made. Look for brands that use better oils and richer ingredients and better quality spices and herbs.

                                                            But if you don't mind paying about $3 more for the same dish, I recommend getting it made fresh at this place, or even better, take a 20 minute detour down 202 south to 29 to rte 30 and go to the restaurant Royal India and enjoy.

                                                      2. rabidog RE: Karen Jan 13, 2007 08:23 PM

                                                        felafelboy - the soup at bawarchi was labeled "tomato soup," but i'm inclined to agree with you because it certainly did not look like tomato soup. in terms of color, it shared the same hue as a very spicy bowl of a thai tom yum soup. it did look like it packed a punch, and i'll certainly try this soup too next time.

                                                        i've just discovered the soups, as you mention, largely thanks to your postings on them! i have very much enjoyed almost every indian soup i've tried thus far, and i find they are a good buffet offering because they are not terribly filling. i will certainly make a point to try the soups at royal india next time.

                                                        as far as those other two restaurants, desi village and jaipur, i've heard mixed reviews, mostly bad, but i'm still looking forward to trying them. if nothing else, a reeeeeally bad buffet makes you appreciate the good so much more, no? sometimes i think we get a little spoiled because of all the fabulous choices in the western suburbs, then when i go to visit my dad in DC and we go out to eat (indian is his favorite) i go "THIS is what you call indian?! come to philadelphia!" i'll report back, if i can tear myself away from the office. thank goodness i have a plethora of indian-loving coworkers to recruit for my lunchtime adventures. :)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: rabidog
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                                                          FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Jan 15, 2007 01:25 AM

                                                          rabidog - the soup labeled as "tomato soup" at B may have been tomato soup, but sometimes these restaurants identify food with a more understandable name, so as to not scare off people not familiar with Indian food. H had labeled its drink last week as "strawberry milk." It was flavored with strawberry, but also had roohafza, in it.
                                                          Bor B being a south Indian restaurant, I would think they would call Rasam, Rasam, and not tomato soup.

                                                          This past weekend, both Dylan's and the Chinese restaurant at the Chesterbrook Shopping Center were closed as were the other restaurants near it on the other side of the courtyard. (by the way, the area of the water fountain in the courtyard now has a huge Christmas tree in its center ... it got me thinking how much more pleasant that area would be in the spring and summertime if instead of a big gusher shooting up, if there was a smaller more finer mist dispensed ... that gusher is so unappealing). Bawarchi had a few patrons. H wasn't crowded the weekend day I was there, but there were more customers than at B, and my guess is that they did have to drive a distance to get to that location. B has to do more promotion and offer something to attract people like H and TOI do on the weekend. I do intend to try the place, probably during the week, since their weekend offereing doesn't seem to offer that much more.

                                                        2. f
                                                          FelafelBoy RE: Karen Jan 22, 2007 09:07 PM

                                                          rabidog - one post of yours referred to the food at Bawarchi not being hot enough in terms of temperature. That got me to pay more attention to the heat of food at TOI this past weekend. When I first entered the restaurant I noticed a few of the servers making some adjustment in an area below the serving buffet food containers, most likely where the thermostat is for the heat. Interesting that when I emptied my cup of soup (mulligatawney), there was steam coming up from the cup. Keep in mind, that the cup was emptied of soup, and when I took the cup, it was sitting on a table, room temperature. That is how hot the soup was.

                                                          Hadn't been to TOI in awhile, and can offer that as an excuse for attempting to make up for the three week absence. I do not recommend TOI to anyone who does not care for spicy food, Indian spices, or ... trying to lose weight.

                                                          On this day, the vegetarian treat of the day was a bhindi (okra) masala. Also had saag paneer (super rich), panner tikka masala, and chana masala (which on this day was more soupy than it normally is). A person on a diet could have just enjoyed the delicious tandoori chicken (which was hot in temperature - at some other restaurants, the chicken is just warm), the okra dish, rice, and a cup of soup. And perhaps one of the three salads for dessert.

                                                          I took the indulgent path. The dosas were very crispy and seemed to have extra filling this day. I was told that Indian families aren't able to duplicate the crispiness of dosas as done in some restaurants due to the cooking facilities at the restaurant, as far as being able to generate a higher temperature. That got me to appreciate that TOI gets their dosas and tandoori chicken more crispy than other Indian restaurants I've been to.

                                                          If you want an extra treat at TOI, try this ... pour a sprinkling of the "roohafza" (the flower perfumed pink-colored drink) over the mango pudding squares. Just a very small amount will be sufficient. The combination of the mango flavor combined with the roohafza is heavenly.

                                                          I noticed a large proportion of Indian families at TOI on this Sunday. More people tended to come for the buffet after 12:45. Looked like on Sunday 1 to 1:30 is a popular time to eat.

                                                          1. f
                                                            FelafelBoy RE: Karen Jan 22, 2007 09:10 PM

                                                            rabidog - one post of yours referred to the food at Bawarchi not being hot enough in terms of temperature. That got me to pay more attention to the heat at TOI this past weekend. When I first entered the restaurant I noticed a few of the servers making some adjustment in an area below the serving buffet food containers, most likely where the thermostat is for the heat. Interesting that when I emptied my cup of soup (mulligatawney), there was steam coming up from the cup. Keep in mind, that the cup was emptied of soup, and when I took the cup, it was sitting on a table, room temperature. That is how hot the soup was.

                                                            Hadn't been to TOI in awhile, and can offer that as an excuse for attempting to make up for the three week absence. I do not recommend TOI to anyone who does not care for spicy food, Indian spices, or ... trying to lose weight.

                                                            On this day, the vegetarian treat of the day was a bhindi (okra) masala. Also had saag paneer (super rich), panner tikka masala, and chana masala (which on this day was more soupy than it normally is). A person on a diet could have just enjoyed the delicious tandoori chicken (which was hot in temperature - at some other restaurants, the chicken is just warm), the okra dish, rice, and a cup of soup. And perhaps one of the three salads for dessert.

                                                            I took the indulgent path. The dosas were very crispy and seemed to have extra filling this day. I was told that Indian families aren't able to duplicate the crispiness of dosas as done in some restaurants due to the cooking facilities at the restaurant, as far as being able to generate a higher temperature. That got me to appreciate that TOI gets their dosas and tandoori chicken more crispy than other Indian restaurants I've been to.

                                                            If you want an extra treat at TOI, try this ... pour a sprinkling of the "roohafza" (the flower perfumed pink-colored drink) over the mango pudding squares. Just a very small amount will be sufficient. The combination of the mango flavor combined with the roohafza is heavenly.

                                                            I noticed a large proportion of Indian families at TOI on this Sunday. More people tended to come for the buffet after 12:45. Looked like on Sunday 1 to 1:30 is a popular time to eat.

                                                            1. Suefoo RE: Karen Jan 23, 2007 02:00 PM

                                                              Had the nicest experience today at the Indian place at the gas station in King of Prussia (US Petro) on 202. The daughter served me some veg pakora and I asked for masala tea. Turns out they make their own masala blend from black and green caramom and tea. She cooked up the tea in a skillet on the stove. We started talking and ended up sharing her meal. She had made herself flat bread (paratha?) filled with radish and I said I had never tasted it, so she cut me off a piece. I asked her to please sit down with me and we spent about 30 minutes getting to know eachother. It was such a fully excellent experience. She's pre-med, so in addition to working at the gas station/restaurant, she is studying for the MCATS. This soul connection with a total stranger is why I chow.

                                                              1. m
                                                                Main Line Tracey RE: Karen Jan 24, 2007 04:15 AM

                                                                Suefoo-Thanks so much for the post. I will definitely try it out and am now excited to go!

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                                                                  photorc RE: Karen Jan 24, 2007 03:06 PM

                                                                  I finally started my quest of west of the city Indian with a trip to Aman's.

                                                                  I was picturing old white Norristown house, converted to restaurant. I was not expecting large K-Mart shopping plaza, just past Plymouth Meeting. I was also thinking pure ingredients, maybe not authentic spicy, but a pleasant nonetheless.

                                                                  And...

                                                                  My second impression after the K-Mart, was the sign warning me that I would be charged extra if I took more from the buffet than I could eat! My third impression was the sign that the tiny soup bowls were for soup only. I usually like to use a smallish bowl for raita. Not here. And then came the dried out scraps of pakora.

                                                                  The soup was a tomato soup that tasted like, well...tomato soup. When the empty tray was refilled with tandoori chcken, I found that it was crispy and tasted like, yes, chicken. More fried tasting, and I must say totally without the wonderful flavor I've found at Tiffin.

                                                                  Sorry to be sounding so negative, but it didn't get much better after that. I was expecting nice vegetables, but found the vegetable korma was undistinguished mush, with none of the delicacy and richness I've come to expect from my korma at Tiffin or Minar, even when frozen and re-heated! A chickpea dish was also mush, and I found the chicken tikki masala to be undistinguished as well. The lamb rogan josh was ok.

                                                                  The dishes were not totally without spice. There was a potato dish that was quite spicy. I did not try the non-Indian looking chicken wings, or what looked like Chinese extra-gooey orange chicken.

                                                                  Unfortunately, they did add more pakoras. They tasted overly fried on the outside, like raw dough on the inside, and yes, there was a hair on my plate.

                                                                  There was an interesting grated carrot with syrup dish, and I liked the fact that they had plain yogurt in addition to the raita, along with decent mint chutney and pickles. A friendly man, who was also at the cash register, kept my water glass full.

                                                                  Fortunately, there are plenty of great sounding places yet to try, and a few wonderful quality dishes still in the freezer from Tiffin! Aman's is relatively easy to get to from my home, and I thought might be a standby. I now think not. But I did get over to Marshall St. afterwards for fresh tortillas and tamales! I'll post separately about that.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: photorc
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                                                                    FelafelBoy RE: photorc Jan 24, 2007 09:52 PM

                                                                    photorc - Good for you for venturing out to the frontier west of Philadelphia. Funny how you fantasized the building for Aman's. Then again, maybe this is just the beginning of the kind of eating establishment you will create for the rest of us!!

                                                                    Most Indian restaurants out here are part of a mall structure. No stand alones, except for Royal India, which is actually on the side of its store front, a store which looks very plain. But in the spring and summertime, walking on the path and under the overhang and the vegetation to get to the restaurant makes you feel like you are in the Mediterranean for a few seconds.

                                                                    Thanks for the full description of your experience. I found it very disappointing that Aman's has not given up the need for signs warning customers of the consequences of their food portion and bowl selections. They did this years ago. I thought they had given up this practice. You will not find this kind of ambience in ANY of the other Indian restaurants out here. Jaipur had a sign something similar to this years ago, but it wasn't as offensive as the way Aman's informs customers of what it considers right from wrong. I doubt that Aman's is attracting a different kind of customer than other restaurants. If they charged less, then perhaps you could make the argument that people who aren't used to eating at more expensive restaurants don't have the same value with taking food and understanding its effect on the restaurant's bottom line.

                                                                    I'm not sure if TOI still has its buffet rules of etiquette posted as they did years ago.
                                                                    It was not offensive in the least, but rather informative. Some patrons do not know whether the same used bowl can be used for seconds. Informing them that it is ok to use a clean one is helfpul.

                                                                    I had a similar reaction to Aman's food as you did upon my last visit. Very plain food, with a few mildly spicy dishes, mostly healthily cooked foods, but the plainness combined with the regimentation feeling created by the signs made this one of the least hospitable places I had been to. But now that you have been to this kind of place, you can count on other experiences out here in the suburbs being different, and dare I say, better.

                                                                    If you found A's tomato soup plain, you should be so lucky to be at Royal India when they have THEIR version of tomato soup. Probably the best I have had for that soup. TOI's tomato soup, isn't bad, but sometimes it is overly sweet. If you are lucky at TOI, you will be there when they have Mulligatawney Soup. Himalayan's Mulligatawney soup is thinner, but nice tasting.

                                                                    You will not find ANY signs at TOI, H, or RI, telling you which bowls to take, or warnings of being charged for taking too much. I would hope that you would take what you can eat, of course, and if you want, go back, and fill your plate up again. We patrons of these places want them to stay in business!!

                                                                    I have found that the pakoras made by Himalayan on the weekend and those at Gateway to India have been better than those I have had at TOI and RI. I would encourage you, now that you have made it across the border, to be more adventuresome if time permits, and take the extra drive to the Gateway Shopping Center to visit TOI for the lunch buffet, or hit one of the three places in Malvern/Frazer (H, RI, and GTI) for their lunch buffet. You will be blown away by the generosity of food available at the lunch buffet at TOI and H.

                                                                    Closer to Aman's is Jaipur by the Acme in King of Prussia (my bias is for all the other places as being better) and Desi Village at the intersection of 202 and Gulph Rd. across the street from the Wawa, along side the pizza place. And also close is the small takeout place at US Petro - as Suefoo mentioned in her post, you can have a dish custom made just for you, and the people who work there are very hospitable. Same people that run Royal India in Malvern.

                                                                    The time you "don't save" by driving the extra distance to get to these places will be offset by the enjoyment you hopefully will be rewarded with. And don't forget, no one place does the best at everything, but most of these places do at least a few things very well. For your first time, I'd suggest hitting TOI for its weekend lunch buffet. To repeat, though there are a few times where things dont' go all well, in general, I have very enjoyable experiences at TOI, H, RI, and GTI out here in the western 'burbs.

                                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                      Chao RE: FelafelBoy Jan 29, 2007 11:50 AM

                                                                      Just thought I woud mention that my fiance and I had a very enjoyable lunch at Taste of India yesterday (weekend buffet). It was crowded, but service was good, and atmosphere friendly, and I though the food was terrific (esp. lamb jalfrezi). As I would have passed right by this place on my way to Trader Joe's had I not read your post, I just wanted to say thanks!

                                                                      1. re: Chao
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                                                                        FelafelBoy RE: Chao Jan 29, 2007 10:14 PM

                                                                        Glad you and your fiance had the opportunity to indulge. Good to hear that the place is being supported by the area. Towards the end of the week, the place can be mobbed at lunchtime, and it is nice to go there on the weekend and experience a more relaxed and less crowded atmosphere. When I have been there on the weekends, I have noticed that the patrons are more quiet and pardon me, it a bit more civil. I hope that atmosphere can be maintained.
                                                                        I wonder if you sampled most items or exercised more self-control and just limited yourself to the lamb jalfrezi and a few other dishes. If you liked the assortment of food at TOI on the weekend, you'd like Himalyan, also. Just a fewer dishes, a little cutback in richness in spices, but still very enjoyable and a peaceful place to eat, with very hospital staff.

                                                                        I have yet to eat at Royal India, Gateway to India, or Bawarchi on the weekend. My guess is that these places probably don't offer much more on the weekend than they do during the week, but I may be wrong. But then again, no need to wait until the weekend to enjoy these places, as long as you can get out for their lunch buffet during the week.

                                                                  2. Suefoo RE: Karen Jan 24, 2007 03:30 PM

                                                                    It makes sense, now that I have been to the Taste of India buffet serveral times, that Aman's is not as good as you hoped. BTW I found that sign slightly amusing when I was there. Ewww, hair.
                                                                    I will be very curious about your take on Marshall St. and await that post, as I went there a few weeks ago.

                                                                    1. p
                                                                      photorc RE: Karen Jan 31, 2007 09:46 PM

                                                                      I haven't had a chance to post before now, but I did in fact go to Taste of India the day after my less than stellar lunch at Aman's. My faith in humanity was immediately restored when I entered the men's room and saw a sign that said "please" three times, along with two smiley faces! As mentioned before, there's a professional looking sign on the buffet with common sense tips for buffet etiquet.

                                                                      The meal was head and shoulders above Aman's, and what impressed me most was the assortment of extras. I don't usually eat sweets, but I did have a snitch of the halwah which was a treat. I can't say that any of the dishes would be on my list of all time favorites, but this may be partly a factor of that day's choices.

                                                                      Today I was back in the neighborhood, went to Bawarchi, and this was a revelation. It was one of the best Indian meals I've had in the Philadelphia area! Absolutely no compromise here for American tastes. At one point I looked up and saw about 15 attractive Indian faces in line at the buffet. At about 12:30 the place was packed, and I was the only non-Indian there. I can't imagine that the hidden location will be too much of an issue, as it seems to cater to an Indian clientelle that I'm sure seeks this place out.

                                                                      The buffet began with a very spicy rasam and sambar. Along with idly, pakoras and naan. At the other end was raita, yogurt, mixed pickles, mint and mango chutneys, and another chutney with cocoanut and peanut, fresh looking salad stuff, and more, including pure ghee. And a free delicious masala tea.

                                                                      The entrees included two biryanis, one vegetarian and one chicken "cooked on dum". There was also a delicious Paneer Butter Masala. Not a lot of vegetables, but along with a cabbage dish, soups, and extras, the choices were nice. For carnivores, there was also a tasty Lamb Rogan Josh, a nice chicken curry labeled "Dum Ka Murga", and Tandoori Chicken. And they had a great carrot halwah. All in all, lots of interesting flavors, and a surprisingly impressive meal. And while I've lost a bit of tolerance for extreme spiciness over the years, Bawarchi had some take your breath away heat that I really enjoyed!

                                                                      The service was friendly, with water refilled often, and empty dishes taken away efficiently. Every time I looked up, the buffet was being replenished. These folks never stood still. And it was about the cleanest buffet I've seen.

                                                                      By contrast, I look back and realize that my lunch at Aman's really was one of the worst meals I've had in Philly. Tiffin has some great dishes, including the best selection of interesting tandoori chicken preparations I've had anywhere, and now I can see adding Bawarchi to my list of regulars.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: photorc
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                                                                        FelafelBoy RE: photorc Feb 1, 2007 07:42 PM

                                                                        Your experience at Bawarchi's suggested to me that I may have visited on a less than optimum day. I saw a few light vegetarian dishes that would not be much for a main course to fill up on. The saag unfortunately for me was mixed in with lamb, which I do not eat. I saw one tray of a very plain and unattractive salad and one tray of fresh fruit consisting of grapes and some other citrus fruit. I saw one or two chicken dishes, a lamb dish, and the light vegetarian dishes, sambar (which looked a bit thin to me) and the rasam. The display reminded me of the display and selection of food I used to see at the older Taj Mahal. The selection you saw on the day you (photorc) visited would have interested me more, but not on this day. There were very few people at the restaurant on the day I visited and the time I visited was during peak lunch time.

                                                                        One reminder regarding Royal India ... They have few people entering the restaurant to eat after 12:30, and the only food trays they refill from what I have seen is the rice and pakora trays. At 12:25, the Punjabi salad tray was empty. The other salad tray still had lettuce and tomatoes in it. I know that it is economical for a restaurant to not overstock, but there is no excuse to be out of your main salad at 12:30 and be unwilling to restock it. Some of the other food trays were empty as one o'clock approached. It amazed me that a few people who came in later didn't seem bothered that there were empty trays. This place simply does not restock for most items. It makes a certain amount and that's it. The positive side of this is that you know that they are not putting out leftovers from the day before for their main buffet items. There were at least six chutneys, fresh naan was brought to tables just baked, but at least 20 minutes late into my meal. One server had to take care of the whole room, and it just seemed that when this place has more than six tables in use, it affects the service.

                                                                        The vegetarian dishes they had were substantial unlike what I saw at Bawarchi on this day. One of the dishes was something I have not seen duplicated at Himalyan, Taste of India, or Gateway to India at their lunch buffets - it was a three bean dal, like a dal makhani, but thicker and tastier, and more filling. There was a very tasty eggplant dish, called "Chili Eggplant." The sauce was red, and tasted of something similar to a tomato sauce flavored with toasted sesame oil and with other flavors. The eggplant was cut up into very small pieces and was very delicious. The saag paneer was ok, not too much cream in it, but on this day, the paneer was too hard. There was a cauliflower dish that was tasty. Another vegetarian dish included squash, potatoes, and some other vegetable. The tandoori chicken was quite good. On this day, and this was the first time I have seen this in their buffet line, was sambar. It was thinner than that served at Himalyan (my favorite place for sambar), and a tad thinner than that served at TOI. It was mildly hot - less so than that served at TOI, and much less so than that served at Himalyan. The vegetable soup was very ordinary. In the past, that soup had been much tastier. This seemed to be made from a different recipe on the day I visited.

                                                                        The pakoras were decent today. There were about seven desserts today - no fresh fruit today. The carrot halwa was on the dry side, but adequate - sharp contrast to what you'd get at TOI. I wouldn't want to know the sugar content in the mango pudding - I didn't taste like there was much dairy in it, mostly mango syrup. All in all, the food quality was good, the variety was excellent.

                                                                        My preference is not to have to be concerned with whether there will be food left in the buffet line as I move from one course to the next. Because of the number of people who visit Royal India, and the time they do so, the restaurant gears its supply to a very limited time window for serving. Other nearby restaurants I have been to don't have this same logistic problem (although twice at Gateway to India I saw buffet trays not being refilled - that restaurant does get patrons visiting later than what I have seen at Royal India.) So, if you go to Royal India past 12:30, be forewarned that the food you see in the trays is the last, and that you may see an empty tray or two. The time issue for food supply has never been an issue for me at H and TOI.

                                                                        Mag454 - regarding Aman's ... a few people who have posted do agree with you, and like the quality of Aman's, while other Chowhounds find the quality and taste less appealing than that offered at other restaurants. What cannot be argued though is the decision they have made, to post signs telling patrons of penalties for their conduct. The way in which they have conveyed that message creates a less than hospitable place to enjoy one's meal.

                                                                        To reiterate my experience at Aman's - the choice of food was adequate, the quality was healthy, flavor was minimal, display appearance of foods was spartan, dessert selection was minimal, and content of signs regarding one's eating behavior were unnecessary and uninviting.

                                                                      2. m
                                                                        Mag454 RE: Karen Feb 1, 2007 07:23 AM

                                                                        I have been to almost all of the aforementioned Indian restaurants and I have to say that the absolute best indian restaurant is Aman's in East Norriton. The food is outstanding, probably the best I have ever had- and I have been to numerous Indian restaurants. I have never, ever gone wrong with Aman's. The food is always fresh and the taste is not so overpowering. The lunch buffet is always warm and I feel confident that it does not sit out for too long. I am shocked after reading some of the less-than-stellar reviews that were given to Aman's and the only possible explanation that I could think of for this negativity is that the owner has been out of town recently, and perhaps that could have affected the food. I absolutely love the Vegetarian Tikka at Aman's- it always comes out sizzling and full of robust flavors. Can't ever go wrong with it...

                                                                        1. v
                                                                          VRL RE: Karen Feb 2, 2007 10:06 AM

                                                                          I recently ate at an Indian Restaurant near Wayne/Radnor at the BACK of a shopping plaza. You had to drive around the side and back to get to the front door. They had a buffet while I was there for lunch, and I recall the buffet was set toward the back of the room near a bar, in an area somewhat separated from the main dining room. The only other thing I recall is that it seemed like there was some new shopping plaza development or construction right next to the plaza. I don't often get out to the Main Line so I am not sure exactly where I was. Can someone suggest which restaurant I might have been at?

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                                                                            FelafelBoy RE: Karen Feb 11, 2007 07:44 PM

                                                                            Hadn't been to Taste of India in Wayne in some weeks, and the weekend visit was well worth the effort.

                                                                            First the negatives ... the channa masala is being made thinner than in prior years. I prefer a thicker sauce. Himalayn makes a thicker sauce (more chick peas per sauce), is based more on a tomato sauce. TOI's sauce seems more tamarind base, but the chick pea to sauce ratio doesn't work for me. When scooping out the dish I find the need to drain the serving spoon of much of the liquid. Today's ambience was very noisy as the time passed 12:45. A few groups were not aware that not all of us wanted to hear their boisterous and repeated laughing. There were two main salads, one a Punjabi salad and another just consisting of carrots, green pepper, red onions, tomatoes, and cucumber. Neither salad contained any lettuce or green cabbage. I like the addition of those greens to the vegetables. I know iceberg lettuce is expensive these days (not tom mention the cost of tomatoes), but green cabbage is still relatively inexpensive.

                                                                            I saw some items not seen in prior visits. In addition to the naan and dosas were beautiful looking parathas that were stacked elegantly near the naan, along with a sign informing patrons how to eat them (with yogurt, located at the appetizer table). I thought it was a nice touch, in that the restaurant knows that some of us need some coaching in being directed on the best way to eat some of the food. There was also a cauliflower item, displayed by the pakoras. They were quite good and reminded me of a vegetarian version of "General Tso's Chicken." The breading around each cauliflower was minimally noticeable, and the red sauce coating each cauliflower was light, and was something similar I associate with General Tso's chicken - a combination of a tomato paste, with sesame oil, red chile, and other seasonings. The name of this item began with the letter "l" and was identified as
                                                                            "L--- Ghobi." Hopefully someone can supply the name.

                                                                            Hadn't had their tomato soup in some time. I have never had tomato soup as rich as theirs. Even with the cream in the soup, the spice mixture jazzes up the flavor also, resulting in a heavenly concoction.

                                                                            On this day, there was the usual fare, with two of my favorites ... unlike prior weeks when I visited on the weekend, this time, there was mango lassi. After eating my meal, which as we all know, was made with alot of salt, the mango lassi served as a very refreshing compliment to the prior dishes. I had little room for any of the many (too many to count!!) Indian desserts, but there was one special dessert that did attract me to top off the need to leave with one more refreshing item - strawberry ice cream!! (I felt odd eating that instead of indulging in the other specialties, but the prior dishes called out for me to finish off with the strawberry ice cream).

                                                                            And best of all, I left the restaurant knowing that I had eaten with discipline (one dosa!!) and left able to walk without discomfort.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                              FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Feb 18, 2007 07:47 PM

                                                                              The name of the cauliflower appetizer is called, "Losun Ghobi." It has a completely different taste than a pakora filled with cauliflower, and more like a sweet appetizer one might have at an Asian restaurant. It's sweet, slightly tangy flavor in the outside sauce coating, and a chewy inside. I like it alot!!

                                                                              And to emphasize again, since I returned to TOI and confirmed that the version of Chana Masala I commented on at recent visits to this restaurant seems to be the standard recipe version. It's a soupy version, resembling the version made years ago only in taste. The version this restaurant made years ago had a thicker sauce. Now, if you spoon out the item from the tray, you will have to strain off most of the thin sauce. Perhaps this dish is being made differently because one of the chefs who used to work at the Wayne restaurant is now at the Exton location for TOI.

                                                                              As good as the food is at TOI, I much prefer the version of chana masala at almost any other Indian restaurant, such as Royal India, Himalyan, and Gateway to India.

                                                                              1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                                FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Apr 4, 2007 12:39 PM

                                                                                Never been to Taste of India as late as 1:45pm, but I was there the other day at the end of the lunch buffet. I was very surprised to see quite a few customers still eating lunch there, and more importantly, that each food tray was still well stocked with food. I have been to other such restaurants offering a lunch buffet, and past peak lunch time, that is, past 1pm, the trays are near empty.

                                                                                As a reminder to folks who have never been to TOI for its lunch buffet - while they put much more food out for the weekend lunch buffet, I have noticed that there are more breads offered, and the space that they are located take away from areas that would otherwise hold actual entrees - so ... on the weekend, you will get more bread, greater variety of appetizers and desserts, sambar, dosas, and some other foods, whereas during the week you will get fewer different kinds of bread but more entrees to choose from in the buffet. Either way, you win.

                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                                  FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy Apr 22, 2007 10:36 PM

                                                                                  I had reviewed very positively in prior posts about how much I liked the sambar at Himalyan restaurant in Malvern. I had stated this due to my preference for a thicker and less sour sambar vs. what I have found at most other places, namely, a thinner and more sour version.

                                                                                  Ever since I posted that, on every subsequent trip to Himalyan, I have found the place keeps on thinning out the sambar!! At my last visit, I found their sambar to be the thinnest I have ever experienced. It came much closer to that I have found at other restaurants, although I still prefer its version over that of Taste of India in Wayne, a version which is more sour.

                                                                                  The two outstanding dishes, or at least to my liking at H on the weekend is their chana masala (a permanent selection for them), which is more of a plain mixture of chick peas in a mildly spiced tomato sauce and navran korma (mixed vegetables marinated in a yogurt sauce, cooked in a cream base). Just as TOI has a particular spice mixture that infuses most of its dishes, ditto with H.

                                                                                  H has very good chutneys, too, as well as lightly flavored raita. Everything at H is a toned down version of what you get at H.

                                                                                  What I have noticed at several of these Indian restuarants for their weekend lunch buffet, and it just may be a coincidence, but in more than a few visits I have made, while there are a lot of variety and number of dishes, for some reason, there is rarely a "green vegetable" dish, such as okra, green beans, spinach, etc. The greens always seem to be mixed in with another more dominating food. Yet, when I visit these places during the week, they are more likely to have one dish where that green dominates the dish. I'd prefer to balance out all the other dishes with some green vegetable!!

                                                                                  And finally, I sometimes call just to see what's being offered that day. I will not mention the name of this restuarant (it wasn't Taste of India or Himalayn), but when I asked what the dishes were, I was told "several vegetable dishes." I called at a time when the server should have known what was displayed. He made no effort to give me the specific dish names even after I asked. Maybe he was just tired of his job. I don't think many people call this restaurant as it is not one of the busier ones. That kind of exchange, needless to say, is not very inviting to encouraging business. And no, I did not go to that restaurant that day to find out first hand what they had. Other restaurants have a larger selection of dishes, so if you don't care for a few, you can still find something (as I did with H over the weekend - I don't care for the inclusion of "Chinese" dishes mixed with the other Indian dishes - I was contented with just eating the navran korma, chana masala, chicken tikka masala, pakoras, sambar, naan, rice, salad, mango lassi, and a tray of fresh fruit pieces consisting of strawberries, honeydew, and canteloupe - their tandoori chicken wasn't cooked enough - I have experienced "non-tender" tandoori chicken at H before). H is one of the few Indian restaurants I have been to in this area that play very relaxing Indian music in the background. Other restaurants seem to be more into playing more contemporary Indian popular music, some of which is taken from current soundtracks from Bollywood films. At H, you get traditional relaxing Indian instrumental music. I find that the food digests better with that music!

                                                                            2. s
                                                                              Schpsychman RE: Karen Feb 12, 2007 11:25 AM

                                                                              I really like Aman's as well, never had a bad meal there and everything is quite good. I also like Sultan in North Wales. They recently had a change in management and I think the food has even improved from what it was (which was very good).

                                                                              14 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Schpsychman
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                                                                                Kater RE: Schpsychman Feb 13, 2007 05:03 AM

                                                                                Interestingly I was just at Aman's (again) last week and answered the 'how spicy' question differently than usual. I think I would often say "medium, not too spicy", maybe my answer is influenced by our frequent visits to Korean restaurants where "medium, not too spicy" leaves me flushed. Also we have a very young child, who happens to love spicy food but it's very reasonable for a restauranteur to conclude that Americans do not feed spicy foods to children.

                                                                                So anyway, this time I picked up the food and said "we like it pretty spicy, but not hot hot". This response got me exactly what I wanted. In fact, the lamb biryanni was flat out terrific. With bread and the biryanni (which was well spiced but milder than our other dishes) plus our saag paneer, chicken makhani we had a dinner that was perfect for all of us. The only dish I did not care for was the fish pakora. They used salmon and I felt it was too oil of a fish for pakoras. When I've had fish pakora before it's been with white fish. But my son loved the fish pakoras so they didn't go to waste.

                                                                                1. re: Kater
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                                                                                  Schpsychman RE: Kater Apr 5, 2007 06:28 AM

                                                                                  I totally agree. I don't know if it's that I've grown accustomed to the level of spice in Indian and Thai food, but I've found that "medium" just doesn't cut it anymore. I started asking for it "hot" but sometimes that results in, for me, a level of spiciness that starts to overpower the food. I have now started saying things like "spicier than medium but not hot" or "medium plus" which has gotten me what I want at Sultan, which is where I usually eat. But I like your phrase "pretty spicy but not hot hot". I will try that as well.

                                                                                  1. re: Schpsychman
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                                                                                    FelafelBoy RE: Schpsychman May 9, 2007 12:14 PM

                                                                                    Hadn't visited TOI in quite awhile. Never had their chicken soup. Looked at it and it looked unappealing, due to its murky dark brown color - looked like a clear broth, but given how delicious most of their dishes were, I thought it best to try it.

                                                                                    Wowzo! Never had chicken soup that tasted like that. It was spicy - it was quite peppery and had a mild chicken flavor and little bits of tender chicken in the broth along with I think some onion. I saw several people peak at the soup and put the lid back on. They never got past the appearance of the soup.

                                                                                    The restaurant also had a French dressing on one of its two salads that was a spicy version of what most people associate as being "French" dressing.
                                                                                    The dal dish that I normally stay away from due to its dullness, today, had red kidney beans and the sauce it was in, had some flavor. Tandoori chicken was very tender and moist. One of the desserts consisted of sliced bananas coated in some mildly sweet coating. (Today, there were three different offerings of fresh fruits to choose from along with all the other traditional Indian sweets.) There were many vegetarian offerings today. Another memorable visit!!

                                                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                                                      rabidog RE: FelafelBoy May 9, 2007 06:51 PM

                                                                                      i've taken up a new walking to lunch goal, so i've been re-evaluating restaurants within a mile walk for a nice break from the office. i decided to give bawarchi another chance today - i had, after all, only dined there twice right when they first opened. HUGE improvement. they've thickened their sauces for sure. the mutter paneer (i think that was its name, my favorite dish with the cottage cheese cubes in orange creamy sauce) was a massive improvement over what i remember (i think on one of my previous visits it may not have even been available!). it was awesome with the pakoras - perfectly fried and not too greasy. was not a terribly big fan of the lentil "donuts" or the naan (do they get packaged naan? or is that fresh? the recipe could use an overhaul). also, i wasn't sure about two of the other dishes (a yellow creamy curry, and a mutter carrot dish) - neither had enough spice to keep my interest. i didn't get to try the sambar, however the rasam (i think that was its name) was incredibly spicy for a buffet!!! i have a tolerance for spice that wins bets (friends love to watch me eat those crazy thai peppers by the handful) but i was even close to tearing up! the oil on top was super-spicy and there were peppers throughout - those crazy peppers. really yummy dark red broth, maybe could use maybe some more substance. i'm not familiar with this soup - what is it supposed to be like? i would imagine stewed tomatoes would be a welcome addition. next time i'll likely dump some rice in it, too. also liked the biryani i tried. ultimately, against my better judgement i had to go back for another plate of pakoras and mutter paneer. i swear i'll try a more diverse variety of food next time!!!

                                                                                      minor complaints, which likely won't keep me from revisiting now and then:
                                                                                      -a pest control exterminator showed up with flashlight for work right in the middle of the lunch buffet!! the host looked nervous. i would have had him come back another time, personally. that's not the type of thing you want to think about, making your second trip to the buffet which the inspector had just shone a flashlight under. i do realize that fixing the problem is certainly better than letting creatures overtake your kitchen and who knows what else in the night hours - but still - not on my lunch break!

                                                                                      anyway, when they first opened i would have given them a 2 out of 10. today's visit scored a 7 out of 10 (ATOI currently gets a 9/10; royal india and gateway to india get an 8/10 for comparison). felafelboy, you might give bawarchi another try and see if you can verify this improved review.

                                                                                      1. re: rabidog
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                                                                                        FelafelBoy RE: rabidog May 9, 2007 09:17 PM

                                                                                        Good to hear of the latest review of a nearby Indian restaurant by a pro!

                                                                                        Glad to hear Baswarchi has improved in several respects. I only like to go to different such restaurants to taste a new dish, or to have a dish that other restaurants don't normally serve, or perhaps in a different way (as does Gateway to India does with its tarka dal, the "yellow creamy curry" to which you referred to in your post at your visit to Bawarchi.). Once in a great while TOI has this dish as part of its lunch buffet, but it's not as flavorful as the version served at GTI which I haven't seen served at its buffet in my last visits there - at one time, it was always part of the lunch buffet - now, it seems like it is rarely offered.

                                                                                        Your recounting of the "visitor" to Bawarchi struck me as very funny. I can just see you sitting at the restaurant enjoying your food, when suddenly this visitor shows up, who you may have thought was also a lover of Indian food and was using his lunch break to indulge in his love for the same food you enjoy. You must have been surprised when you saw him approach the buffet table and instead of digging in, seeing him bend down looking for something else. I can just see your jaw dropping, your silverware faling to the table, and everything coming to a standstill in the restaurant! Maybe he had heard that there were reports of tasty critters in this place and he had an exotic liking for that delicasy and that's why he was there - for HIS lunch buffet. I have never seen such a visitor at any other restaurant I have been to, even at the local McDonald's in King of Prussia, that was closed down because of sanitary reasons, but as you said, better that they acknowledge a potential problem and get it cleaned up sooner vs. than later.

                                                                                        The lentil doughnuts (known as "vadas") you referred to are dry and are best consumed with the sambar - eating them by themselves reminds me of eating the cereal GrapeNuts without anything else (although the new "Trail Mix" Grape Nuts is 100x better than the old, and can actually be eaten by itself!! Even delicious when mixed with plain yogurt!). I do look forward to eating there now that you mentioned that their sauces are thicker.

                                                                                        The last time I was there, the salad selection and dessert selection was very skimpy. Unless there were some very tasty dishes, I would feel like the visit would be only partially rewarding. I wonder if you noticed if they put out more in the salad and dessert selection (even GTI, with its selection of two to three items still makes an attempt to present something appealing even as limited as it is - Bawarchi's versions of a salad and desserts had looked like an afterthought - which brings me back to TOI - I can't think of anything there that looks like an "afterthought" - they take something simple and turn it into gold.

                                                                                        As extensive as the weekend buffet is, after a few visits during this time, I was brought back to my desire to indulge in more vegetarian dishes than to indulge in the extras on the weekend, such as the delicious chickpea salad, other appetizers, sambar, dosas, mango lassi, and the greater variety of breads. And on this Wednesday I got my wish - many vegetarian dishes, a few satsifying desserts, and a rather peaceful and comfortably crowded place. Not having eaten here in awhile, dishes that I normally wouldn't get excited over, such as the mushroom and pea dish, the green bean dish, the dal, tasted extra special. I needn't say more about the saag paneer (which I hadn't had in probably two months at this place!) and the chicken tandoori. During the week, TOI offers two authentic salads to choose from that have many vegetables in them, inclduing loads of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables, as well as the Punjabi (spicier) salad - it's a great start for a meal, or to complete your meal with. Bawarchi's version the last time I was there was "not ready for prime time."

                                                                                        It's probably not fair to compare places, but when you have a lunch buffet at TOI, you get used to a delicious soup, great salads, great appetizers, a large variety of vegetarian dishes with flavorful sauces, various chicken dishes, tasty chutneys and toppings (the raita) for your salad, and many different kinds of desserts. I suppose if any restuarant gets half of these items similarly satisfying (which Himalayn, Gateway to India, and Royal India do), you can have an enjoyable and satisfying experience. Even though the $8 to $9 for such a buffet is cheap for all these items, when half your meal is disappointing, you think of how better those dollars could have been spent elsewhere.

                                                                                        That's one reason why if I haven't been to an Indian restaurant in quite some time, I normally choose among the ones I have mentioned.

                                                                                        I did talk to a guy from India recently who had eaten at Bawarchi and he said he enjoyed his experience and recommended the restaurant. I'd guess his recommendation was based on their cooking being "authentic" to the real Indian tradition.

                                                                                        Another thing I forgot to mention - in contrast to GTI, and to a lesser degree RI and H, TOI uses alot more fresh cilantro to flavor their dishes. On top of most of their vegetarian dishes, such as the mushroom, saag paneer, and green bean dishes (three separate dishes), were a healthy sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

                                                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                                                          rabidog RE: FelafelBoy May 10, 2007 06:52 AM

                                                                                          i think the cilantro @ ATOI you mention is one of the things that sets them apart. people either love or loathe cilantro, and i love it to the point where i can't get enough of it!!! i wish just a dish of cilantro could be offered on these buffets, so i could top my plate off with a healthy helping.

                                                                                          with regards to the dessert / salad / chutney station --- i forgot to mention in it my review because it was still lacking. wilted iceberg & not-so-ripe tomatoes... definitely a skipper. the tamarind chutney looked the best of the bunch (~6 chutneys available) but was thin and lacking flavor. i admit, i'm guilty of eyeballing the rest then turning away. i may try the others out next time i go back. dessert was extremely skimpy - i only noticed a couple of the sugary colorful wafers... i skipped these as i'm not much of a dessert person myself. i'll try to pay more attention to what's offered next time.

                                                                                          haha, after a couple curious bites of the vadas and i made the same conclusion - surely these were meant to be dipped in something. i did dip them with my rasam, but i think i will just have the rasam plain next time, maybe with a bit of the rice added? i think that soup may have been the standout of the meal and was very impressive for a buffet offering - it's crazy that they'd give something that spicy to the masses (but i love it!).

                                                                                          1. re: rabidog
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                                                                                            FelafelBoy RE: rabidog May 11, 2007 11:47 PM

                                                                                            rabidog - Can you please do others a favor, and leave them some cilantro?
                                                                                            TOI normally sprinkles the cilantro on top of some of the dishes. I try to be considerate of others and leave them a few strands of the stuff. The next time I'm there, if I don't see any on these dishes, I will shout, "rabidog - return the cilantro!!"

                                                                                            Have you thought of asking TOI management for a cilantro salad? They might mix up something for you. If you go there on the weekend, they have this chickpea salad appetizer. I know it has a name, but it escapes me now. It has a fair share of cilantro in it. Maybe that's why you might like raita, too - it is flavored with cilantro - I made some myself - with plain yogurt, a bit of cumin, and cilantro - wasn't like what I get at these restaurants, but it wasn't too far off. I discovered that it is the combination of the cumin and the cilantro that gives the raita its "kick."

                                                                                            I have resisted going to Bawarchi for the reason I stated earlier and which you addressed in your last post - their approach to a salad and desserts is one of an afterthought. My philosophy is - if you are going to present something, do it right, not half-as*ed. Take TOI for example - EVERYTHING they put out has some extra care behind it.

                                                                                            Bawarchi's prices are at the high end of surrounding Indian restaurants, and I'd expect fair value for what they charge, especially on the weekend. I will go there when I am in the mood just for the entrees and not the salad and desserts. I do enjoy the treatment given to salads by TOI, Gateway to India, and Royal India, particularly the "Punjabi" salads that TOI and RI often put out. GTI's salad is just your plain lettuce, tomato, cucumber, etc with accoutrements, but is very fresh. It really is a small effort to put out something presentable. The fact that Bawarchi doesn't do this is beyond me - if the salad is not fresh and presentable, it should not be put out. Period.

                                                                                            I've only had the vadas with the sambar. I'd do the rasam your way, and eat it with the naan, or the basmati rice. The vadas are pretty heavy, can be oily, and I think its overpowering taste might take away from the "power" of the rasam.

                                                                                            One thing that's nice about the various flavors of Indian food is the availability of combining the "hot" with the "cool." That's why some people typically have the raita on hand, to offset the heat of the very spicy dishes. And cooling off with a mango lassi can be very refreshing. When I have this lassi, it is a sufficient replacement for dessert.

                                                                                            I may get to Bawarchi yet. I heard that on the weekend, they have more vegetarian dishes than during the week. (Hopefully this will offset the higher price they charge on the weekend. At TOI and H, at least you know you are offered MUCH MORE variety in many respects on the weekend for their higher prices, well worth it. I'm not convinced that B is worth it.)

                                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                                              FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy May 13, 2007 06:13 PM

                                                                                              Finally made it to Bawarchi. I was told they had more items on the weekend, so I thought that to be the best time to respond to raibdog's recommendation.

                                                                                              In short, my experience was a pleasant experience and I would recommend the restaurant, with a small caveat - the food is influenced by Hyderabad cuisine. In other words, it's not North Indian style like one would have at Taste of India, Himalayan, or Royal India.

                                                                                              The only dish that was similar in taste to what I have had at those restaurants was the chana masala, which was my favorite dish on this day. It was delicious. It consisted mostly of chick peas in a thick flavorful sauce. I was not aware of any onions or anything else in the dish, but according to the menu, the dish is made with onions, herbs, and other ingredients, so maybe everything was pureed well. It was one of the most delicious chana masalas I have had in a long time. In a way, it reminded me somewhat of the dish I have had at Himalayan.

                                                                                              I was surprised by the variety of food available on the Sunday I was there. I had expected much less. There were two chats (one cold, one warm), two soups (the sambhar and rasam), vadas, naan, pakoras, basmati rice, two biryanis (vegetable, and chicken), four vegetarian dishes (shadi paneer, consisting of paneer in a yellow cream sauce, a green been dish, chana masala, and curried cucumber dal), several chicken dishes, a goat dish, naan, a salad tray consisting of sliced cucumber, tomatoes, and carrots, and three trays of desserts (laddus, gulab jamun, and cubed watermelon and some other citrus fruit), and masala tea. And ... six different kinds of chutneys (the variety was more than I had ever seen at other restaurants - several were typical of south Indian food, such as some sort of pickle chutney, a mango chutney, and one that was a mixture of coconut and peanut). During the course of my meal, two dosas were brought to my table.

                                                                                              On the plus side, the taste of the chana masala was very much to my liking. I noticed among most of the dishes a more delicate flavoring, nothing really knocked my socks off, except for the sambhar, which was quite spicy and peppery - the flavor was not as good as I have had at Himalayan, but it was tasty enough for me to return for seconds and to have to wipe my brow several times from the heat of the spice. The vadas I had with it were very crispy and tasted like they had just come out of the frying pot. The other dish, the soupy rasam knocked my socks off, but not in the positive sense. To say this soup was made in a way not to my liking is an understatement. I have had dishes consising of spices that had an unpleasant taste, but there was something about this that went beyond that and I didn't want to risk finding out what it was past the second sip of the soup. I have had rasam before and this was among the most distasteful I have ever had. Moving on to the other dishes, they were all delicately spiced with flavors more common to the Hyderabad region than what I have associated with "Indian" cooking at my trips to TOI, H, and RI. The flavor was pleasant, but in a different way than what I enjoy at the threesome I mentioned. Most dishes had a sprinkling of cilantro on them.
                                                                                              I especially liked the curried cucumber dal (a yellow colored creamy soup looking dish) - the soft cooked cucumber seemed to add a slight fruityness to the gentle spicyness of the dal. What looked like a green bean dish was alright - the green colored vegetables looked like Italian green beans in that they were of a wide flat appearance - I assume they were green beans, but maybe not. The tandoori chicken was cut up in useable size - not too small not too large as is sometimes the case elsewhere, and was very tender, although the marinade on the chicken was not as flavorful as I have had at TOI and RI.

                                                                                              The basmati rice was cooked perfectly - even though it was not mixed with cumin seeds and other items as is sometimes the case elsewhere, the rice kernels were separate from each other and full of flavor. The biryani was also cooked right.

                                                                                              The dishes were presented in an appealing way, and even the salad display of sliced carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes, even in its simplicity, was a big improvement from what I have seen previously.

                                                                                              The gulab jamun were delicious. I limited myself to one, and the ball itself was very moist and the sauce it was in was perfectly fragrant - somewhat sweet but not too much so.

                                                                                              The second thing I was struck by, after being pleased by the selection, was the "home-made" taste of each dish, like something you would be served at home, in that the flavors were very delicate. Each dish was moderately hot, neither too cold nor steaming. Guess the restaurants heaters under the trays were fixed.

                                                                                              Now to the less than desirable items ...
                                                                                              the flavor in the chicken dishes was barely noticeable even though they were labeled as having been cooked or coated in spices and herbs. The dosas brought to my table, were thin, which I guess is the south Indian style, and not accompanied by any filling or side. The pakoras barely had any vegetable filling in them, and the coating was more breadlike to be chewed through than being of a crispy coating. I mentioned my reaction to the rasam already so no need to go over that.

                                                                                              The watermelon, cut in cubes, tasted like that had been sitting in a tray overnight - they were too soft, overly ripe, and tasted sour and spoiled. That was the only item that the restaurant management "dropped the ball" on. (I am not an expert on rasam, so all I can report on is my personal reactdion to it based on my taste, but I do know how watermelon is supposed to taste, and this was close to being classified as near spoiled.)

                                                                                              On this day, during the first hour there were about ten families, mostly of Indian origin that came in, so the restaurant was moderately busy as the day progressed.

                                                                                              For a change of pace from the usual North Indian fare, I'd recommend this restaurant, at least for a weekend adventure, but keep in mind, that the flavors will be different, in general, for most of the dishes than what is served at TOI, H, RI, and other Indian restaurants cooking food in the north Indian way. The only spice in a dish that may be too hot for you are the sambhar and the rasam. There may have been a problem with the rasam the day I was there, because that was the only dish that was off the scale of decency. There are a large number of items to choose from on the weekend buffet to satisfy the taste of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

                                                                                              On the way out, I noticed several flyers, one referring customers to look out for coupon flyers in Clipper ad magazine, and that on Tuesdays, there is a "special dinner buffet" (South Indian Vegetarian, Chat and Indo Chinese night) - pure vegetarian, at $9.95, consisting of more than 25 items including a welcome drink, soup, 5 varieties of dosas, vada, idly, veg pakora, tandoori stuffed beg, pav baji, ragada patti, pani puri, sev puri, chat papdi, 3e veg entrees, 2 chinese specialites, rasam, sambhar, 2 desserts, fruits, salad, and chutneys.

                                                                                              1. re: FelafelBoy
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                                                                                                FelafelBoy RE: FelafelBoy May 20, 2007 11:01 PM

                                                                                                Last visit to TOI surprised me with the variety of foods, some of which I might expect on the weekend:
                                                                                                3 kinds of salads including a chickpea salad infused with heavy cilantro taste and a sauce throughout the salad which reminded me of some sort of tamarind flavor.
                                                                                                Mango pudding cubes that were infused with what tasted like "roohofza" the rosewater flavor, as well as nuts and raisins.
                                                                                                Kheer that was thicker than normal and had pretty large pieces of pistachio nuts in it.
                                                                                                Tandoori chicken that was hot, crispy, very tender, and a marinade flavor that reminded me of the difference between chicken offered here and at other similar Indian restaurants.
                                                                                                I ordered Mulligatawney soup, and it was thicker than normal, and while it didn't have cream in it, as far as I know, it had the consistency and richness of a cream based soup.
                                                                                                In contrast to other Indian restaurants that I have been to recently, such as Bawarchi, whose flavoring is more delicate, every dish here had flavor that was much more intense and which knocked me over with its intensity, pleasing that is.
                                                                                                Five veg selections (none consisting of paneer), 4 different chicken selections, 3 salads, many desserts, including freshly cut fruit, and other items.
                                                                                                Having had mild tasting tandoori chicken in several other Indian restaurants, when I tasted TOI's version of it, I took several bites, and thought, "it doesn't get any better than this."

                                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                                                                  rabidog RE: FelafelBoy Jun 7, 2007 07:43 PM

                                                                                                  mmm, i'll have to head back to ATOI, it's been awhile.

                                                                                                  i've been out on travel + serving two weeks of jury duty, so i've missed a lot! took a trip to bawarchi today and there was a dish on the buffet i've never had - i don't know what it was, but it had the consistency and taste of an etheopian peanut butter soup. anyway, i still think bawarchi's improved but they're no ATOI.

                                                                                                  apparently not sated for the day, i got takeout dinner tonight from tiffin in the city at 7th and girard just now. felafelboy, have you been here yet? they really do not disappoint. they have an open kitchen, and the fastest-moving motivated workers i've ever seen. what are they giving them to make them work so hard??!! their small dining room will be expanding on to the 2nd floor as well in about 8 months.

                                                                                                  1. re: rabidog
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                                                                                                    pamd RE: rabidog Jun 8, 2007 12:09 PM

                                                                                                    went to TOI about 2 weeks ago- again was great! and there were actually a bunch of people waiting for tables, we got there at just the right time. There were some new veggie dishes (to me) that day, so good. Due to the packed place, the dishes were constantly being replaced, so everything was fresh & hot!

                                                                                                    1. re: rabidog
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                                                                                                      FelafelBoy RE: rabidog Jun 10, 2007 12:52 AM

                                                                                                      rabidog - I wonder if during your weeks of jury duty (sequestered?), the caterer brought in some of your favorite foods? No, I haven't been to Tiffin yet. Can't motivate myself to drive there yet. If and when they have more of a sit down environment, I may make a special trip, there, but that area is not in my backyard.
                                                                                                      I have been to TOI a few times recently (when it starts getting very hot outside, I find that its food is too heavy). As the weather heats up, I have more of a preference to be eating more on the lighter side, and places like Himalayan and Gateway to India's dishes just seem a better fit for hot weather. I've had a few mediocre experiences at Gateway to India recently so I haven't been back in quite some time. The first few visits were very good, then they started including corn dishes in their buffet which were way overcooked. I have yet to taste tandori chicken as good as the way TOI makes it, so even if there are no other desirable dishes at the buffet, one can enjoy that dish along with the rice. I am familiar with most of the dishes that TOI recirculates as part of their buffet offering which is why I find the need to go to other places for a change of pace. Occassinally H, GTI and Royal India do offer dishes that are different from the normal fare at TOI. The time I was at Bawarchi, there were a few dishes that were very good, in that the spice flavor wasn't overpowering, but the rasam and the fruit were big turnoffs to me. (My only other exposure to rasam at a similar restaurant was at Jaipur, which for me, was the star dish at their buffet, which contained a very limited selection and whose quality on that day was subpar - that was a few years ago, maybe things have changed since then ... what I do know is the relative consistency of quality at places like H, RI, GTI, and TOI.)
                                                                                                      Note that the staff personnel has changed at some of these restaurants. When I first went to GTI, the place had a different serving crew and host than what I've seen the last year - not the same. There's a guy at TOI who seems to manage the place when the owner is not present - he's very experienced, knows the restaruant business, and does what he can to go out of his way to accommodate regular patrons. He's currently managing a serving staff, some of whom speak very limited English, and whose first language is Spanish. H has an accommodating staff and management also.
                                                                                                      As PamD said, at TOI, the food tends to be very fresh because of the high turnover rate of customers - even at 1pm and later, I've seen fresh food being brought out and trays being filled up. I think people still come in as late as 2pm during the week. At some of these other restaurants, food is brought out once, and if you don't get it during that time, you miss out on the selection. I do think that TOI in this area gets the most business. H has a loyal following also.

                                                                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy
                                                                                                        rabidog RE: FelafelBoy Jun 10, 2007 08:13 AM

                                                                                                        hahaha i wish. no, i was handed a menu with 0 vegetarian options. instead of circling one of those, i wrote in the margin "anything vegetarian." "anything vegetarian"=stale bread + 3 slices american cheese. yuk!

                                                                                                        1. re: rabidog
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                                                                                                          tammyind RE: rabidog Apr 23, 2008 11:42 AM

                                                                                                          For chicken biriyani, you should try Bharat Bazaar on Beidler Road in KofP. It tastes good and available on thursdays only.

                                                                                2. t
                                                                                  tammyind RE: Karen Apr 24, 2008 02:13 PM

                                                                                  For chicken biriyani, you should try Bharat Bazaar on Beidler Road in KofP. It tastes good and available on thursdays only.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: tammyind
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                                                                                    FelafelBoy RE: tammyind Apr 24, 2008 11:26 PM

                                                                                    You sound like a person who is local to KOP. Have you been to Jaipur recently for its lunch buffets? What about Desi Village? How do their lunch buffets compare to the other local Indian restaurants? My visits to those two restaurants in the past were at best unmemorable.

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                                                                                    pamd RE: Karen May 15, 2008 04:30 AM

                                                                                    Just want to mention that I went back to Chinnar (after 1pm midweek) and was still really good- and 8.95 including drinks!) I chose it over TOI due to recent posts about food & price changes. Chinnar had 2 great vegetarian dishes- Bingain(sp?) Bhartha was one- it was great, 1st time I've seen it. I like how they added a chile chicken dish on the electric grill. Also, the staff was again friendly. I wish the spices were kicked up a bit for my liking, but I do understand it's buffet, so better to please more people by keeping it this way.

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