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Indian Buffet - Cambridge, Somerville

After some good amount of searching on the board, I'm still trying to find some good opinions on good indian buffets in Cambridge and Somerville. My "from the menu" experiences have always been better than buffets, but in terms of value and comprehensiveness, I can't beat what a good buffet can offer. Now I've been to several, some I've liked (Namaskar) and some I've hated (Desi Dabha), but I'd like your opinions.

What I'm looking for may not be attainable - a place that serves a buffet that isn't totally bland and lacking in flavor, if not heat. But which are the good ones, and which are to be avoided?

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  1. I love the Kebab Factory, on Kirkland Street by the Cambridge/Somerville border. Everything is very fresh, which is one of my main buffet criteria. (Caveat, have only been during weekends--turnover may be less on week days?) Really nice choice of traditional dishes and more exotic ones. Excellent breads and (as the name suggest) lots of very good quality grilled meats and kebabs, which makes this feel (to me) like a healthier choice than the swimming-in-sauce places.

    1. i've only been there once, but i second kebab factory. i went on a weekday, and it seemed like things were pretty fresh.

      also, tamarind bay is a board favorite--i've been there several times, and have been pleased each time, though the last time (a couple months ago) a little less so than before.

      1. My favorite used to be Bombay Club. The do-it-yourself chaat table was one of the best foodie things in Boston. However, the last time I went all the stuff on the chaat table was stale, and the stuff in the cooked buffet was cold. It was really terrible. I don't know if it's gone downhill or if it was just a bad day.

        Kebab Factory and Namaskar have always been excellent. It's hard to say which is better, but I'll go with Kebab Factory.

        I like Tamarind Bay's dinner better than its buffet, but the buffet is certainly good. Cafe of India and Tanjore in Harvard Square also have fine lunch buffets.

        1. I second Tamarind Bay's buffet, some pretty original dishes, not the standard North Indian lunch buffet fare.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Prav

            I work right near India Castle, which is between Harvard and Central Sqs, and it is great! I used to go at least once a week but those pakoras have made me reduce my Indian consumption to about once a month now. But it is definitely one of my favorites. Awesome tandoori and yummy tamarind sauce. I've eaten there both for buffet and for dinner and while going there for dinner is somewhat better because the food is obviously much more fresh and hot, you just cant beat all the different foods you can get for buffet! They even let you fill up a container to go (which lasts me at least 2 meals if I really pack it in there), which I love!

          2. aren't there some indian places in central square as well? how do they stack up?

            9 Replies
            1. re: autopi

              I've had India Pavilion's buffet once and found it unremarkable. One interesting thing, though is that India Pavilion is supposedly Cambridge's first and oldest Indian restaurant. My dad has memories of eating there in the early 60s!

              I tried Shalimar once for dinner and found it to be unremarkable. I find that Indian food in the area tends to be pretty unremarkable except for the anomalous standouts such as Tamarind Bay, Kebab Factory, etc.

              1. re: Prav

                Oh! I have been patronizing India Pavilion for years because it is the only one that my husband knows and refuses to try anyone else in this area.

                I am gonna to use the opinions of you guys to convince him to try Kebab Factory or Tamarind Bay.

                India Pavilion is $5.99 for the lunch buffet. Perhaps I am not exposed to Indian food too much, I find them not bad and unbeatable for the price.

                Just wonder how much Kebab Factory and Tamarind Bay charge for the weekend lunch buffet.

                1. re: Prav

                  Is India Pavilion the place that does the Baigan Bharta with cubes of paneer? Never had that anywhere else, and soooo delish...

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    sounds good. i'm not sure cubes of paneer would be bad in any dish of any cuisine :).

                2. re: autopi

                  I really like Royal India/Royal Bengal for the Bengali food, but haven't had the lunch buffet there.

                  1. re: limster

                    The weekend lunch buffet has a lot of Bengali stuff. Really liked it the last time but It's been a year or two..

                  2. re: autopi

                    I like Royal Bengal for lunch buffets of all the Central Sq. spots. I don't recall much Bengali food, if any, on the buffet the times I've been in for lunch. Not thrilled with Shalimar or India Pavilion, either. I have never tried India Castle or Gandhi. Actually, when I am in the mood for South Asian-esque lunch buffet at work, I head to Rangzen for its variety of foods.

                    1. re: autopi

                      I've been to Gandhi a couple of times and India Castle. Thought Gandhi was blah and India Castle was awfully bland. Oh and I've been to Royal Bengal's buffet once: thought it was just run-of-the-mill Indian buffet in a dreary setting.

                      I agree with alice that Rangzen has the best buffet of these places. However, haven't tried Shalimar's or India Pavilion's.

                      1. re: autopi

                        I had the buffet at Shalimar recently and thought it the worst I've ever had in Boston by far. Flavors were mostly off-putting and some things seemed less than fresh. And the bathroom, while clean looking, stunk nauseatingly. I wouldn't go back if you paid me.

                        India Pavilion's buffet was okay the one time I went, though I agree with Prav that it's pretty pedestrian. It is cheap, at least. And yes, it's been there a long time, as has Shalimar.

                        Just up the road in Inman Square is Haveli, which also has a pretty unremarkable lunch buffet. I'm in no hurry to get back there.

                        For my taste, Harvard and Porter Squares have much better options in Cambridge.

                      2. how would you guys rate the north-of-the-river spots (namaskar, tamaraind, kebab) versus the south-of-the-river spots (rangoli, india quality--neither of which i've been to)?

                        is it just me, or does it seem like cambridge and somerville enjoy a disproportionate amount of the good chow in this town?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: autopi

                          If we're only talking Indian, Cambridge and Somerville punch above their weight, though I think the best Indian dinner in Greater Boston, to my tastes anyway, is in Dorchester at Shanti (don't care for the buffet much). Lunch I'm partial to Tamarind Bay, but the place in Union Square in Somerville is a close second for me.

                          1. re: autopi

                            I really liked India Quality the one time I went, but note that they don't do buffets at either lunch or dinner.

                            1. re: autopi

                              i don't know about a comparison, but tamarind bay and kebab factory are among my favorite indian restaurants in the country, and my best meals at tamarind bay surpassed all other indian meals i've had. but all in all i think cambridge is pretty lackluster for a college town...coming from berkeley which was spectacular. i think indian is a huge cambridge/somerville strength, but what else is there... ok, add portuguese and brazilian.

                            2. thanks for all the replies - i'll definitely need to investigate KF and TB - havent been to either before. And thanks for the Rangzen rec!

                              1. Namaskar is as good on the weekdays as it is on the weekends. It's my go-to Indian buffet for this side of the river.
                                India Club is owned by the same folks (I think) so their buffet might be good too. I've only ordered off the menu there, but I remember everything being tasty.
                                In terms of pure cheapness - Passage to India in Porter Square is probably the cheapest around - something like $7 for their weekend buffet. The quality was fine - nothing outstanding, but everything was certainly edible.
                                I also prefer ordering off the menu to eating the buffet at Tamarind Bay. If I'm going to spend that type of money, I might as well have control over what I'm eating.

                                1. re: kebab factory - be sure to bring your appetite, otherwise you may be in for bad service.

                                  my gf and i went to kf for the first time for dinner tonight. we weren't so hungry, so we ordered samosas + a kebab sampler to share + naan. the food came pretty fast, and it was pretty good.

                                  but then: (1) no response when i asked if we could get 2 plates so we can share the food more easily; (2) when prodded further, the waiter gives me only one plate (plenty of plates on empty tables nearby); (3) no wet towels after the meal as other customers received; and (4) silent stares as we depart.

                                  kf seems to be a favorite among many members, so i imagine this is not the usual level of service - merely our punishment for ordering less than what they prefer. the food was good + i would have liked to return and try the non-kebab dishes, but the service was a huge turnoff. hope you get a better treatment.