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authentic indian food in the philly area/burbs

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  • caloh Jul 9, 2007 06:36 PM
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hello,

just wondering if any of you can share places on where to get authentic indian food in the philly area or adjoining towns, whether it be southern or northern style. i guess i mean authentic as un-Americanized, or at least as close to that as possible.

appreciate any thoughts!

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  1. Tiffin at 7th & Girard is excellent. They deliver and also have tiffins - daily indian versions of bento boxes daily. The butter chicken is the amazing.

    www.tiffinstore.com or www.tiffin.com (for the bento box meals)

    1. FelafelBoy, thought you'd be the 1st to post:) Always gives great detail!

      As far as the burbs go- there are a bunch. My personal favorite is A Taste of India in Gateway Shopping center in Wayne. There have been numerous threads if you search on here- this is a great one to read...
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/185329

      1. The best Indian food I've had is at Aman's in Blue Bell on Germantown Pike. It is a strip mall and doesn't look special. But it is delicious!

        3 Replies
        1. re: mjgirl

          I agree 100%... my husband and I have a serious Aman's addiction :) We have been to a bazillion Indian places in Phila, Montco, Chester, etc and this is our absolute favorite.

          1. re: missfunkysoul

            Does Aman's offer a lunch/dinner buffet?

            1. re: FoolForFood

              They do lunch buffet from 11-3, but not dinner buffet.

        2. i'm a bit late to this thread... but i'm lucky to live next to and work next to what i consider to be the two best bets in the area, respectively!

          tiffin as mentioned is awesome. inexpensive, good food, minimal decor, great take-out and delivery service. my faves are the aloo papri chaat on the appetizer menu, paneer tikka masala and malai kofta. they are new (less than 1 year old) but wildly popular here.

          at work, i go to a taste of india (wayne) for the lunch buffet all the time. sometimes i even make the drive on the weekend for the expanded super-buffet. very flavorful buffet with a ton of selection. dinners here are great, too (no buffet). the garlic naan is divine. they have a new location in exton as well.

          the western suburbs have the most indian restaurants in the area i've found, all grouped into a small area. i've been to all of them, my favorites easily over 30 times. in addition to ATOI, royal india (near intersection of rtes 29 and 30) and gateway to india (a little further west on 30) are right up there as well.

          i'm personally not a fan of devi vegetarian, jaipur, aman's, or that other place on rte 202 whose name escapes me right now. himalayan and bawarchi are pretty OK, but they face stiff competition, and when faced with the choice i usually opt for one of the better places i mentioned previously.

          26 Replies
          1. re: rabidog

            It should be noted that Sitar India in West Philly has a decent dinner buffet. I didn't eat there but I did visit and saw some of the selections and the presentation looked decent given the lack of other places that offer such a buffet at dinnertime.

            There was a nice variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, along with a small salad offering, soup, and a few other things. Priced over $10, but at dinner time, not a bad deal. Perhaps chowhounds who have eaten there can comment on the quality of the food.

            I was reminded of the difference in selection and appearance between the smaller city restaurants such as this that have limited space, and what is out in the western suburbs. The presentation is twice as large, roomier, and from what I saw, I'd still bet that the quality of the dishes, whether it's from TOI, Royal India, Himalyan, Gateway to India are in a different class. (I can even appreciate the healthier way that Aman's presents its dishes compared with the form that the saag paneer took at SI. It may have been good, but at Aman's you know you don't need to be so concerned with the preparation of the food.)

            To answer the original question regarding "authentic" Indian cooking, I'd suggest going to one of the Hindu temples when they are having prasadam (food that's offered to Krishna). Look for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness' Festival of India to take place in Center City in late September to be held on Benjamin Frankline Parkway. You will taste authentic Indian food!!! (They like to use ghee, lots of sugar in some of their dishes, and sour cream as an ingredient for some of the dishes. It's very rich, not for the diet or cholesterol conscious, but eating the prasadam might help with your spiritual evolution!!)

            For simplicity, stop in at lunch time at US Petro in King of Prussia, which also is home to a small food store and small takeout and sit down restaurant, and you can have a dish custom made for you. It may not be gourmet food, but it's the real thing. I've been there many times, and the dishes smell good, and best of all, most of the time the person who has made your food has made it with love. That extra care can make a dish taste a little bit better!! The owners of this station also run Royal India in Malvern, known by many for good food.

            1. re: FelafelBoy

              has anyone checked out the new place in Berwyn on Swedesford (near Cosi & Lotus Inn- took over the mexican place)? I can't remember the name & don't know if it opened yet because I'm away, but curious to know about it if any takers!

              1. re: pamd

                FYI -- Gateway to India in Malvern closed in August.

                1. re: malvern girl

                  Wow!! It's too bad, because the food there was good, but the place did close to nothing to promote itself, its website offered no response to posts, and due to the lack of visibility through ads and location, the traffic was light to the place. I wondered how long it could survive.
                  So, even a place with good quality still needs to be promoted. If they relocated closer to Chesterbrook or King of Prussia, or even closer to Ardmore, absolutely the place would get much more traffic.

                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                    In Ardmore, I would go to Khajuraho. The food is quite good. They have a nice buffet. The staff is never very friendly, but I've always been happy with their food.
                    If you head out to Media, I would try Shar-E-Punjab.

                2. re: pamd

                  Are you saying that there is a new restaurant serving Indian food in the small strip mall type plaza near Lotus Inn? Lunch buffet? I have seen no advertising for such a place, and your post is the first mention I have heard of this new addition. (I might add that if Gateway to India relocated here, they would get more people, that is, if they advertised. I just looked at its website this morning, and it looked like the site hasn't been touched in years. The feedback system on its website never got a response. They stopped their buffet offer , still advertised on its site, involving getting one for free after so many visits, years ago. It's sad that the owner didn't take care of the business in a way that paid tribute to the quality of the cooking by the chef.)

                  Maybe Rabidog in his travels away from work during the week can to some investigative journalism for the rest of us and report back on this potential new addition, as you say.

                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                    yes, about a month ago I was at that strip mall & noticed that an Indian restaurant will be opening where ZuZu was (the mexican place). It was a name I had never heard of (not G to I). I'll check it out when I return- maybe it'll be open by then.

                    1. re: pamd

                      The name of the new Indian restaurant at 416 W. Swedesford Rd. in Wayne close to the Lotus Inn is called "Chinnar."

                      There were coupons for the restaurant found in a weekly coupon flyer filled with coupons for various restaurants and businesses in the suburban area. The name of the coupon flyer begin with the letters "Cli" and ends with the letter "r."
                      (I think indirect advertising of this kind is not permitted on this board which is why I abbreviated the name.)

                      I called the restaurant and spoke with a very hospitable person. (Gateway to India folks did not respond to me with such calls in this way.) He told me that the cuisine is north Indian, and that the lunch bufftets consist of four vegetarian curries, two chicken dishes, a lamb dish, a few salads, a few appetizers, and two desserts. No soup except on the weekends when there is sambar and idli.

                      The selection for Monday's buffet sounded very appealing, that is, if you like north Indian dishes - sounded like they stayed with the familiar - chana masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi, some other dish, along with chicken tandoori. Sounds like the place provides the basics - less than TOI, but adequate.

                      Price for the lunch buffet according to the person with whom I spoke is $8.95 including the weekends.

                      One of us chowhounds will inevitably be the first to give a first hand report of their experience at Chinnar.

                      I recently had "kitcheree", a combination of mung beans, spinach, rice, and some other ingredients. It was delicious. I wonder why the Indian restaurants we have discussed on this board don't offer dishes like this and some other variations. As I mentioned before, this is one of the reasons why I ventured out to restaurants other than TOI, which I love. It's just that the place tends to recycle the same dishes. I got exposed to some other dishes at Royal India and Gateway to India.

                      I would like to know if Royal India's hours of serving and food availability are still as limited as they were last year, where if you didn't get to the place by 12:15, you risked empty trays of food.

                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                        Thanks! The name was driving me crazy! I will be sure to check them out when I return.

                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                          I think if all goes well in the office tomorrow I will do a "rabidog investigates" mission and hit this place up tomorrow for the lunch buffet. Will report back.

                          1. re: rabidog

                            I paid a recent visit to Aman's, just to check in. The place smells like a good Indian restaurant should!! The aroma was very inviting and right on as far as an appealing spice mixture. Some Indian restaurants don't strike me in the same way (like New Delhi in West Philadelphia). When I walk into Taste of India, I get almost knocked unconscious with the seductive aroma. The aroma I inhaled at Aman's was close to that.

                            The selections were more modest that one would get at TOI, and even Royal India, but they were adequate. Most dishes were not swimming in sauces, particularly one medley of vegetables. They had a healthy looking soup (pea), a modest looking salad, a modest looking appetizer (pakora? - breaded/fried dumpling filled with potato?) and a few basic desserts.

                            I wouldn't mind going there for a single entree selection for a dinner. I'd still rather go elsewhere for a lunch buffet if I had a choice, but from what I saw, I think most people would have a satisfying experience.
                            Since this is the only such restaurant in the area, it's a decent choice. (I'd choose Himalyan for their overall selection, but then again, they have a larger clientele to accommodate so they can put out more items.) I noticed a new restaurant nearby in a strip mall on Germantown Pike near the Minado sushi place ...something like World Caribbean Cuisine. Looked interesting, but I try to stay away from places that go heavy on meat. I don't want my vegetarian dishes mixin' with the heavy meat aroma and such.

                            1. re: rabidog

                              i investigated, and i'm reporting back. had a group in tow for this one.

                              they opened a month ago. shows how often i get out!!! i had no idea. NOT crowded in the middle of lunch rush at all, so emptying plates were a moot point. i did however notice fresh naan and fresh pakoras brought out. the pakoras, can't vouch for their authenticity, but they are delicious! they are the most french-fry-like pakoras you will ever eat. also much appreciated was the fresh naan, which was replaced in the bin and then walked around and offered to the tables as well.

                              had you not reported on the selection i would have been disappointed. i think there were only 3 vegetarian dishes, and they were: eggplant with peas, chana masala, dal makhani. the dals were the yellow kind, not enough flavor for my liking. chana masala was verrrry oily, but interesting for sure. not more than a touch hot-spicy (about standard buffet level), but a lot of spice used for a very flavor-packed dish. the eggplant was OK. decent chopped salad of tomato, cucumber, onion. tamarind chutney and mint chutney very average. the standout of the whole meal was the vegetable biryani. totally flavorful and delicious. in summary, the carbs rule at this place - naan, pakoras, biryani. there's some decent stuff in between. sad to say i skipped out on dessert as i was stuffed. next time i'd welcome a soup.

                              here is a scan of a menu i picked up:
                              http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r5...

                              hey, if anyone finds a paneer tikka masala or a mutter paneer on the menu, please let me know what day of the week you went!

                               
                              1. re: rabidog

                                My review of Chinnar based on a recent visual and aromatic check ... I wasn't in the mood for eating, but I was in the area of this restaurant so I thought it wise to see what the place was like for a possible future lunch buffet trip. Overall, I'd give the place a thumbs up - it's more of a no frills type place - not dressy like TOI, Gateway to India, or even Royal India - and I say this in a positive way - the place is very roomy, and hospitable for eating in peace and getting food at the buffet area which extends from one wall to the other.

                                The aroma was pleasant and struck me as of a north Indian touch.
                                The selection of food was very appealing. In fact, it struck me as a "best of north Indian lunch buffet" entree selection - today the selections consisted of dal makhani, baingan bharta (egglplant and peas), saag paneer (spinach and cheese cubes), potatoes and fenugreek, and the usual chicken and lamb dishes one finds at any Indian lunch buffet. The rice looked identical to what I saw at Gateway to India. It wouldn't surprise me if one of the cooks is someone who did the food prep there.

                                The pakoras looked more on the crispy side than what you would find at TOI or elsewhere, where the filling is what matters instead of the exterior coating. The salad (lettuce, cucumber, potato and chickpea salads),and dessert selections (kheer and galub jamun) were very modest. The potato salad and chickpea salad looked very plain and of vastly different essence from what you would get at TOI.

                                If you wanted to fill up on entrees vs. the extras (soup, which there was none, salad, desserts, and other appetizers), Chinnar will satisfy you.

                                If you want food done on a more gourmet level, another restaurant will suit you. Sometimes you go to an Indian restaurant hoping for particular dishes only to be disappointed that there is some exotic dish or some undesirable selection (which sometimes is the case at TOI and Himalayn). I think that Chinnar stays with the familiar, as far as north Indian goes, so if you don't want to be disappointed by an unfamiliar selection, I think Chinnar will not disappoint you.

                                The lunch time rush hour was more than half through, and the restaurant was about half filled (seemed like it was more crowded than Bawarchi), and some of the trays were running light on food supply. I don't know if this place replenishes the trays.

                                I will say it again, if Gateway to India was in this same location, did some promotion, it would be crowded ... beautiful interior and presentation, good quality, and an experience of fine dining. It didn't die due to poor quality or presentation.

                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                  thanks for the details FB! I'm still away but will get there eventually. BTW, I did happen to try a place in DC that gets rave reviews (and I was there with a native), and while it was good, dinner not buffet, I think these PA places are just as good, if not better for some dishes. But I did get a sample of the best crispy cauliflower (with the orange sauce) and the only other place I've had it is TOI.

                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                    We tried Chinnar today. We normally go to Himalaya as I work near there but we ended up in that area. It was around 1:30 so late for them. It was mostly our party of 3 and one couple came in after us.
                                    The place certainly has been totally redone from zuzu.

                                    The selection is a bit less than Himalayan, but everything seemed to have a lot of flavor. They didn't still have naan out on the buffet but they brought it fresh to the table. Gotta love hot naan. As said above, the salads and desserts were not much to speak of. I really liked the saag paneer. There was also a cabbage dish and dal. There were two chicken dishes which were pretty good. The lady behind us said she didn't eat lamb but she really liked the lamb and she was right it was really good. I also really liked the mixed tandoori grill. In addition to the usual tandoori chicken there were also lamb and chicken which seemed to have been taken from kabobs and had a great smoky flavor. I also liked the fried offering. It seemed a little different as it had spinach or something green in it and had a good and a little bit spicy flavor. They had two kinds of rice (basmati and lemon rice) but I couldn't tell a ton of difference between them. I wish they had the biryani!

                                    Everyone was very nice and the main gentleman asked me how I had heard about the place. I was trying to explain to him about chowhound and he had me write it down, so maybe he'll find this.

                              2. re: FelafelBoy

                                Correction - the dish "khichidi" was misspelled in my post as "kitcheree." Either our fellow Chowhounds of Asian Indian background were too gracious to correct me, or they frequent other message boards, geared more to a south Asian crowd. (I would have appreciated being corrected!!!!)

                                And thank you to Rabidog on a post that appeared further on in this thread where the first review of Chinnar was made. Sounds like the quality of the restaurant is just ok. So far, I like the selections they offer - a biryani, the eggplant dish, channa masala. Maybe they just stay with the familiar north Indian dishes fearing that if less common dishes are offered, they will lose a crowd. Taj Majal in Chesterbrook used to feature some unusual dishes, and I think the normal lunchtime crowd in this area would not be drawn back for repeated visits for such unusual fare, preferring the more usual dishes found at TOI and Himalyan.

                                I gather from what you said Rabidog about the spice level at Chinnar, TOI, Himalyan, and RI still are the leaders in taste in the area.

                                The picture connected with your message board name is new, yes? Complete surprise to me!! I had you tagged as being of the other gender!!!! Part of the mystery is gone for me! Thanks for providing the link to the menu for Chinnar. Very thoughtful for taking the time to do so. I hope you didn't do this project during your worktime. We wouldn't want to run the risk of losing your research of places in this area due to someone finding out about your undercover work.

                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                  ha, ha! yes, i just figured out how to upload an avatar, and spiffied up my profile a little bit. i only post at work when i'm having a slow day (i.e. the bosses are out of town!)

                                  heading to royal india tomorrow for lunch with a group of coworkers so i'll report back. it's been awhile since i've been there. with GTI closing up shop i want to support those businesses out on rt-30. the western suburbs of philadelphia i really feel are some of the most unique suburbs in the country, a big contributing factor being the enclave of indian restaurants. houseguests don't believe it when i drive them out of the city for lunch, but they always come back raving about it. i really enjoy working in this area as opposed to the two other suburban metro areas i've worked within previously. it is really an area worth exploring for those who haven't done so yet. keep the more off-the-beaten-path places in business!!! i agree, with a better, more visible location, GTI would have flourished. i still wonder what the future holds for bawarchi in that horribly-designed invisible chesterbrook shopping center. many empty spaces in there and i've seen many a business close up shop.

                                  also, next week a coworker and i are heading back to devi vegetarian (a looooong lunch!) because she is craving dosas. do you think that's the best place for dosas? it's been so long since i was there.

                                  pamd - i know the exact crispy cauliflower at ATOI you're talking about (i've only seen it on the weekend lunch buffet there), and i've been keeping my eyes peeled for it elsewhere! does anyone know that dish's official name? one of my more flamboyant dining companions dubbed them "cauliflower yum yums." they really are spectacular. (and without creating too much cross-board-contamination, where in DC did you find them? heading down that way in a couple weeks.)

                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    We lovers of Indian food (good restaurant Indian food, that is!) appreciate your efforts, rabidog, at supporting these places out here in the western suburbs. I take it for granted that most sub-urban areas have an array of international (ethnic) restaurants to choose from - not the case as you stated. The first time I visited the Great Valley Shopping Center and other strip malls out there in Malvern, I was surprised by the plethora of Japanese, Thai, Indian, vegetarian (the raw foods place has since closed), and other kinds of restaurants one would expect in a university or downtown area of an urban center - not in a distant suburb (main line - known for :"non-ethnic personality" - I like to think of the mainline area as putting a value on better quality things, whatever form it takes, including its desire for better quality of food). As I reported on a previous post, not having been to any of the west Philadelphia Indian restaurants in a long time, I was surpirsed at their small size (I think Minar Palace was the most cramped of all of them), both in the buffet and eating area. Most of the suburban places (although TOI can get very crowded and cramped) are spacious. Chinnar is very spacious and easy to navigate through from one's table to the buffet area.

                                    I do look forward to your report on Royal India, and to know if they still run out of food in their buffet trays past 12:30pm. Please take notes on their selection!! They sometimes have one Asian type dish, which is fine, but I prefer to get my Asian food in an Asian restaurant. I go to Indian restaurants for a variety of Indian food.

                                    Yes, those cauliflower breaded things, whatever their name is, are mouthwateringly delicious - the outside while crispy seems to melt in one's mouth as one gets down to the interior filled with the cauliflower. The outside sauce reminded me of some sweet tomato-orangy type flavor. Last time I had these things, I tried to limit myself to no more than four. They reminded me of the addictiveness of eating potato chips.

                                    Regarding Chinnar - there was a very favorable review written in the local newspapers that are distributed under different names throughout the western and northern suburbs (owned by the same company) by the restaurant reviewer whose initials are LL in the section titled "Dining & Wine" under the title "Restaurateuir moves from Himalayas to the Main Line."

                                    He presented the owner and the restaurant in the most favorable light. I don't think the review was meant to be analytical in any sort of critical way, but rather to promote the restaurant in as positive way as possible. Nothing wrong with being positive, but for us chowhounds that are more critical, knowing the pluses and minuses give us a more honest picture of what exists so we have a clearer perspective of reality as it is.

                                    Highlights of the article are - that the owner, Sudhir Sharma, has much previous experience in the food business, running an Indian-Chinese-Continental restaurant in the Himalayan Mountains, helping to open Khajuraho in Ardmore, and as a previous owner of Jaipur in King of Prussia (which he sold in about 2002).

                                    Jaipur was reported to have been doing very well during his ownership, but for personal reasons he sold the restaurant and moved to New York. Upon his return, he was unable to find a suitable place in Bryn Mawr but did find the current location to work for his restaurant.

                                    The reviewer stated that Chinnar offers a larger variety of seafood than other similar restaurants. He loved the lamb rogan josh. The article had a gigantic misprint on the price of the gulab jamun (the printed price would turn off everyone for this dessert - the printer forgot to include the decimal point!). The description of the dessert got me to think if their version of this item is different than my understanding of how it is made. The reviewer said thtat the dessert is stuffed with cheese. That's news to me.

                                    The reviewer did state that the food at Chinnar is mild. Some quotes from others used in the article refer to the food and some dishes at this restaurant in extremely favorable ways. Nothing wrong in promoting a restaurant, but if such accolades are placed so high, it is harder to live up to that standard for every taste.

                                    My short visit at the place left me with the impression that the main dishes are done just fine, and less effort is put into the side dishes, salads, and desserts. I'd encourage people to not expect something beyond what exists there - I think you will find a presentation per dish on a more artful and complex nature at TOI, RI, H, and some of the other places, even perhaps Bawarchi (although Bawarchi's efforts at side dishes are similar to what Chinnar does, perhaps with a little more variety such as including fresh fruit, which on the day I visited Bawarchi was no longer fresh).

                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                      well, my group was running late today, so rather than make the long-ish drive to RI, arrive around 1 to potentially empty trays, we went to chinnar instead. we arrived around 12:35 to a packed house.

                                      veggie dishes must be consumed the fastest because there was definitely more vegetarian selection this time around. six main courses, perhaps? i'll try to work my way down the buffet... they had their two types of rice, the plain basmati and the vegetable biryani which i LOVE! they also had plain naan and the lentil donuts, which i am used to seeing when there is a pot of sambar, but i knew they didn't have soup. then i noticed there WAS sambar, in one of the buffet trays. it was certainly thicker-looking than sambars i've seen at other places (ATOI and bawarchi's i can remember most recently), however not so thick that it was fit for a plate. i made a mental note to grab a bowl from the other end of the buffet and promptly forgot. anyway, i found the lentil donuts, unlike bawarchi's, were flavorful and fine to eat on their own. moving down the buffet, there was a VERY buttery, rich dal makhani. probably my favorite version of this dish i've ever tasted. it is usually too plain and not spicy enough for me - dare i say, even at ATOI. it wasn't spicy at all, but the richness of the dish made it great for dipping the donuts in. next up was a saag paneer that was EXTRA green - my indian co-worker looked over it with distaste (she is a very picky one!) but i got a good spoonful of it and thought it was the best dish on the buffet. very rich cheese. i have no idea how they got it THAT green - it was tasty but they might tone down the color so not to scare customers! there was a mushroom and bell pepper dish in a spicy tomato sauce, just OK but nothing special i thought. there was a pureed eggplant dish that i just flat out did not like at all. i think it may have tasted too smoky. there was a cauliflower dish in a thin, spicy sauce... in all fairness i was too full by the time i got to the cauliflower. i try to save this for last because i love cauliflower and given the opportunity i'll fill up on it. moving on, they've added different salad items... there was a tomato/cucumber type salad. i only had a few spoonfuls. the taste was too ... i don't know... un-extreme for an indian buffet. it didn't match. there was also a chaat platter. my co-worker lamented about the absence of the crispy lentil wafers (i missed them, too) but it was fine on its own, mainly because i love their tamarind chutney. i got a bowlfull of the chaat, chickpeas, tomato, onion, cilantro; and on top of it added yogurt, mint chutney and tamarind chutney. i think i did it right (or my co-worker was too polite to tell me otherwise) and it was verrrry tasty. though we would have loved the crispy wafers for the texture. and perhaps some cilantro. actually across the board most of the dishes would have benefited from cilantro - one thing i love about ATOI is the abundance of cilantro atop their buffet dishes (and i admittedly always try to skim a little extra, too). anyway in summary because i know this was long... here's a list of the vege offerings i either had or can remember seeing: (my faves with the ***)
                                      basmati rice
                                      vege biryani ***
                                      lentil donuts ***
                                      sambar
                                      saag paneer ***
                                      dal makhani ***
                                      cauliflower/spicy sauce
                                      pureed smoky eggplant
                                      peppers and mushrooms in spicy tomato sauce
                                      cucumber / tomato salad
                                      chaat with tomato, chickpeas, cilantro, onion ***

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        Thanks for the very generous description of your visit!

                                        The lentil doughnuts you refer to, are called, "vada."
                                        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vada

                                        They are good in dunking into sambar or a soupy-like similarity, such as the dal you referred to. I agree with you, and I have posted my opinion on TOI's version of dal makhani many times - it is tasteless - the only tasteless thing in that whole restaurant!! The first time I had it at Royal India, I thought "now this is how it should be prepared!!"

                                        I also noticed how green the saag paneer looked when I was there!!
                                        Himalayan's version of it is really gloppy, perhaps too much cream or whatever similar type ingredient is used. Gateway to India and Aman's version was better made, with more spinach and less cream.

                                        Maybe the lentil wafers you refer to are what is called "pappadam?"
                                        Gateway to India used to have those out along with the naan.

                                        On the weekend, I was told that Chinnar puts out sambar with idli, which are made from rice and lentil batter. I think it is left to ferment overnight and are rather tasteless, but when dunked, offer a nice compliment in taste and texture to the spicy sambar.

                                        When I saw the dal makhani, when I visited, it did look rich in butter.
                                        I'd rather have a delicate spice flavor than richness coming from butter.
                                        TOI's version of carrot halwa is VERY rich (due to the butter content) vs. the version you will find elsewhere. Good to get the warning about the eggplant dish. I may have to try it to see if the "smoky" flavor you referred to is to my liking. It is good that the restaurant is putting out a nice selection of vegetarian entrees, and that they were crowded at lunch time.

                                        If you go to TOI or RI, or even Himalayan, the salads are noteworthy. Bawarchi and Chinnar's efforts at this side dish look minimal and plain.
                                        Even the chickpea side dish I noticed (chaat with the other veggies) looked unremarkable.

                                        And as you stated with your preference, having some cilantro on at least some of the dishes is required!! Perhaps the restaurant owners feel that too many people don't like cilantro and they don't want to antagonize them or lose customers!

                                        I still look forward to your review of your next visit to Royal India, and particularly the time when the food trays become empty! It is a problem for those of us who don't get to that place until 12:15 or later. You never will have that food availability problem at TOI or H.

                                      2. re: FelafelBoy

                                        i know what your cauliflower dish is :)

                                        they have it at the amman lunch buffet sometimes, but it isn't on the dinner menu + so i have them make it special for me because it is one of my favorite things on the planet.

                                        those incredibly tasty morsels are... indo-chine gobhi!

                                        it's a chinese/indian fusion thing. if i had to pick my last meal, it would probably be a giant plate of this.

                                        1. re: missfunkysoul

                                          yep, that sounds just right. they have an underlying flavor of a barbecue-y-general-tso's sauce. i will def have to keep an eye out... i no longer live in the area and aman's is no longer convenient for me, but i may make a special trip come next craving for these. thanks for the info!!!

                                          1. re: rabidog

                                            email me about the DC place with the cauliflower things if interested - the BEST I've ever had! (otrgary@msn.com)

                                            and actually, I've been to a few different places where they go by different names.

                        2. re: rabidog

                          Rabidog, by the "that other place on rte 202" do you mean Desi Village? I frequent Taste of India (the Wayne one, not the Exton one) as well and like it. I love the "tandoori lolipop chicken wings", albeit not a traditional dish, it reminds me of the ones I had in India.

                          Have only been to Desi Village once for a buffet and some foodies I trust suggest I try the a la carte menu, which I plan to in the near future.

                          Devi's (vegetarian) in Exton may not have the best buffet, but their a la carte dosas, "Thali" and chaat are superb.

                          1. re: percyn

                            yes, i meant desi village. somewhere in this mess of posts about indian food in the burbs (actually it may be on the indian row / malvern thread) i reviewed my visit of desi village, where the health department showed up in the middle of my lunch and made them take many of the dishes down from the buffet. i haven't been back since.

                            i was not impressed with the devi buffet either, but i do remember liking their dosa. i've been trying to get back there, but my lunch dates keep cancelling on me! (it is about a 30-min drive each way from work, so no small journey!)

                            you're on the right track with the wayne taste of india. i'm still convinced it is THE best in the area. i went last friday and the paneer tikka masala was as good as ever. they also had pakoris in a creamy yellow sauce - never seen that one before, but it was divine.

                            if i can drag a coworker out i think we're going to hit chinnar today.

                            1. re: rabidog

                              ..."i went last friday and the paneer tikka masala was as good as ever. they also had pakoris in a creamy yellow sauce - never seen that one before, but it was divine."

                              That is a pretty common dish from Western India and yes, it is good, especially if the pakoris have not gotten all soggy yet.

                        3. Caloh, depending on how far into the burbs you want to go, I'll put in another vote for Royal India in Frazer/Malvern. Our favorite in the area used to be Himalayan, but Royal India blows them away. Don't go if you're starving; service is sometimes a bit 'iffy,' and it can take awhile to get fed. But the food is terrific, and they have a big flatscreen tv on which they constantly run Bollywood music videos (yay!).

                          1. Karma on the 100 block of Chestnut in Old City is excellent.

                            1. Can I get more recommendations for center city? (for Society Hill, Old City)

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: baekster

                                everything i've had in old city has been "meh."

                                do yourself a favor and order from tiffin. i got their delivery tonight, and i think they are particularly spot-on today. got aloo papri chaat, paneer tikka masala, malai kofta. all great dishes. and now we have dinner for the next 3 days!

                                1. re: rabidog

                                  I will definitely try. I didn't realize they deliver so far.

                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    I'm in the DC area now & noticed a Tiffin in a strip malll with other Indian places- do you know if it is the same place or just the name?

                                    1. re: pamd

                                      i think it is a popular indian name for a meal. i wiki'ed it awhile ago. the owner of our tiffin used to have a stake in one of the indian places in old city (karma?) and i think his tiffin store is a new venture.

                                      i used to live in DC and i don't know of any indian options there quite like a few shining stars in this area. however, you can get thai food there that's unbeatable outside of the west coast and thailand!!

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        Thanks- We are in DC for the month & it passed by it (Takoma Park actually) - I just checked & apparently linked with IL locations- oh well. But we are heading to Bombay Club one night- does that compare to any of the good PA places I'm used to?

                                        1. re: pamd

                                          i don't think i've ever done them! my family still lives there so i visit often - i just went to a place called bombay bistro (not to be confused with similarly-named bombay grill!) but i don't think that's the same joint. for indian in DC, it's all about heritage. just ask the DC 'hounds - that's the board i started on!!

                                  2. re: baekster

                                    Palace at the Ben is pretty good too, a little pricey though.

                                    1. re: Buckethead

                                      I have to second Palace at the Ben! We went for lunch yesterday (in an effort to control the cost, which was an effective tactic) and were blown away by the quality of the food, as well as the ambience and service. Highly recommended!

                                  3. My Indian boss keeps egging me on to go to Malik's Tandoor (10841 Bustleton Avenue) but I haven't yet. Pakistani, but many of the same dishes just with different names. The stuff she brings in to work looks great.

                                    Also, ditto on Tiffin. The last 2-3 times I've been having a hard time ordering anything other than Tikka Masala, and I don't even really like Tikka Masala.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: joypirate

                                      once you order it, you just CAN'T pass up the aloo papri chaat appetizer either. sometimes i feel like a broken record but i don't care. it is so damn good. :) it's hard to not eat all of that in order to save room for the entree!

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        lol Ever since I first tried the aloo papri chaat appetizer, I have been completely unable to order from Tiffin without getting it. I say that I'll get no appetizer or a different one but I always end up getting it again. A happy addict here, and I'm moving out of the city in a month, so I better get it again before then!

                                        1. re: lauracohenromano

                                          I just ordered from Tiffin. Took the advice and ordered aloo papri chaat appetizer. Got the Chana Masala (wanted Baigan Barta but they were out of it) and Chicken Tikka Masala, and garlic naan. The appetizer...It felt more like a fusion of mexican taco salad and vietnamese dressing, but then again I don't know THAT much about Indian food to know what's really Indian. Chicken Tikka Masala was great; The Chana Masala was just okay (I've made something similar in the past...and the flavor didn't seem to have blended in as well as the chicken dish). Naan's a naan. Also the portion was so huge that my wife and I couldn't even finish half the food we ordered. It's also not as greasy as the food we are used to (which my wife liked and which I missed a little). The chutney wasn't as good as ones we are used to (one of them was a little weird actually...couldn't quite figure out what it was; the other was too sweet).

                                          1. re: baekster

                                            true, tiffin is not a greasy-spoon type of place. :) i also notice the lack of grease - one of the reasons i feel allright ordering from them as much as i do!

                                            chutneys at tiffin -
                                            the sweet, dark brown/maroon one is tamarind chutney
                                            green one is mint chutney
                                            orange/red one is onion chutney (i think that one's just onions, spices and catsup!)
                                            there is a mango chutney offered that i have not yet tried.
                                            i usually find chutney heaven by mixing these three.

                                            the aloo papri chaat - if you have chaat dishes nearly anywhere else you will find a creamier yogurt atop them. i actually enjoy the 'lite' flavor of tiffin's a whole lot. the chaat here is essentially a salad of chickpeas, fried wafers and potato cubes topped with the tamarind and mint chutneys and a healthy portion of yogurt. caraway seeds and cilantro top the whole concoction off. you might draw the vietnamese similarity from the cilantro? i've never thought of it that way. cilantro does not strike a powerful chord in my mouth like it does for some. i love it, but it does not dominate a dish for me. (also should have mentioned i like this dish much better when i dump a spoon of the onion chutney in there)

                                            their samosas are good too, and if you don't like the chutneys you could always dip them in the main course like i do!

                                            i've had their chana masala and it's not my favorite thing of theirs. the tikka masala sauce is in my opinion the best thing they make, and i *always* get the paneer tikka masala (cottage cheese cubes in the sauce - probably very similar to your chicken). when there are two of us ordering we add on the malai kofta - a creamy dish whose ingredients i cannot place. but EVERYone seems to love the malai kofta. if you like the creaminess of the tikka masala sauce, i recommend trying the malai kofta one next time, too!

                                            also, a lot of people from this board like the butter chicken (i don't eat chicken, but noticed a lot of reviews for it).

                                            oh, and ALWAYS save some of your tiffins! they are twice as good the next day!

                                            lastly, i don't know if there is a direct connection - but i always notice my food from there is oilier whenever i order it extra spicy. i wonder what they use to infuse more spice into it.

                                            1. re: rabidog

                                              Yea, I think the cilantro and tangy flavor reminded me of vietnamese. I'm not saying it's bad, just different. Probably a good start dish for heavy flavors of curry dishes.

                                              I will try the samosas and paneer tikka masala, malai kofta. And yes, the chicken tikka masala did taste better the next day (must be because reheating concentrates the flavor more). Very yogurty and creamy (in non-greasy way).

                                    2. Palace at the Ben is just wonderful.

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: DaisyM

                                        i just saw this name for the first time on opentable. what do they have / what makes them great?

                                        1. re: rabidog

                                          http://www.chow.com/topics/409700

                                          Hey wait, you were in that thread..

                                          1. re: Buckethead

                                            hah, that sounds like my faulty memory for ya! i still have yet to try this one.

                                            back out in the suburbs, i just took a nice break from work to head over to the buffet at chinnar, the new place off rte 252. yummm the pakoras in the yellow creamy sauce are awesome. but the offerings weren't too terribly plentiful today, and they reeeeeally need to work on their salad. for their vegetarian dishes, what they do they do well, i just wish there were more of it. had the dal (again) and it was good and flavorful unlike most dal makhanis (again). every time i go, the same dishes. i've visited 3 or 4 times now and there's not a lot of switching up. put out some good chaat, salad, soup, a couple more dishes, and you've got great competition for ATOI.
                                            oh - one thing about the menu was different - the delicious vege biryani was not there today - it was chicken biryani! boo!

                                            don't get me wrong, i'm still pleasantly stuffed... but i'd really like to see what this place could do to some tandoori vegetables or some paneer tikka masala! i'm also feeling VERY picky as i've just returned from a tour of quebec, with quite possibly the best indian food i've ever eaten in my life in montreal. if anyone's got montreal plans, let me know so i can pass along this gem of a dive. ;)

                                            1. re: rabidog

                                              On my two visits to Chinnar I also noticed that they had the same dishes. They looked appealing, though.

                                              Regarding the absence of soup at their buffet ... how hard is it to make a simple vegetable broth? In the winter time, a hot broth like that is greatly appreciated. They aren't charging less than TOI (if you have a coupon for TOI), so you are getting alot less bang for your buck there, not to mention the fewer salads and desserts. Is the quality of the main dishes making up for the absence of other dishes? I think not.

                                              If you don't care about the other items, just going there for the main dishes will be satisfying, I guess.

                                              I wonder what made your Indian restaurant adventure in Montreal so special ... selection, flavors, intensity of spices?

                                              Hadn't been to TOI all summer and made my seasonal return.

                                              I was amazed at how many fresh fruit dishes they had for dessert - watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, bananas, and a tray of canned fruit that looked like pineapple. You would have had a choice of over three separate fresh fruit trays as well as the tray of canned pineapple. Then you had the usual Indian dairy desserts. And the pastries.

                                              On this day there were three salads. One of the salads featured cucumbers with some other vegetable - it was smothered in a heavy sour cream dressing - too sour for me - too bad because the vegetables were very fresh and crunchy to bite into.

                                              The soup was very hot as one might expect at this place (not spicy, but referring to the temperature of the liquid). I hadn't had the potato fritter-like appetizers in a long time, and these were very very good - they weren't pakoras, just some kind of bread coated potato masala mixture. Combined with one of the chutneys (on this day I chose the tamarind), it was delicious. I limited myself to just two potato fritters. The tamarind sauce was very tasty, much richer in flavor than any other tamarind chutney I have had at any other Indian restaurant in my past adventures of the last year. (There were many other chutneys available and they all looked very delicious.)

                                              The standout dishes for me on this day was some kind of aloo dish that was combined with what looked like a squash type vegetable. The name of the dish was "aloo l..." (the second word began with the letter "l" and I don't remember the rest of the letters other than the second letter was a vowel, third letter a q or a k, followed by two or three vowels, such as an o, u, and/or an a). This dish was delicious. It didn't have the kind of sauce that all the other dishes had, which brings me to ...
                                              the "soupyness" of the chana masala ... years ago it didn't resemble this. TOI should have left their original recipe for this dish alone. I don't know why they have turned this dish into what now looks like a soup. When I spooned out the chana masala, I had to drain the ladle of almost all the liquid. It wasn't easy to pull out the chick peas from the liquid.

                                              Now, they are doing the same thing with the matar paneer - I found few peas in the dish, and really had to drain alot of the liquid. The paneer in the dish on this day, though, was scrumptious - extremely moist while still retaining a stiffness to give some resistance to the bite, but then melting in the mouth.

                                              TOI had its usual dal, now labeled, "Punjabi Dal." I occassionally eat chicken, and for some reason on this day, thought to just put a few pieces of the chicken tikka masala (the only chicken I took of the four varieties of chicken offered on this day) to be cut into small pieces and mixed with the punjabi dal. The mixture worked fabulously - the dal is normally rather tasteless, but combined with the chicken tikka masala, the combination of the beans with the chicken complemented each other. I will make this a permanent dish of mine if these two dishes are available in the future.

                                              There was also an eggplant masala dish - not baingan bharta, but sliced eggplant, I think mixed with some potatoes. So, for vegetarians, there were alot of satisfying dishes (five - dal, chana, eggplant, potato/squash, cheese and peas) to choose from.

                                              I don't handle heavily laden dairy/fat dishes that well, and found myself sneezing throughout the rest of the day, and my guess is that the symptoms were a result of having consumed the salad in the heavy sour cream dressing, along with the sauce that was in the matar paneer. I hadn't eaten here in quite some time, so I can accurately make the cause and effect relations.

                                              I have eaten this kind of food elsewhere, and appreciate chana masala and matar paneer being made in a way that doesn't submerge the vegetables in so much of a soupy sauce.

                                              This was the second time in my visits to TOI that I have noticed something in my food that was of questionable origin (plastic pieces of something, or ground up shells of a spice that should have been removed - fortunately I was chewing slowly and was able to remove them in time - the pieces were very small, but they shouldn't have been there).

                                              I look forward to going elsewhere for a change where some of these dishes aren't in such a soupy form. I think of Royal India presenting the dishes in a more solid consistency, though I will stilll have to deal with its shortcomings of a limited food supply during a short serving period.

                                              Every other Indian restaurant out here in the western suburbs has its pros and cons. The one big plus with TOI is that you will always have a huge variety of foods to choose from, know that you will be getting very rich flavor, and come away with at least a few memorable dishes. Even with the shortcomings I found on this day, some of the dishes were memorable (there was some pastry I had never seen there before which had a citrus-like flavor to it, but its flavor was something that I had never tasted before - resembling lemon or lime, but neither of those, sometimes hinting of a mango flavor, perhaps it was a blend of all those flavors!).

                                              After dealing with the soupy mixtures of some of those dishes, I even thought of going to Aman's! (Last time there, the dishes were the complete opposite of what TOI serves, as far as the use of butter, fat, and sauces.)

                                              Beware of leaving your table with any food left on your plate. As obvious as it may be to you that you are still eating, the server will remove your plate from your table if you are not there. I guess they have had difficulty getting server help and rely on a few young people whose focus is just on removing plates and silverware as fast as possible. I think there may be a language problem, too, with management communicating with some of these servers. When you go there, you will read between my lines here and understand what I am saying. I have reached the point of just accepting their situation, but I am letting others know, so that you go prepared - that is, in case you go back to the buffet area while you still have something to finish on your plate. (Contrast this with other places that have posted signs admonishing patrons to not take more on their plate than they will use!)

                                              Have you been to Chinnar on the weekend? They told me they have idlis with sambar. I'm trying to cut down on some of the extra carbohydrates, so it may not be a bad thing for me to miss the dosas at Himalayan and/or TOI. Wonder if anyone has been to Royal India on the weekend? I know that Himalayan puts out a nice selection on the weekend, thought their desserts are weak compared with TOI.

                                              And last ... the following day, I had a craving for whatever flavoring TOI used in its dishes. Just like before.

                                              1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                wow what a review!! thanks for all those details!

                                                the place in montreal was a total dive, unassuming, with no lights on and no customers at the time we entered - we weren't even sure if they were open! the tandoori paneer and vegetables were something totally new to me. no sauce at all - just cheese amply spiced, perfectly crispy on the outermost layer, the inside soft. like the equivalent of a perfect dinner roll. the korma sauce was simple, with a ton of cinnamon. i think the dishes averaged around $6 CAD, still cheap even given the current exchange rate (their dollar recently edged ours out). upon returning from montreal, our first meal was takeout from tiffin, where we ordered the same dishes to see if the experience could be recreated. i love what i usually get at tiffin, but these dishes could not hold a candle to what we had in montreal. the korma sauce wasn't spiced enough and was too creamy, and the tandoori vegetables didn't come with that lovely paneer, and the veggies didn't have the same crispness.

                                                1. re: rabidog

                                                  On my visit to Royal India today - I was reminded why this small unassuming "under the radar" restaurant is rated by some of us Chowhounders as deserving as one of the most desirable places to go to, for at least the lunch buffet. I could not believe the selection I saw today.

                                                  I want to get the negatives out of the way first so I can detail all the positives ...

                                                  First - all the food, from the soup to the entrees were no more than barely acceptably warm. Second - the paneer in the palak paneer dish, were rock hard - at the other extreme from the perfectly done paneer I had had at TOI last week. Third - the tray containing the Punjabi salad, as one of the three salads offered, was nearly empty when I attempted to get some - which was at 11:55am. No refill was made throughout the remainder of the time I was there.

                                                  This cnext item an be viewed as both a negative and a positive ... the food store in the front of the restaurant now contains tables for the expansion of the restaurant. (I am not sure if they are going to use both areas or move everything up front - in any case, if you want to buy Indian food for home cooking, you have to go elsewhere.

                                                  Now for the recounting of the memorable experience.

                                                  The crowd size was manageable There were about 15 people in the restaurant from about 12 until 1, with a few new groups coming in during that time. Most people returned for seconds. There was seldom a line to wait in before refilling one's plate. Servers were mindful with not removing plates from the table if they saw there was still food on the plate. I could actually see them analyzing whether they should remove my plate and they always made the right decision. (This does not happen at TOI with its inexperienced and less sophisticated servers.)

                                                  On this day, the audio for the music videos playing overhead was toned down to a pleasant level, unlike the higher decibel level that I had experienced in previous visits.

                                                  Today, the lunch buffet contained sambar. I had never been to an Indian restaurant during the week where sambar was offered. I was told that RI sometimes did this, but never was there when this happened. Today was my day. First time I ever had it here. It was DELICIOUS. Its taste rivaled that of Himalayan. Of all the dishes Himalayan offers for its lunch buffet, its sambar is my favorite, and is the best tasting of all the sambars I have had at Indian restaurants in the western suburbs. RI's version didn't have as many vegetables and the kick that the dish has at H, but it wasn't too far off, and it had more of a tomato than a sour taste which is what TOI does to the dish. It was very thick and very good.

                                                  The soup of the day was vegetable, but it wasn't a vegetable broth, rather it was thick, contained a few various solid vegetables, and contained some cilantro. I had three small bowls. (Didn't have breakfast that morning!) It was very satisfying (except for the fact that it was not hot.)

                                                  The rice had a really clean look and taste - it looked like it was cooked with only a few cumin seeds. There was also a tray of fried rice which I did not have. The vegetable dishes consisted of the sambar, palak paneer, aloo mateer, corn methi malai, and dal makhani. Chicken dishes consisted of garlic chicken (had a real soupy look to it - I didn't try), chicken tikka masala, and chicken tandori. There was also a lamb eggplant dish.

                                                  The vegetable pakoras were very good - crispy outside with an interior that was filled with a mixture of various vegetables. There were six chutneys. Three salads, and free sweet lassi. Desserts consisted of gulab jamun, freshly cut watermelon, two soupy looking dairy desserts (vermicelli something or other, and some other dish), and a custard filled with freshly cut fruit.

                                                  Fresh naan was brought to the table.

                                                  Yes, this was a weekday lunch buffet - not the weekend.

                                                  For $7.50. RI wins the prize for best value. Amazing.

                                                  Let me first say, that the naan brought to my table was among the best naan I have ever had (for plain naan). Its outside was crispy as most naan is when freshly made, but the inside was among the most moist and freshest tasting I have ever had - AND the naan stayed moist throughout my meal. I had to be careful to move on with my meal in that I enjoyed the bread so much!!

                                                  The main salad just consisted of neatly displayed cut green cabbage (no lettuce today!), red onions, tomatoes, green zucchini, and carrots.
                                                  Another salad consisted of small cut cubes of cucumber and some other vegetable. The Punjabi salad that looked the most interesting was empty at the beginning of the serving time. (Same experience I had last year with this salad. Odd coinicidence, but last time, that happened to me at 12:25pm.)

                                                  The rice, as I mentioned had a real clean taste, like it hadn't been cooked in much oil, just enough to slighly coat the rice. The fried rice looked like another story.

                                                  The dal makhani had a very thick consistency and was good. The palak paneer had a mild flavor to it, and as I mentioned before, the paneer cubes were much too hard - no moistness at all to their interior.
                                                  The aloo mateer was not swimming in a bath of liquid as I had experienced at TOI last week. The corn methi malai was too creamy for me - I did not taste any fenugreek in it. What struck me most about all these dishes, since I hadn't been here in about a year, is how toned down the flavor is as compared with TOI. Even with the toned down flavor, its taste was satisfying - it didn't knock my socks off, but it was quite satisfying,

                                                  The chicken tikka masala was mild in taste, as was the chicken tandori. The fact that all these foods were not hot diminished the freshness and taste sensation that would have highlighted the chef's efforts.

                                                  I enjoyed the custard dish alot - it had a thick consistency, unlike what Himalayan does to its custard dessert (much too thin for me) -and RI did a nice touch by adding freshly cut fruit into it - freshly sliced apple slices, bananas, and sliced grapes.

                                                  All this for $7.50. It took me longer to drive down here than other Indian restaurants nearby, but the variety of foods and taste made it well worth the trip. I figured that I paid about the same amount I would have if I had gone to one of the closer Indian restaurants due to the greater driving distance, but I would not have gotten the sambar nor the soup I had at RI. Well worth the tip (the servers were very attentive and hard working) and the time and distance to come here. If Chinnar and RI were located next to each other, Chinnar would have to seriously consider adding a few items to its buffet, and no doubt RI would raise its price. As is, it should be the other way around. But for now, RI offers the best value for one's dollar for the lunch buffet.

                                                  If you have never been to RI for their lunch buffet, it's worth the drive to experience a nice effort and selection. You will notice the difference from other Indian restaurants. I still think that TOI does some things better than RI, as does H, and a few of the others, but for the overall experience, I'd give RI for today's buffet an A-.

                                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                    In response to the earlier posts in this sub-thread on Chinnar, I can now share my personal experience with having eaten at the restaurant for its weekend unch buffet. I wanted to stay in the area and needed to quench my fix for sambar. I called Chinnar and learned that they had sambar this day, as well as vada and idli. Off I went.

                                                    First surprise - they don't open on Sunday until 12pm, or at least today that was the opening time. Few people were at the restaurant and for the next hour, perhaps 10 people came in. On the weekend, the price for the buffet is just $8.95. Considering what they offered, still a good value. If you want more, you will have to pay more and go elsewhere.

                                                    In short, I enjoyed the meal and qualify my review by calling the overall quality Indian cuisine-lite.

                                                    Servers were very hospitable and eager to be of service. I will not mention another restaurant, but when you are on top, your desire to go an extra mile with a smile on your face isn't as pressing as a place like this that is trying to grow its business. I just wish that it's overall quality matched the energy and willingness for everyone inside the place to be of service to patrons.

                                                    Of all the sambars I have had, this was the most unique, unlike anything I have ever had, and - it knocked my socks off. It didn't have the more sour taste of the sambar found at TOI, or the more tomato taste found at the version at Royal India, or the very spicy pleasing version served at Himalayan. I was unable to place the overall spice flavor that infused the sambar - not quite of tamarind, just couldn't place the taste, but it did remind me of a savory soup I used to have at an ashram during their breakfast. I needed to have three bowls of the stuff before I was ready to move on. The sambar was quite thick (more similar to what you get at RI. Himalayan's sambar has ranged from thick to slightly of thin consistency during the times I had had it there. TOI's sambar tends to be the least thick.) and contained some grain like substance that permeated the liquid. I don't recall the name of it. It might not have even been a grain, but it looked something like small pearls of tapioca, but not tapioca. Perhaps coconut? I think so!

                                                    The vadas were excellent - crispy on the outside without being oily, and the interior was moist - perfect with the exception that it tasted plain and I couldn't taste the various herb/spice that I saw inside the vada (fenugreek?). The idli, which is supposed to be plain tasting, was in fact, just that - not too dry, just as it is supposed to be for dunking into the sambar. With the experience of the sambar, vada, and idli, I had concluded that anything else that tasted anywhere nearly as good as these was icing on the cake. The experience of the sambar, vad, and idli, had given me a new experience of Indian cuisine that I hadn't had in years, and was worth the trip to the restaurant.

                                                    By the way, the ambience was pleasant - tables were spaced comfortably distant from each other, had attractive linen tablecloths dressing each table, and pleasant Indian music was aired at a low decibel level. The buffet spread displayed dishes in a user friendly way.

                                                    Fresh naan was brought to each table every ten minutes or so, just out of the kitchen. The naan was very good and reminded me of what I had at Royal India, just days ago.

                                                    Entrees consisted of aloo chana, saag paneer, pakoras in a cream sauce, dal makhani, curry chicken, chicken tikka masala, chicken tandoori, and a lamb dish.

                                                    Fresh salad consisted of the normal basic vegetables. A plate of chick peas with some other diced vegetable were also available. There were four chutneys. A few chat- type chip items were available, but nothing like what is offered for the weekend buffet like at TOI and Himalayan. The appetizers chips looked like they had been taken out of a bag. AT TOI, you know that it took the cooks alot of time to make their chick pea appetizer dish. The desserts consisted of freshly cut canteloupe, kheer, and some Indian pastry.

                                                    The aloo chana was good but not spicy at all. The saag paneer had more of a spinach taste than I normally taste elsewhere, and in fact, it tasted like pureed spinach with a very slight hint of spice and cream. The pakora in the cream sauce was filled with an adequate vegetable filling. The dal makhani was very plain and not too different from what is served at TOI, except this version also had some kidney beans along with the other beans. The chicken tikka masala had a pleasant flavor. The chicken tandoori was VERY good - the meat was VERY tender, and the coating/marinade was very agreeable. The chicken was so good, I had several pieces.

                                                    The saag paneer had a healthy amount of cilantro sprinkled on top of the displayed dish.

                                                    The raita had small bits of vegetables in it and tasted ok. The coconut chutney had an interesting taste, and for those people who like cocounut, this chutney would be somewhat refreshing.

                                                    There were two different kinds of rice in the buffet table - the normal plain basmati, as well as lemon rice. Both were very good - very similar to what was served at Gateway to India - each kernel was separate from each other, and the rice did not have an "oily" feel to it. The lemon rice was very good.

                                                    During the meal, I accepted the fresh naan that was brought to the table, so I had little room for dessert. The only dessert I took was the kheer which was nothing more than rice in milk. I couldn't detect any additional flavoring. It would have been a nice touch to at least top the kheer with crushed pistachios or at least add some saffron flavoring.

                                                    So - for a lower cost for the weekend buffet, you get a nice variety of dishes, minus some of the extras you would get at TOI, such as the dosas, some fancier versions of appetizers, lassi, and many desserts, as well as soups. But if all you want are the basic dishes, and if you do not care about spicy food, you will enjoy your meal at Chinnar. The only food I had there that had a satisfactory amount of spice flavor in it was the sambar, which was among the best I have ever had. Combined with the vata and idli, these three foods were of excellent and superior quality, equal to the quality of any other such restaurant I have eaten in.

                                                    But the other dishes, while fresh tasting, lacked the spice "kick" I look forward to when eating in an Indian restaurant. And on the weekend, it is a treat to have some special desserts and appetizers on hand, or at least some free masala tea or lassi (which is available at Himalayan in Malvern).

                                                    For a change of pace, for anyone who has never eaten at this restaurant, I recommend going here, if for nothing else, to enjoy the sambar, idli, vada, and naan! Just to emphasize again, the sambar and vada are like nothing you will have at most of the other Indian restaurants serving north Indian fare. (It's hard to get excited about idlis, but these south Indian treats do offer a change of pace from the normal north Indian fare. I did find the sambar and vada more to my liking than what I had at Bawarchi, which was good, but what I got at Chinnar was outstanding in this regard. Bawarchi serves more south Indian food. Chinnar is mostly north Indian, except for these items I mentioned which I believe are available only on the weekend. I have had vadas elsewhere, and they tend to be oily - not these!)And, you don't have to be concerned with dried out naan - the naan here is mouthwateringly delicious!

                                                    (As a side comment, a local major metropolitan magazine in its October 2007 issue featured an article titled, "50 Meals ...Under $50" (for two people). The Indian restaurants covered included Tiffin Store (in the northern liberties section of Philadelphia), Rajbhog (in Cherry Hill), and Devi (in Exton). I think the author could have highlighted any of the similar type restaurants in the area, but the author did want to include a wide cross section of cuisines, including the more exotic Su Xing House featuring Chinese vegetarian food such as black moss fungus soup.

                                                    I suppose one of these days, Tiffin will offer a lunch buffet once it expands its eating area. After eating the saag paneer at Chinnar, I reminisce over the treatment given to that dish by Minar Palace. That experience reminded me of the ingredients that needed to be added to the spinach mixture to make it authentic. The dish at Chinnar is for those that do not want much of a hint of traditional Indian spices in their food : (

                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                      FelafelBoy, Royal India has moved the grocery across the street and up a little farther on Route 30 (about 1000 feet or so west). We haven't been to RI since they expanded the restaurant, but reading this thread (even at 9:30 in the morning!) has made me want to go there NOW! I usually don't do the buffet at RI (I work at home and so usually don't do lunch out with colleagues), but the few times I have, I've experienced the same problems as most of you. I'm going to give Chinnar's buffet a try, though, based on everything I've read here. My guess is that the food won't be as spectacular as at RI, but that the availability of dishes at lunchtime might make it a more pleasant experience. Thanks for all of the details, everyone!

                                                      1. re: Fjordstone

                                                        Thanks to your information, I was able to find the Royal India market. After eating at Royal India, I picked up a few items, one being a small "dixie-cup" sized container of alphonso-mango ice cream. (It was good, but I had to wait at least 15 minutes to let it soften somewhat. It could have used more time to soften being exposed to 40 degree plus temperature today.)

                                                        Although not as large as International Foods in West Philly, this store does offer a large variety of foods, spices, and ingredients for preparation of Indian dishes. Its freezer section contains many kinds of sweets, some of which originate in Toronto and New York. I assume that the ice cream is probably the same ice cream served at Royal India restaurant. Maye they make their own, but I doubt it. There are many kinds of breads available here, too, so I recommend that for anyone eating at Himalayan or Royal India, check out this store as well as the smaller food store in the same plaza that Himalayan is located in. The Royal India market didn't have a large supply of ready to eat meals that are in those thin book like containers. The did have a fair amount of such frozen ready to eat dinners. Deep Foods is one of the brands they carry. It is odd to me that the company's vegetarian line, "Green Guru", seems to be only carried by Whole Foods.

                                                        The meal at Royal India was ok. It just amazes me the variety of food they put out for what they charge. In today's meal, in addition to the vegetable soup (which was loaded with many kinds of vegetables as well as barley), there was Roohafza lassi (the real thing - very potent - I just took a small amount and sipped it like a fine wine, letting the strong rose-like fragrance work its wonder). It wouldn't have surprised me if the veg soup was made with a chicken soup stock. There was some taste and look that told me that it was not pure vegetarian soup.

                                                        A basket of delicious naan was brought to the table. There were three salads and on this day, there was a sufficient amount of all salads, even going into late peak lunch time, the first time in a long time, I have seen this phenomena. A fried rice was available as well as plain basmati. Seeing the pakora (two kinds) reminded me of what was missing from Bawarchi's effort at the same thing when I visited there some weeks ago. Wish they had the squash chutney here to put on those pakora!! One of the pakoras had some sort of green pepper. I'm not sure if it really was that vegetable or something resembling it.

                                                        The chana masala was very mild in taste, and almost tasted like the sauce may have come from some premade mix instead of from fresh spices. The paneer tikka masala was too mild for me and once again the paneer were too hard to the bite. There were pakora balls in some cream sauce. The tarka (tadka?) dal was just right. Royal India tends to get their chicken tandoori done right, and today was no exception. Unlike what I had at Bawarchi, this version looked and tasted like it just came out of a hot oven, and flavors were infused into the chicken. There was a curry chicken and other variations in the buffet, as well as a lamb dish. Achari Aloo was a nice compliment to the tarka dal, chana masala, and chicken. The potato was not oily and had a mild flavor.

                                                        There were the usual many desserts. The carrot halwa tasted off today - not enough sweetness and cardamom flavor - just the taste of moist grated carrots having been cooked in milk and the addition of butter and some sugar. Bawarchi's version, although drier, got the flavor mix right. But the star of the dessert area was a sweet I had never had before or knew of - it was called "Soan Papdi." Not only did it melt in my mouth, but it also had to be handled delicately even though it had a solid consistency. It was a puzzlement to me - it felt solid, but when bit into, it tended to break apart. It had a real satisfying flavor, somewhat sweet, somewhat silky, and a mild flavor of cardamom. It tasted exactly like what the ingredients for it list as - in addition to the flour, ghee, milk, sugar, and cardamom. Charmagaz is said to be one of the ingredients, but I am unfamiliar with this specific taste, so I can only add that it is one of the ingredients.

                                                        The music videos were on throughout the lunch buffet and sound could be heard throughout the eating area. If you like this kind of background visual and auditory stimulation, you will enjoy this as a compliment to your meal. If you prefer a more relaxing ambience, the high energy level going on in the background creates a mood that is different than that found in a more calming setting that one would find at a place such as Bawarchi or Himalayan. It's a personal preference thing. I like Royal India for its food and affordability.

                                                        I can see how if one goes to Royal India in the evening, the decor they have in place, otherwise muted by daylight, would create a very beautiful ambience. I trust that the music videos are off at that time.

                                                        By the way, on my way out, I picked up a menu, that was made of paper material, but its design was very beautiful. For anyone who is into desktop printing and design, it's worth a trip to pick up the menu!! I noticed that many of the items on the menu indicate that this restaurant is capable of making much more esoteric dishes than what is displayed during the lunch buffets. As an example, the menu lists not only baigan bharta, but also "bagare baigan", which it describes as eggplant simmered in a tamarind, peanut and coconut gravy, "a taste from Deccan."

                                                        The restaurant was pretty busy today, even at 11:45. By 1pm or so, its lunchtime crowd had disappeared.

                                                    2. re: rabidog

                                                      After some months of not having been to TOI for its weekend buffet, I returned late this afternoon, just at the end of the peak lunch time, which on this day, extended into 1:20pm.

                                                      I was fortunate to be there on a day when the restaurant featured many of my favorite dishes. In short, the food and selection were outstanding.

                                                      From the soup to the sambhar to the vegetarian dishes to the lassi to the desserts, my socks were knocked off by the intensity of the flavors, something which I had not experienced in some months in having visited other restaurants (albeit Royal India does a good job too with its mixture of spices in its foods).

                                                      I don't recall the sambhar at TOI tasting as good as it did here today. (yes, three bowls!). There were three different kinds of breads - naan, paratha (not too spicy), and poori (didn't have). The dosas were delicate but chewy with a flavorful potato masala filling which I complimented with mint chutney and the red onion chutney.

                                                      Surprise surprise ... TOI returned its chana masala to a thickly sauced version, like that offered years ago. The last time I had chana masala like this at TOI was years ago. No exaggeration.

                                                      One of the appetizers was that outrageously tantalizingly delicious deep fried breaded cauliflower coated in a orangish sauce that tastes like something offered in a Chinese restaurant. The coating was very cripsy, the sauce was very tangy and sweet, and the inside was chewy. It reminded me of eating a mini-egg roll. Due to all the selections in the lunch buffet, I limited myself to just one piece.

                                                      There were huge samosas and other appetizers. There was the chickpea, cilantro, tomato, cucumber, chaat thing going on, too.

                                                      I had never seen two different kinds of lassi offered at the same buffet. Today, such was the occassion. I passed on the strawberry one, and filled up on the mango lassi. After having gone through a bit of my vegetarian dishes (aloo gobhi, chana masala, saag paneer, and some vegetarian dumpling dish), I sipped some mango lassi, and was knocked out. I've had mango lassi before in the previous months, but perhaps due to the heat of the soup, the sambhar (which was very spicy today and the best I have ever had here), and the vegetarian dishes, the coolness and refreshing taste of the mango lassi was made all the more satisfying. I swear that TOI made this drink richer tasting than all other mango lassis I have had elsewhere. It was so thick I was able to enjoy its taste with just small sips.

                                                      I normally take the chicken tandoori at the end of the meal, and it, too, was very very good. I had room for a small amount of desserts.

                                                      I chose the mango pudding squares and the carrot halwa. The carrot halwa was thicker than I have ever seen here, and forgot how much extra TOI does to its version of this dessert - I detected golden raisins that melted in my mouth upon breaking through the tender skin, cashews, and perhaps small bits of pineapple, not to mention other surprises. The mango pudding squares surprised me with the fullness of flavor that seemed to go well beyond mango and had perhaps some other flavor infused into it. I thought I detected a hint of the flavor roohafsa (rose syrup flavor).

                                                      This was one of the best meals I have ever had at TOI. At very points along the way of the buffet I was continually having my palate startled with the delicious flavor of all of the dishes, or at least those I selected.

                                                      I overheard two patrons saying that they had driven, which for them, were "long" distances to come to TOI for its weekend buffet. One had come from Quakertown, another from Ambler, distances of 15 to 30 miles. For the kind of lunch buffet that TOI offered today, driving extra miles for this kind of experience is well worth the time and effort if one appreciates good Indian food of the north Indian, Punjabi, style.

                                                      A memorable culinary experience.

                                                      Beware that the day before Thanksgiving is normally very crowded for lunch at TOI! Get there either before the lunch crowd or past the peak time to avoid the crowds!

                                                      And last ... one other thing impressed me about TOI's treatment of its lunch buffet presentation ... many restaurants I have been to seem to either put out just enough food for patrons during the buffet time, or run out of food, so if you don't get there at peak time, you may run the risk of not having food left. Here at TOI, the restaurant seems to always have more than an adequate supply of food for patrons, even near closing time. I don't know what they do with the extras, but patrons don't have to worry about getting there near the end of the buffet serving time and being left without an adequate supply of foods.

                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                        I lost track of which thread contained the discussion of the delicious breaded cauliflower appetizers that TOI puts out for its weekend lunch buffet, so I am posting the followup here.

                                                        The name of the delicasy is "lasuni gobi" (or gobhi). There was a name label by the dish today, so I was able to identify it for Chowhounders.

                                                        For the first time I can recall, the batter used for the dosas at TOI was different than what I am accustomed to here. They were more crepe-like in their thinness, more similar to what other restaurants do. My preference is for their previous style - thicker, chewier, more breadlike in their yeastier texture. These were crisper and thinner.

                                                        Due to the holidays and shopping activitiy, the restaurant was not as crowded as it normally is. Two tasty vegetarian dishes included the bhindi masala (okra), a dish they seldom have, and the aloo gobi.

                                                        I stayed with just the mango lassi, though I was tempted to taste the roohafsa lassi. I filled up on the soup and sambhar, and by the time I was ready for dessert, I was ready to explode. Professional TOI patrons know what I mean when I say I didn't pace myself properly today.

                                                        The sambhar had more vegetables than I can recall seeing in any other sambhar. It, in itself, was sufficient for a meal with all the various foods in the soup. I had forgotten how salty it was. I had quite a bit of it, and the saltiness combined with the saltiness of all the other dishes I ad, combined with my lack of drinking water as I proceeded, left me with an extraordinary thirst for water later on that could barely be satisfied until many hours later. It reminded me of the need for knowing how to eat in a balanced way at TOI and not just eating with abandonment which at times I did.

                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                          To Royal India patrons ... the restaurant is closed until at least December 9th. I think they are re-opening either the 9th or the 10th.

                                                          The owners are returning from India, blessing us again with their culinary talents and service when they return..

                                                          1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                            I actually looked at the name of the cauliflower yummys the last time I was there, & then of course forgot it by the time I returned home. Interesting though is that when I asked another restaurant the name it was totally different (gobhi bezule).

                                                            Anyone know anything about the Indian restaurant Palace at the Ben on Chestnut?

                                                            1. re: pamd

                                                              Lasuni Gobhi was the name as I stated in a previous post. Gobi kempu bezule is googled as a cauliflower chili fry, and the seasonings/ingredients used seem a bit different than what TOI offers on the weekend.

                                                              Rabidog commented on her experience at PatB in one of her recent posts (said the quality didn't justify the cost), and others have also commented more favorably. Then again, maybe some of them have not been to the same places Rabidog has been, like Tiffin!!

                                                              1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                yep, you've got my response covered! :) i'll be saving my cash next time... pamd, have you been to tiffin? they just passed their 1-year anniversary and business there is absolutely booming, for good reason. dine in their first floor dining room and you'll hear the phone ringing off the hook... i place orders online from them approx once a week, and the online ordering service is smooth and easy to navigate; always comes piping hot, timely, and delivered by men in suits! not joking! they've already expanded the dining room to the second story of the rowhome, which i've heard is nice but i haven't been up there yet. i wish they'd open up another location with more emphasis on ambiance, with a wine list and a vibe that makes you just want to hang out on loungey cushions. that would be the most sucessful business in town. (disclaimer; that's just a personal fantasy of mine. i don't know of anything in the works. just a suggestion in case they read this site!).

                                            2. I soo agree with everyone else here who recommended Tiffin. Tiffin is GREAT. Every month, they have different specials, which are always pretty darn creative and interesting. It's a great BYOB, and they have opened / finished the upstairs to be really nice and simple. Definitely my favorite Indian place in the city.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Arunamatata

                                                the november appetizer special at tiffin, cheese and potatoes fried into little pancakes with some sort of a black sesame seed, is to die for! try it out!

                                              2. FYI....they sell Papadums at Trader Joes (where the chips are) & they are yummy! There's one in the same shopping center as TOI. Tandori masala & a yogurt dill- I only tried the masala ones.

                                                1. Not a restaurant, but great take-out Indian food at Taste of India, in Wyndmoor on Willow Grove Avenue. Wyndmoor is right over the Philadelphia county line; next to Chestnut Hill.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: gardens4me

                                                    A friend of mine was just telling me about this place, said it was across from the 7-11 on Willow Grove Ave. Associated with the Tast of India in Wayne mentioned so many times in this thread??? Hope so. And BTW, Wyndmoor is still Montgomery County, when you cross over Stenton Ave. then you are in Philadelphia.

                                                    1. re: Schpsychman

                                                      I just learned that Bawarchi, the Indian restaurant in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center that serves Hyderabad influenced cuisine (South Indian) recently stopped its dinner buffet.

                                                      I mention this because I had a flyer I picked up in the spring from the restaurant that advertised its Tuesday night South Indian Vegetarian, Chat and Indo Chinese night buffet. When I called this evening about that offering, I was told they recently stopped the dinner buffet.

                                                      I don't recall any posts on this board about that buffet. I wonder if anyone has a report on their dinner buffet.

                                                      In reading over the flyer, the description reads - more than 25 items, including a welcome drink, soup, 5 varieties of dosas, vada, idly, pakora, pav baji, ragada patti, pani puri, sev puri, chat papdi, 3 veg entrees, 2 chinese specialties, rasam, sambhar, 2 deserts, fruits, salad and chutneys.

                                                      Almost sounds like a typical lunch buffet at TOI, but on a smaller scale!! (smaller except for the addition of rasam, vada, and idly).

                                                      At my last trip to Bawarchi, I enjoyed the sambhar, and a few of the veg entrees.

                                                      Not many places offer vada AND dosas along with the sambhar. If you are fortunate, you may catch sambhar being served during the week at Royal India. In all the times I have been there during the week, there was only one time they had sambhar (as well as a delicious vegetable soup). I find the vadas are a treat to have with the sambhar, but I do miss what TOI does with its version of dosas - really crisp on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside, along with a chewy vegetable filling. Himalayan's version of dosas are very different and not very memorable - not bad, but not special like TOI's. The vadas at Chinnar's were memorable, not so much for their taste (not very spicy), but for how clean (non-oily) they were. Some years ago, I had vadas at Jaipur in King of Prussia, and they had some bite (taste) to them.

                                                      These are some of the reasons why it pays to go to these restaurants at various times of the week - to catch the restaurant serving dishes that are different from their normal fare and what is served elsewhere.

                                                      I'd be interested to get the reaction of other chowhounders to the sambhar and vadas at Chinnar for their weekend lunch buffet. I promise you, it's worth the trip just for the sambhar - you will be exposed to a unique taste, and the vadas (lentil doughnuts) are very interesting. You may want to bring along your own spice rack to add some taste to the rest of the dishes there. (no need to bring along cilantro - some of the dishes are amply topped with them).

                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                        New review of Chinnar in The Trend newspaper by its restaurant reviewer. Evidently in the evening, the restaurant adds a greater intensity of spice flavor to its dishes. The reviewer ordered dishes not part of any buffet. My guess is that Chinnar tones down flavor for its buffet to attract a wider clientele that may be more sensitive to spice intensity. I suppose it figures if people want more flavor, there are other restaurants that serve that population.

                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                          The Taste of India in Wyndmoor - across from 7-11 is take out only, and is not related to the one in Wayne. Owner had a stall in CH Farmers market (which she has kept). Choice is limited but the quality is very good. Normally a couple of chicken dishes, Lambrogon josh (my favorite) and a shrimp dish (which I had this w/e and was particularly good - but can not remember what it was). Thoroughly recommend the place to all who live out west...

                                                          1. re: FriskLamb

                                                            Thanks FriskLamb, I will definitely check it out as I pass that way going in and out of the city at times.

                                                  2. On a recent visit to Bawarchi, the Indian restaurant in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center that does Hyderabad influenced cuisine - the star of the day was the sambhar, which had loads of all kinds of vegetables and was richly spiced. It reminded me of a stew consisting of broth with vegetables. Accompanying it was very good idli - idli are rather tasteless, but when created well, have a sponge like consistency that still gives resistance to the bite - somewhat dry but not overly so. These were perfectly done.

                                                    The other stars were the dessert, the carrot halwa, which was somewhat between the more liquidy and very rich version at TOI, and the more dry version served at Royal India. In fact, it was one of the best versions of this dessert I have ever had. It had flavoring of sugar, cardamom, and various other ingredients.

                                                    There were interesting chutneys, too - peanut chutney, tamarind, but the most unusual was the squash chutney. It had a very nice taste. There was only one problem with the chutneys. There was nothing to put them on. The pakoras that were in a tray were nothing more than batter fried onions and the coating on the onions looked so thick, that they looked like fried crisps. I stayed away from them. I had never seen anything like that served as pakoras.

                                                    There was a tray of upma that looked like mashed potatoes. Didn't try that.

                                                    The bhindi masala looked appealing, and reflected that an effort was made to jazz them up. They were combined with nuts in a overly mild masala. They tasted like little more than fried okra pieces. The saag paneer was also void of much spice flavor. The consistency of the spinach was very thin. My preference is for a less pureed spinach. The version of Chinnar was thicker, albeit, also without much spice flavor.

                                                    There were two different kinds of rice, each of good quality. Also a chicken biryani, which looked like little more than differently colored rice with unappealingly cut pieces of chicken mixed with the rice. I skipped that.

                                                    The tandoori chicken looked good, but lacked the flavor of the marinade having infused into the chicken. It had a good texture, but tasted like little more than baked chicken. Another chicken dish had an interesting flavor coming from its coating, called something like kalmi ...

                                                    Another chicken dish was more of an Asian spicy bread coated/fried dish. Didn't have it.

                                                    A lamb (goat?) dish was also available at the buffet.

                                                    Desserts consisted of the carrot halwa and trays of freshly cut pineapple and honeydew pieces. Tasty naan was brought to the table.

                                                    All servers were attentive. This was the first time I had been to this restaurant and seen it so crowed. The entire room was filled with patrons, even at 12:30. Evidently, the restaurant seems to have captured a following.

                                                    While I did prefer spicier food, there were a few dishes that were very satisfying - the sambhar, idli, rice, and the carrot halwa. Compared with Chinnar, I can say that the main vegetarian dishes, at least on this visit, were oilier than what Chinnar does, and therefore, less appealing.

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                      I finally made it to Chinnar! I was disappointed they didn't offer saag or chana the day I was there (I seem to miss saag everywhere!). I thought the tandoori chicken was great- my husband thought it reminded him of Thanksgiving turkey flavor:) We really enjoyed the little potato balls (started with a B, I always forget the names of everything!), reminded me a little of a knish flavor. One veggie dish seemed to have a great spice to it, which I was not expecting after reading FelafelBoys post. The meat dishes though were not spicy enough for me (I like things very spicy), but did have good flavor. The string beans were tasty too. I think it's a nice touch that they bring the naan around. They were also very crowded for a weekday. I would like to try it on a weekend for flavor as I was told they do things a bit different since they get the "Indian crowd more than the Caucasians on the weekends" Although it will be a tough call to pass up TOI on a weekend. As for the desserts, my favorite is the gajar ka halwa (carrots) at TOI, which they did not have. My husband thought the gulab jamun were very tasty, as well as the masala tea.

                                                      http://www.chinnarindian.com

                                                      1. re: pamd

                                                        pamd - glad you made it to Chinnar. It's a good thing to support all the decent restaurants you can, and Chinnar makes an effort to be good, in its own way.

                                                        I was most impressed with the freshness of its food and the simplicity, which can be both a good and bad thing. (After eating at TOI repeatedly, sometimes one looks forward to a more simple approach, just as a contrast!!)

                                                        Yes, the gajar ka halwa at TOI is very rich and as good to my palate as a hot fudge sundae, if you know what I mean. The version I had of it at Bawarchi, is probably closer to the versions that home cooks make - when you eat it, you feel like you are eating something both very healthy and delcious. When you eat the version at TOI, I'd bet that some of us feel that we are creating a crime!!! (such as, this is too good to be true - I hope no one knows how much I am enjoying this treat, or they might take it away from me!!)

                                                        The versions of that dish at Royal India and Bawarchi are more simple, and "legal", if you know what I mean, to eat. If you ever go to Bawarchi, and are lucky to be there when they have their version of gajar ka halwa, see if you don't agree with its perfect blend of sweetness and flavor with the health aspect of grated carrots.

                                                        Could the potato balls have been Batata Vada? I assume they were not pakoras (spiced mashed potato mixed with vegetables, deep fried batter). If they were potato dumplings, they most likely were the batata vada.

                                                        When I was at Chinnar, I was unimpressed with their desserts. They seemed like an afterthought.

                                                        The informed me that they keep the spices mild for the lunch buffet, including on the weekend. The only dish that was spicy to me the time I was there for the weekend buffet was the sambhar. Everything else was barely tasting of any spice. I don't know why they think they will antagonize people by upping the spice intensity. Please!! People know they are going to an Indian restaurant, not a Denny's. No need to be afraid of treating people to food that has some flavor.

                                                        By the way, you don't have to go to TOI to get spicier tasting food. A nice change for Chinnar and Bawarchi for very tasty food is Royal India. They don't have the variety that TOI has for the weekend lunch buffet, but they do have a very nice variety of food, including salads, soup, many vegetarian dishes, chicken dishes, naan, and many desserts. Sometimes the selection at TOI is overwhelming, and for some of us, self-discipline departs when we enter through the doors, and by the time the meal is over, we admit "I shouldn't have done this." That's why I say that sometimes I feel that what I do at TOI can be viewed as being illegal. I don't get that kind of thought or feeling at any other restaurant. (Even Himalayan is worth going to for its weekend lunch buffet. They use more spice intensity than Chinnar and Bawarchi. As a matter of fact, some people like H, due to its restrained use of spices, without sacrificing flavor, as I feel that Chinnar and Bawarchi do, so as to not :"offend" their American patrons.)

                                                      2. re: FelafelBoy

                                                        Two corrections in my last post. I didn't mean to leave the impression that this was the first time that I had been to Bawarchi, and that I also saw it so crowded. I meant to mean that of all the times I had been to Bawarchi, this was the first time I had seen it so crowded. Other times I had been there, few people were there, even at lunch. Some other posters had commented that during their visits the restaurant was crowded.

                                                        Just to add to my other post which follows regarding pamd's visit to Chinnar and its spicyness, I found the spice intensity at Bawarchi, although miles away from what one gets at TOI, as being more flavorful that what you get at Chinnar. Even Bawarchi informed me that they tone down the spice intensity, by holding back, for their lunch buffets. As with Chinnar, the most spicy dish the day I was there was the sambhar.

                                                        I wanted to add, too, that it's hard to make a mouth watering version of dal makhani (although Royal India's version, when they do their three bean version of it, has some life to it), but the version of it at Bawarchi that day was utterly tasteless, other than a slight bean taste. After I left, I realized that the canned version of that dish, made by the Jyoti brand (Berwyn, PA based) is more flavorful. I know Jyoti prides itself on its 'homemade taste" (and they do use healthy ingredients, and each can is packed with solid food - you actually have to dilute it with water), but when you get to the point where a canned version of a dish is better than the restaurant fresh made version, something is in need of reconstruction.

                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                          Has anyone tried Bawarchis' all veggie buffet on Tuesday evening lately? I had tried it months back and extremely loved its variety (i saw vada, pav bhaji puri, veg manchurian...). I have not had the chance to go there on Tuesday nights since then..but have not been as pleased with the food there during the lunch buffets I went later...would anyone recommend the tues evening buffet still?

                                                          1. re: anamika74

                                                            It's not recommendable. I called the restaurant months ago regarding the dinner buffet and they said they stopped it.

                                                            Glad you enjoyed it when it existed. I missed it. It sounded like what TOI does on the weekends, but south Indian style.

                                                            I sometimes fantasize the thought of Chowhounders "renting" out one of these places for such a buffet instructing the restaurant to knock our socks off with their variety, quality, and heat.

                                                            In the meantime, I go to various places where I sometimes am treated to a new dish/food at one of the buffets. Such was the case the other week when Royal India offered a sweet I had never seen anywhere else in the past several years I have been frequenting these places.

                                                            When Taj India was in operation just prior to Bawarchi, I was exposed to some south Indian dishes I've never seen elsewhere, such as baby eggplants prepared in an unusual way.

                                                            I still say, for someone who wants the most exposure to the largest variety of various Indian dishes, the best way to do so is at one of these buffets. I guess it's their version of the Chinese "dim sum."

                                                            Do you say what you did about the lunch buffet at Bawarchi as being not as satisfactory as the Tuesday evening buffet due to variety, flavor (spice heat), selection, or some other reason? Last time I was there for the lunch buffet, I enjoyed most the sambhar, idli, and dessert. Other food was average. The dal makhani was particularly mediocre and I wouldn't want to know how much cream or butter was used to create the consistency it had.

                                                            For homemade quality for this kind of food for Indian restaurants in the western suburbs, I will always remember Gateway to India in Frazer, at least on its good days, as being far superior in this regard to all the other restaurants. It had few patrons, and you really felt that the chef was just cooking for you. (There were few employees at that place, so everything was done in a more customized way.) I find that sometimes, Royal India comes close, but not always consistently. They seem to have gotten into a habit of making paneer in a less than satisfactory way, and as I posted before, I have doubts about the "freshness" of the spices used in its chana masala (from a mix or freshly ground?).

                                                            Unfortunately, the Indian restaurants in the western suburbs don't seem to offer dinner buffets anymore. They do charge a normal dinner price for their dishes (in line with other fine dining establishments), I suppose to pay for the fewer patrons that frequent their places at that time, as well as, perhaps, subsidizing the lower prices charged for the lunch buffets. If that's what supports the low pricing for lunch buffets, I will not complain.

                                                            If you know of any places out here that offer dinner buffets, I'd like to hear of that! In the meantime, if you want such a dinner buffet of Indian food, you can find a few places in the city, such as in West Philly. The place on 38th near Chestnut St. has a small buffet, priced near $10. Not bad to get your fix of the stuff at that time.

                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                              Hi FelafelBoy, thanks for the update.

                                                              About Bawarchi - I meant to say that the taste/quality of lunch buffet content has come down now compared to the times before. I have felt the sambar there tastes kind of old. And the Tuesday dinner buffet (talking about the times before), I saw some rare items and they were all tasting good also. But I should admit that when we went for ala carte dinner, my family was thrilled with the hyderabadi chicken, where as my baingan bharta was not upto the mark.

                                                              The only place around this area which offers dinner buffet is Devi (fri,sat and sun). It is a good bet with the variety of the items. Pongal is always made well. Vada is always good. I love the curd rice.Only thing that is not great in the buffet is their naans. Just like dosas made in North Indian restaurants are not quite like the south indian dosas, the converse is also true. I love the hot naans/rotis served in Royal India, but the ones in Devi are soft and feel like very thick chappathis. But I dont go there to eat Naans, so it does not matter to me.

                                                              1. re: anamika74

                                                                anamika74 - What do you mean by "the sambar there tastes kind of old?" Every sambar I have had at each restaurant tastes different from each other. I have never had sambar taste the same at any of these restaurants. Even Himalayan changed the consistency of it after a few weeks (it was still good, but it looked a bit different and was thinner). What I mean by different is between restaurants. The one time I had it at Bawarchi, it tasted good to me, different than the others, but good in its own right. How was it different before it left with you with the impression of "being old?"

                                                                What rare items did you see that you referred to? What made the hyderabadi chicken taste as good as it was? Where did their version of baingan bharta fall short?

                                                                I forgot about Devi having the dinner buffet. Somewhere I read that the selection for the buffet is weighted more heavily in carbohydrates, as one reviewer said the place is not for someone on a low-carb diet. I don't know if it's true. I'd like to use the doughy foods as complimenting the vegetable dishes (yes, I know that technically dosas are not made from wheat flour).

                                                                Your post was insightful regarding the comment on naan/north Indian version vs. that at Devi and in the same vein with that of dosas. One exception would be what I had at Taj Mahal before they closed. Their version of a dosa was to make up for its quality by way of size. Just as people have preferences for crust with pizza and texture of crepes, I think it may be the same thing with dosa consistency. I've had them from extremely thin and delicate (at Gateway to India) to very thick and chewy (TOI, at least until the last time when their version was more crepe-like).

                                                                In the same sense, you would think that restaurants that do more south Indian fare would excel at their version of sambar. I have yet to be disappointed at any version I have had at restaurants that do mostly north Indian style cuisine. And at some of them, the sambhar has been outstanding - rich, spicy, and memorable. I have yet to have "bad" sambar.

                                                                Is Pongal the same as kheer? (ingredients for both consist of rice, milk, sugar)

                                                                I forgot to state what the sweet was I had at RI that was new to me - it was called "Soan Papdi."

                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                  Pongal is similar to kichdi as referred to by North Indian friends. Ingredients are rice, moong dal and lots of ghee with jeera,black pepper and salt. But it should be thicker in consistency..should not be watery.

                                                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                    By old I mean, after eating a bit you wonder if it is stale?

                                                                    1. re: anamika74

                                                                      I love kichdi, at least the first time I asked what I was eating at a temple, and was told that's what it was. It tasted like a spicy porridge, full of mush - rice, beans, and gads of other unidentifiable goodies. I was told after asking that the dish consisted of rice cooked with beans for a long time. Pongal sounds similar except with the addition of jeera. I'm unfamiliar with the taste of jeera, said to be a black cumin seed.

                                                                      Your description of "stale" reminds me of the reaction that I have after eating something and the "taste" meter fails to move! You could say that it might be mother nature's way of helping us distinguish the fresh from the unfresh. That was the reaction I had the other day to the chana masala at RI. It didn't taste stale, but the "taste" meter, which is normally set up to a higher standard for a restaurant such as this, didn't move. By the way, talking of stale, I have had that reaction several times at various restaurants, when so-called "fresh" fruit was part of the buffet. It wasn't fresh, and should not have been offered to patrons. I have yet to have that experience at TOI (not to say that the fresh fruit there is ripe in the sweet sense, but I trust that someone there has done a taste test first, unlike some other restaurants that impress me as just going through the motions of having cut up the fruit way ahead of time, and simply serving it regardless of the fitness of the fruit).

                                                          2. re: FelafelBoy

                                                            Hmmm ... I wanted my last post to come right after my other post about Bawarchi, so the reader would know the correction referred to that one, instead, my post got put back after pamd's post about Chinnar. Please do your own chronological reoordering and put that post I refer to in the right context.

                                                          3. Hard to believe after all these trips to basically the same Indian restaurants in the area, that a lunch buffet can expose me to a new dish, but that's what happened recently when I visited Bawarchi for a lunch buffet.

                                                            I went there knowing that if nothing else, I would get sambhar and idli. Not many places offer that for the lunch buffet (most places offer either soup or no soup, where the soup can range from very good to exceedingly blase bordering on a canned taste), and I have yet to have bad sambhar at any local Indian restaurant, and that goes back years ago to even Jaipur, where on the day I visited it for its lunch buffet, only that and the vada were good.

                                                            On this pre-holiday visit to Bawarchi, not only was there sambhar and idli, but vada, which was not offered the other day I was there. I did notice one fewer vegetarian dish, and in the place where a vegetarian dish would have been were the vada. On this pre-holiday, I was just grateful that the restuarant was open. (On this day, there were very few patrons, and I felt bad for the cooks, that the offering of food would be enjoyed by so very few people. I wonder what happens to such food that is left over ... refrigerated and served later? On second thought, I wonder if the sambhar served on this day, was leftover from the day before?)

                                                            The sambhar was very good, but noticeably thinner than I have had elsewhere ... the broth reminded me of a vegetable broth, one might find used as a basic stock. There were various vegetables, including okra. The idli were done perfectly, and the vada were excellent. The coating was crispy but melted in the mouth, like they had just been removed from the fryer, drained, and that the perfect mixture of batter had been used.

                                                            What was a special treat this day, was the vegetarian dish labeled as "methi dal." I had never seen or had anything that tasted like that in all my travels. I noticed that after my second helping, that the saltiness of the dish started to hit me. This dish was more interesting that the dal makhani which seems to be the usual staple dal dish offered at lunch buffets at Indian restaurants.

                                                            Besides the fenugreek in the dal I noticed what looked like large black peppers scattered throughout the dish. I noticed in at least two different dishes, and it may have been noticed in this dish, I'm not sure, the other dish, I did notice, were the presence of many curry leaves. No question that fresh ingredients had been used in these dishes to add flavor.

                                                            I hadn't noticed the presence of curry leaves in the dishes I had at other Indian restaurants. Come to think of it, I believe that curry leaves is more typical of south Indian cuisine, and Bawarchi labels itself as offering cuisine from the Hyderabad region.

                                                            There was a paneer dish, called something like Sahi Paneer (I don't think I have he name right), that consisted of paneer in a sauce. It was among the best such dish I had ever had featuring just paneer in a sauce - I mean, how good can paneer in a cream sauce be? Well, this sauce was beyond rich - it had some flavoring that was truly exotic and richly attractive, something like the experience of tasting basil flavored sauces for the first time. The paneer were neither too soft nor firm.

                                                            There were four different chicken dishes, a lamb dish, naan brought to the table, a salad tray consisting of iceberg lettuce, carrots, and very thinly sliced cucumber, the same fried fritters that looked like nothing more than fried dough in the shape of small swirl type shapes (again, a waste of the chutneys for nothing to put on them), plain basmati rice, and a colorful chicken biryani.

                                                            Dessert consisted of what looked like vermicelli (thin noodles in a milk-like base) and a tray of freshly cut cantaloupe and pineapple. I was so filled from the other dishes, that i just had a few cubes of cantaloupe and one slice of pineapple. I have to report that both were fresh. No loss that there were no other desserts. With all the other food, it was unnecessary to have more, particularly for the small number of patrons on this day.

                                                            On this pre-holiday, patrons needed to help themselves to napkins and silverware. I didn't understand why the host did not attempt to set the tables. Another person was very attentive and brought naan to the table and always filled water attentively. The manner in which the host seemed puzzled by other administrative matters, which I will not get into here, leads me to believe that he may have been filling in for someone else, or just "out to lunch."

                                                            The fact that the restaurant was open on this day, even though there were only a few people taking in the lunch buffet, caused me to be grateful, and to overlook a few other small matters that may have meant more to me on another day. I overheard an Indian gentleman commenting on the food in his original language (I could decipher what he was saying, he interspersed his phrasing with some English words.), and he basically expressed his enjoyment of the food as well as justifying his third helping of the food by telling his friends that this was his only meal for the rest of the day. I understood that comment!

                                                            I do recommend Bawarchi more emphatically over my initial review of the restaurant. Although you will get a smaller variety of dishes than at a place like TOI, RI, or H, you will still get enough to choose from, and in light of the different kind of cuisine here, you will notice a different flavoring to some of the dishes, which in its own way, is enjoyable to experience. Maybe because of the newness of some of the dishes I have had here, I am left with the experience of the food being freshly made.

                                                            Because of the small size of the number of patrons, I do wonder if any food, come to think of it, at any of these type restaurants, is ever put back into circulation.

                                                            13 Replies
                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                              Thanks to FelafelBoy's inspiring post, I picked Bawarchi's lunch buffet over the weekend. I did not regret the visit at all. Some items worth mentioning:
                                                              1. Mangalore Bonda - with just onion and dough filling
                                                              2. Squash chutney and peanut chutney which I normally dont try, but this time I tried and it was good.
                                                              3. Poori
                                                              and the top of the list is
                                                              4. the potato curry for poori - it tasted home made - it was a gravy with onion and potato and looked like they have added maida or corn flour to add more consistency to the gravy. I really loved this curry - it went perfectly with the poori and it was very different from the usual bhajis (all dry potato onion mixture or a bit thinner masala dosa-masala types) style.
                                                              5. Beet root halwa was a new item I saw in buffet and I tried it and it was yummy too.
                                                              6. Tea and mango lassi

                                                              Items not upto the mark
                                                              1. Sambar extremely watery
                                                              2. Vada was not crisp like Devi's.

                                                              Bye for now!

                                                              1. re: anamika74

                                                                anamika74 - glad you enjoyed your meal at Bawarchi. I try to reserve my weekend visits to a buffet to TOI due to their larger selection which includes both sambhar AND soup (and pricewise, better value). One big plus about Bawarchi is that they ALWAYS have sambhar, and during the week, sometimes I'd rather have that than the soup that is offered at some of the other restaurants. Most of the time, the soup elsewhere can be very plain. Once in awhile, the soup at TOI is very special, where the tomato soup and mulligatawney have an interesting and different flavor, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the rest of the food. Once in awhile, Royal India has excellent soup. Other times, most of these restaurants offer soup that is just ok.

                                                                When I go out for Indian food, I appreciate being treated to something special, and since I have yet to learn how to make sambhar, it is a special treat to taking in sambhar, particularly during the week, which is why I like Bawarchi.

                                                                It was helpful reading your list of foods that were noteworthy (and not) on your last visit.

                                                                Isn't it interesting how there were a few dishes that you don't necessarily find common at other such restaurants, such as the "beet root halwa", and the chutneys you mentioned. I just wish this place offered decent pakoras. I always skip those fritters that they have. I am trying to eat healthier, and am trying to cut down on some of the overly fried items.

                                                                You didn't mention idlis. I assume they were there. They can be very plain, but when eaten with the sambhar, the combination gives one a very healthy experience. I thought it was just me who thought the sambhar was thin. Maybe it's just the Hyderebad style to make it that way - I don't know. All I know, is that every other place I've been to has made their sambhar thicker. (The restaurant that seemed to make it the thickest was Himalayan. TOI's version is consistently more on the thin side. When I had it at Himalayan, the difference was very large, like the difference between thick porridge and a spicy vegetable broth fiIled with vegetables) I still enjoyed it very much, and since it is the only game in town, or at least in this area offering it during the week, I will not complain on that matter. The day I was there, as I mentioned, there were very few people, so maybe that might explain why the vadas tasted so good - that they were just taken out of the fryer - the outside was crisp, but not in a way that would suggest heavy frying. I guess if you don't get the timing down right, they could be done on other visits in a less than crispy way.

                                                                I'd guess you left the restaurant feeling lighter than what you might feel at TOI. I will probably alternate between the two, going to TOI to take in a heavier richer experience and going to Bawarchi for lighter food with a lesser intensity of spice, but still good.

                                                                If Chinnar decides to spice up their food at their lunch buffet, I will re-visit them, too.

                                                                I look forward to your future visits to Bawarchi and description of other interesting dishes you may have their. Hopefully your next experience of vadas there will be more to your liking!

                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                  Having visited Bawarchi again to get my sambhar fix, I am now more familiar with their routine, regarding what they consistently have for the lunch buffet.

                                                                  The star of today's lunch buffet was their version of saag paneer. If there were some additional spices, it would have come close to the version that Minar Palace was famous for. The similarity was in the consistency of the pureed spinach (not overly pureed but not too chunky) and the tenderness of the paneer. It was mildly spiced, not to the extent that I prefer, but marginally very good and better than the version most other similar Indian restaurants do.

                                                                  The idli were as they always are - perfectly done. The vada were similar as what I have had in the past there - there is an audible "crunch" sound when biting through the crust into the softer interior. The same interesting chutneys were available, including a peanut, squash, and the more traditional tamarind.
                                                                  The raita was very plain, tasting almost like nothing more than plain yogurt.

                                                                  Freshly made naan was brought to the table.

                                                                  The sambhar was the same as before - a spicy vegetable broth (yes, a broth, more thin than of the thicker consistency for this dish than I have had elsewhere) filled with various vegetables. I have come to except that Bawarchi's version of sambhar is more of a thin vegetable broth. If I want something thicker, I will have to get it at Himalayan or Royal India in Malvern.
                                                                  No other restaurant in the Chesterbrook/Wayne/King of Prussia area offers this dish, as far as I am aware, as part of the lunch buffet, so I will accept it as it is. (Chinnar offers a thicker version at its weekend lunch buffet, and TOI's version is on the thin side, too. I haven't been to Jaipur, so I can't comment on its version.)

                                                                  It seems that Bawarchi always offers the same chicken dishes for its lunch buffet, with the exception of one of the dishes, which today was chili chicken, consisting of small cubed piece of breaded chicken flavored with a chili marinade. At least the cubes were edible and the marinade was pleasant. The chicken biryani is very visually appealing, but it includes cut up pieces of chicken, half of which are not edible - they consist of mostly a small amount of chicken flesh on part of a bone. I have no idea why they put these pieces of chicken in the rice mixture. You have to fish out edible pieces of chicken that exist without any bone attachment. The chicken tandoori was average - the meat didn't have that "sizzle" quality you get at TOI. The marinade was nothing special, not bad, but nothing outstanding. The marinade on the chicken tandoori at TOI is more memorable and flavorful.

                                                                  There was also a goat curry dish.

                                                                  What seems to change on the buffet are the vegetarian dishes.
                                                                  The chick pea masala consisted of chick peas in a thin tomato like sauce. Very plain and of average quality, not any better than that I have had at some of the "boil in a bag" pre-made versions sold in thin boxes. The spinach dal had an off taste to me. I couldn't place the flavor that was striking me the wrong way. I didn't want that flavor to linger in my mouth. The last time I was at Bawarchi, there was another dal dish that was very good. There was also a vegetarian dish listed as "manchurian" something or other, consisting of vegetable balls in a red sauce that I assume had flavoring one might expect from a Chinese dish.

                                                                  Pakoras consisted of a thin piece of spinach surrounded by much fried dough. (I skipped this. It looked like a different species of pakora I have seen elsewhere. If you want something crisp and a substitute for potato chips, their version will suffice.) This looked like the truly only unhealthy dish to take in.

                                                                  Two rices were offered - plain basmati rice, and a rice pulau which consisted of many vegetables. Sometimes plain basmati rice can be made with additional oil to help with the flavoring of spices used to add flavor to the rice (as done at TOI). This version was more similar to what you would get at Aman's in Norristown. It was plain. Given the nature of the vegetarian dishes, having plain basmati rice was perfectly appropriate.

                                                                  There was the usual iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber and carrot slices.

                                                                  Dessert consisted of kheer (rice submerged in a bath of milk) and cubes of fresh cantaloupe (they were good, no sign of over or under ripeness).

                                                                  The main server attended to refilling water glasses in a very timely manner.

                                                                  As before, patrons had to retrive their own napkins and silverware. I actually overheard and saw a patron asking for a table setting and the host directed him to the table that contained napkins and silverware. Maybe this is a Hyderabad custom. I don't want to impart my cultural bias on such customs for setting a table, other than to say, this behavior is different from every other Indian restaurant I have been to.

                                                                  There was very relaxing music (of a devotional nature) playing in the background.

                                                                  The restaurant was moderately busy after 12:15pm for the lunch buffet. It seems that most of the patrons were familiar with their food and were ok with it as it was. One group came in, looked at the selection and walked out. They looked inexperienced and couldn't imagine how such food could taste good. The presentation was nice. For the price, if you want more of a selection, and much richer food, there is TOI. For plainer food, nearby is Chinnar. I'd consider Bawarchi to be a nice and healthy alternative to its peers in the neighborhood, albeit with its limitations. (The one big limitation with Chinnar, is that during the week, you will not get any form of soup, let alone sambhar.) If nothing else, at least at Bawarchi, you will get at the week lunch buffet, at least the sambhar, idli, vada, and at least one or two decent dishes.

                                                                  I hope this restaurant survives. They do have a decent sized staff - a host, a server, at least two people doing dishes (not of south Asian background), and perhaps at least one other person cooking. I never saw this "other" person. Sometimes at TOI, you see some of the cooks coming out (filling up the containers with naan and other foods). At Bawarchi, I noticed just one man putting out the food. With the smaller number of people eating at their place, it can't be easy to have the same size staff as a TOI. I remember that Gateway to India just seemed to have three people working there - one or two hosts, and one cook. Himalayan, I think, has at least two cooks.

                                                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                    I checked out Chinnar yesterday. I would say I am happy that there is one more choice of place around the area to go. I was not extremely thrilled with the selection. Channa Masala, potato beans fry, dal and turnip masala. Naans and Bhaturas were good.Turnip masala tasted like dum aloo's gravy - nice! Tea was excellent. Would give the whole experience a 5/10.

                                                                    1. re: anamika74

                                                                      How did you find the flavor of the dishes? Spicy enough for you or more on the mild side?

                                                                      Yes, for the weekday lunch buffet, they offer a decent selection of core vegetarian and chicken dishes, but not all the peripheral dishes that you would find at some of the other Indian restaurants.

                                                                      But as you said, for a change, it's decent. When I left after having eaten at Chinnar, I felt like I ate food prepared in a healthy way, but some flavor was definitely sacrificed. You will find a little bit more at Chinnar at their weekend lunch buffet - not that much more, but you will be paying about $1 to $2 less than what you would be at other Indian restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                        Two interesting items about Chinnar, but first, for those who have not yet visited Chinnar, let me reiiterate that its staff is very hospitable and professional/mature.

                                                                        As compared with nearby similar restaurants, it is less expensive, particularly on the weekends. The sacrifice is that you will have fewer items to choose from.

                                                                        On a recent weekend visit, I was surprised to see just two main vegetarian dishes - one being channa masala, which was very good, and the other a vegetable jalfrezzi, consisting of green peppers and two other vegetables (it was not too oily). There was a pakora dish in a yellow sauce.

                                                                        There were samosas on the weekend that were quite good - the coating was not oily at all, and the inside had some kind of potato mixture with a flavoring I couldn't place.

                                                                        The chicken tandoori was good. They offered mango lassi as part of the buffet price also. This was the first time I had been to Chinnar when they had four desserts to choose from. There were two sweet dairy liquid kind of desserts, fresh canteloupe, and a mildly flavored halwa. (In a way, I find that the mango lassi is better than most desserts offered. I do apreciate being given the option of the fresh fruit which seems like a healthy way to finish off the meal.)

                                                                        I never had sambhar as sour as the version they had on my last visit. I learned that they make two versions, so if you don't like sour tasting dishes, you will no doubt not like their sour version. The other version they do is quite good and has quite a bit of coconut in it. (I can eat dishes that are somewhat sour, those that contain a modicum of tamarind, but this version was off the scale for my palate. I wouldn't doubt if the chef poured in a generous amount of vinegar and who knows what other sour tasting ingredients. I guess if you have grown up with this taste, it becomes desirable, but if you haven't, it is very disagreeable.)

                                                                        This was my first experience of tasting idlis not done as they should be. I had no idea that they could ever be made not right. These were not dry, not puffy. They were dense and moist as though not fully cooked through to allow for the airynes and dryness to set in. I have yet to have anything other than perfectly made idlis at Bawarchi.

                                                                        So, for a less expensive Indian buffet, with less oil, and at least a few decent dishes, Chinnar is worth a visit, and repeat visits.

                                                                        The environment is more relaxed and easy going, than some of the other more crowded restaurants. The sacrifice is that you will have fewer dishes to choose from, which may not be so bad, as some of us have difficulty eating with discipline at these places when offered a buffet of so many delectible dishes.

                                                                        So ... in a small geographical area, there are three fine Indian restaurants to frequent ... Taste of India, Bawarchi, and Chinnar ... each complimenting each other in different ways, each offering the restaurant goer a different experience and kind of cooking style.

                                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                          Hadn't been to Himalyan restaurant in Malvern in over a year, so I thought I'd visit.

                                                                          Biggest change is an entrance way INSIDE the restaurant which takes away from the space in which to eat. The plus of this interior design is that if there is a line of patrons waiting to get in, their presence does not interfere with the space of people eating. The downside of this new arrangement is that there is reduced space in which to eat for those people seated near this entrance way as well as the new location for the checkout area cutting into the space for patrons seated at the few tables by this area. (The previous arrangement did not have this problem.) I understand why the restaurant made the change, and the layout of the restaurant necessitated this, I suppose. The older arrangement simply had no "entrance" way, and once people entered through the door, they were in the main area of the restaurant.

                                                                          The area in which the appetizer and dessert overflow is now situated also cuts down on the space to grab food at one part of the buffet station. So ... the front area is now cramped if the room is at least half filled, and on this weekend day, due to the larger room being occupied due to a large birthday party, and the other room being near filled to capacity, navigating away from my table involved dodging servers and other people. I had always liked this place for its spaciousness and lack of any hassle to get to the buffet area and back to one's table.

                                                                          Now, for the other non-logistic stuff ... I was reminded what a full all out offering of foods at a weekend lunch buffet is. There were around 11 desserts (including just one tray of freshly cut fruit consisting of watermelon and orange slices), dairy based liquidy type desserts, and some of the usual sweets you'd expect at Taste of India. In short, if you had a sweet tooth, you would not go away disappointed.

                                                                          The tomato soup had enough of some seasoning to remind me that some special treatment was done to it. It wasn't delicious, but it was interesting. I wanted to save my appetite for the sambhar which I hadn't had in over a year. The sambhar surprised me in that it had fewer vegetables than what you would get in it at TOI or Bawarchi, but it was definitely thicker, and spicy in a different way that you would get from that dish at the other restaurants. It didn't taste nearly as sour as I've had elsewhere, and had more of a tomato based stock to it. Dosas were soft and more doughy than crisp. The inside potato filling was mild. I noticed someone else in the restaurant dunking them in their sambhar, and this person had lived in India. I think the lack of spicyness in the potato filling was intentional so as to compliment the spicyness of the sambhar.

                                                                          There were pakoras (very spicy, containing hot peppers), and somosas, moist naan, and several vegetarian dishes including chana masala (a simple mixture of chick peas in a mildly spicy tomato sauce), navratom korma (very tasty, and very rich, containing various vegetables), bhindi masala (including cabbage, which was a bit on the oily side), some paneer dish, and various chicken dishes as well as saag lamb.

                                                                          Appetizers include the usual weekend buffet items, and the green salad included tomatoes. The mango lassi was alright. There was one kind of rice available (plain basmati).

                                                                          I left stuffed even though I refrained from eating certain dishes. I know the cream based navratom korma probably put me over the top.

                                                                          Visiting Himalyan was worth it, if nothing else than to get a satisfying meal, to have a choice of many different kinds of foods, and to be able to contrast its quality with other restaurants I have been to in the last year.

                                                                          By contrast, I can say that the food at Bawarchi and Chinnar are less oily, less flavorful, and that their buffets offer less of a choice, but the tradeoff is that the food that is offered is probably prepared with less oil and in a way that may resemble the traditional "home cooked" meal more, which I have heard is the review that many people from South Asia say about these kinds of restaurants.

                                                                          Servers and the hosts at Himalyan are very friendly and eager to help. One nice touch here is that each table gets its own container of water.

                                                                          1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                            Have not been to Himalaya in a while! Will have to check it out..thanks for your detailed report!

                                                                            My weekend visit to Devi was kind of disappointing. The main reason being lack of Pongal and Puri in the buffet. The taste of the dishes was not great. The look of the veg noodles was not appealing.Vada was good as usual. Dosa was good. An item worth mentioning is the new dessert - It was a square pieces of yellow upper layer and white layer beneath -- dont know what they call it..it was really nice..like a milk sweet - really spongy!

                                                                            1. re: anamika74

                                                                              I ended up at Himalaya for lunch 3 times in the last week (I work very close to there). I was also surprised by the new entryway! It seems like the majority of the time they seat most people in the non-entry room first, but I can see that would be a problem if there was a party in that room. They recently upped the price to $9? or so, but I think they've also maintained or upgraded some of the food quality. Today they had good fried onions and pakora type things and also a "special" fish pakora which was basically fried fish but was pretty good. They had the fairly standard naan and the other more crunchy but chewy bread. Their paneer dishes have been somewhat sketchy lately as the paneer has been mostly disintegrated, but they had one last week which came out well. Today they also had a chicken biryani on the dessert side which was fantastic. There was also a really good chaat near the salads today. It was different than the ones they had last week, it was less dry, had chick peas and was more spicy. Very good. I haven't seen samosas at himalaya in awhile unfortunately. I didn't really get dessert, but they I did have some of the orange juice available.

                                                                              Oh the soup. Today and once last week they had the mulligatawny, which is a fairly thin soup but it has a great spice to it and I think it works very well for dipping stuff into. Nice to have on a cold day.

                                                                              1. re: leepinleemur

                                                                                The increase in price took place at least six months ago - the previous time I was at H, I remember being surprised by being told of the price, not that it is expensive, but that there was no notice. I believe their price is just a small amount higher than that of Royal India, and in line with most other similar restaurants, and given the variety of selections, no one should complain! about the new price!

                                                                                My biggest complaint on my last visit had to do with the crowding and constantly having to dodge other people and servers while navigating to and from my table and the buffet area. Prior to the entrance way being installed, it was a hassle free trip inside the restaurant.

                                                                                I have also found H's version of Mulligatawney on the thin side, albeit with a very pleasant flavor. If you are there on the weekend (and the price for that buffet with tax is still under $10, a great value), try the sambhar - it's thick. If you go to Bawarchi, you will find their version is much thinner, but they include many more vegetables. Same thing with Taste of India.

                                                                                I also noticed the fish pakora snack at the weekend buffet. I was going to sample it, but when I fished for one in the tray, I noticed that almost every one was coated with a thick batter, fried, and no doubt with a small amount of actual fish inside the breading. I had taken enough of the other fried snacks, and didn't need more of this sort of thing. After having eaten more than I normally do of fried snacks, I found that an egg custard rice type dessert was very cooling.

                                                                                I wonder since you work close to the Great Valley Shopping Center, if you make equally frequent trips to Royal India and Su Tao. Does Royal India have the same number of dishes early in the week? Ever been there on the weekend? They don't draw the same crowd as does H on the weekend. (Did you ever go to Gateway to India, and if so, what did you think of the place?)

                                                                                anamika74 - boy, so many starchy foods! Is that what their buffet consists of? Ever been to Bawarchi or Chinnar in Wayne? They have fewer of these kinds of foods. You feel like you have eaten "lighter" at these places. I remember a review written about Devi last year, where the reviewer pointed out that the place is not ideal for someone on a "low carb" diet.

                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                  It seemed to me for the weekday buffet, it may have increased several months ago, but just increased again now. Perhaps we just didn't notice in November or December, but the cashier seemed to acknowledge the price increase too. It isn't really an issue though. If it is that crowded I can understand your issue but it hasn't been a problem on the weekdays.

                                                                                  I think I've only been to Royal India about two times though it is also very close. I don't think there was anything in particular wrong with it though they don't seem to refill as well on weekdays either. I haven't been to any of them on the weekend.
                                                                                  Yes I did go to Gateway to India a few times when it was there. I liked a lot of their stuff such as the dosas and the soup that I think you always liked. They didn't have enough selection to draw us back very often.

                                                                                  I like SuTao a lot! I should go back there soon. I do have the impression that they generally have the same stuff and don't change it up too much, but I don't know if it is really accurate. I think they have a nice variety of foods.

                                                                                  1. re: leepinleemur

                                                                                    Are you saying that H's lunch buffet cost during the week is $8.95 without tax? (If so, that is the normal cost of such a buffet in this area.)

                                                                                    What selections were you looking for at GTI that they didn't have? They always had four vegetarian dishes, at least two chicken dishes, a lamb/goat dish, soup, pakoras, salad bar, dosa,and two minor desserts.

                                                                                    Four complaints I had about the place, as far as food goes, is that their corn dishes were generally dried up (their corn saag was too weighted toward corn) making them inedible at times, not refilling their trays (they seemed to make only an amount for a small crowd they expected), minimal effort put into appealing desserts, and an unwillingness to inform a caller what their selection was for the day (yes, they actually refused to say what they had). But the main dishes were generally decent and a nice change from other restaurants. The restaurant's presentation of food at their buffet was the best of any such restaurant I have seen.

                                                                                    Royal India only gets a crowd during a short period of time during lunch, so it's not in their interest to refill the food trays past a certain time. If you get their past a certain time and they run out of food, which can happen as early as 12:20, forget it. You don't have this problem at some of the other restaurants like TOI, which has patrons coming in to eat as late at 2pm or later. At ROI, by 12:45 the place is near closing.

                                                                                  2. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                    I have not looked in that angle at Devi. I go there to eat South Indian cuisine and some of those carb rich foods are foods I miss eating and would love to eat many times.

                                                              2. sher-e-punjab in media is excellent.

                                                                1. At Chinnar, the food is terrific.. I hate to give away our little secret..but afterall, we want them to stay open!.. When we really want to treat ourselves to good and I mean GOOD Indian food...we go to Chinnar for one of their weekend buffets!! Out of this world.. We have been to all the Indian restaurants in the Philly suburbs, looking for that taste that we've only had in our Bangalore home. Weekends, they put out all the extras, Lassi, pani puri, bhuturas, and their naans are always authentic, thin, and soft, not chewy and fluffy..For a couple, its about $20 for the weekend buffet. Weedays are great too..But we love the slow place, and all the extras, that they offer during the weekend.

                                                                  We only hope that they continue to stay superb after the word gets out! They are still a "new" restaurant...but surprisingly elegant for their strip mall location, complete with real cotton dining table cloth. Abosolutely the BEST Indian restaurant! Forget taste of India, or Jaipur..Their goat curry has real meat, not just cartiliage and bone, and plenty of veg/non veg choices.

                                                                  To rate local Indian restaurants, number one being best..
                                                                  #1. CHINNAR
                                                                  #2. Aman's
                                                                  #3. Desi village-next to peace of pizza, KOP
                                                                  #4. Taste of India--Weekends only-weekends are a nightmare!!
                                                                  #5. Jaipur- for the curry desperate.

                                                                  21 Replies
                                                                  1. re: poodiesgirl

                                                                    I think I understand your rating system - based more on authentic Indian style cooking versus more traditional restaurant style, which I have heard distinguishes home cooking taste from that found in restaurants. In that sense, I can see why you would put Chinnar and Aman's over some of the others.

                                                                    Have you been to Bawarchi? I think you might find their approach likeable based on your rating system. Desi Village's style is to tone down flavor like that done by some of the others.

                                                                    I can appreciate your enthusiasm for the weekend buffet at Chinnar, but realistically speaking, it is more accurate to say that although they add a few more items than they have during the week, there is a reason they charge what they do for the weekend buffet - they simply have fewer items than that found at Himalyan and Taste of India. I don't want to say one is good and the other is not - rather, if you want to be overwhelmed with choices, Taste of India is an experience at the weekend buffet. (Anyone on a diet, should eat elsewhere, or come with a high degree of self-control and self-discipline.) Chinnar did not have as many vegetarian items as I have found elsewhere, and although they expanded the number of desserts from two to four, there is no comparison in selection between them and a few of the other restaurants. I do agree with you that the food tastes wholesome, healthy, and agreeable. It is a nice place to eat. While some patrons appreciate the "home taste flavor" of Bangalore, that region has its distinctive flavors, and not all of us find that taste agreeable - there is room for various tastes, and it is worth noting that there such a difference, so what might taste "good" or "bad" may have more to do with regional cuisine treatment than a restaurant not doing a good job.

                                                                    You listed TOI fourth in your rating list, stating "weekends only - weekends are a nightmare." What did you mean by "nightmare?" I find that Friday lunchtime is a nightmare in that that time is the most crowded making the eating experience not relaxing (although Royal India has had this situation, too). What I think of by a "nightmare" are the number of selections and the difficulty in maintaining self-discipline!

                                                                    Is your rating list based on the number of such Indian restaurants you have been to or your top five picks?

                                                                    Anyone been to any of the Indian restaurants closer to Ardmore for their lunch buffet during the week and the weekend? Little to nothing has been mentioned about them. (I'd think of Tiffin, a place I have yet to visit, offered a lunch or dinner buffet, the place would be swamped.)

                                                                    1. re: poodiesgirl

                                                                      I second FelafelBoy. I went to Bawarchi yet again for a weekday buffet coz I had to meet someone there. I could only hope that it does not turn into disappointment. It did not. The food was really tasty and the variety was awesome too.
                                                                      The highlights this time were
                                                                      1.Samosa (hot and fresh, different from the North Indian ones) - the meetha chutney and green chutney also seemed fresh and good.
                                                                      2. Fried idlis
                                                                      3. Upma ( might sound crazy, but I love to eat such homely dishes with sambar and chutney) - it was good
                                                                      4. Naans brought to table
                                                                      5. Masala tea
                                                                      6. Daal was nice too

                                                                      My husband was praising their chichen curry, looked awesome to me, but me being, vegetarian , did not try that.

                                                                      All in all, the taste is much better than the typical North Indian food elsewhere.
                                                                      You should give it a try!

                                                                      1. re: anamika74

                                                                        One of the most memorable trips I have had to a lunch buffet in years very recently, and it took place at Bawarchi. I went there to get my fix of sambhar, idli, vada, and hope for two decent vegetarian dishes.

                                                                        The meal I had came as close to the food I used to get at Gateway to India (on a good day) as I can recall of any restaurant in this area for their lunch buffet. The only negative I have to say refers to their onion pakoras, which did not look appealing (too much fried breading vs. the pakoras I am used to elsewhere containing more vegetable filling).

                                                                        By the way, as I am posting this, I am still getting digestive feedback in my mouth and nasal passages from the flavor of the spices of the lunch buffet (and this is GOOD feedback! Similar to the way that spices from food having been eaten and inhaled at Taste of India stays with you for many hours).

                                                                        The sambhar was a bit different on my last trip. This was the first time where there was a smaller variety of vegetables in the soup - mostly green pepper, tomatoes, and a small amount of what looked like squash. The broth was thin again, and reminded me of a pure vegetable broth. The soup was spicy and pleasantly flavored.

                                                                        Another first - I didn't know that idli was ever served in a fried cubed form. At my visit on this day, the idli took the form of such fried cubes. Not overly fried, so they were a pleasant variation from the normal appearance. I'd still rather have them unfried as I prefer the uniqueness of their spongy type texture. There are enough other fried foods without having to add to the mix. Vadas were in their usual form. I ate them with the sambhar and both complimented each other (soup with vada/idli).

                                                                        anamika74 - I thought upma was normally eaten at breakfast, and I have always passed on this dish, thinking it more of a stand alone dish, looking like a heavy starch. I might try your suggestion and try a bit with the sambhar. Maybe that's why Bawarchi displays the upma next to the sambhar!

                                                                        In today's visit, the restaurant dressed each table. No big deal, but I had never seen this done at this restaurant, meaning napkins and silverware were on each table. Obviously a nice touch.

                                                                        Now on to the memorable dishes. I had never had such scrumptious eggplant masala as I had here. There were small pieces of eggplant immersed in some nice tasting sauce. The eggplant pieces were mouthwatering.

                                                                        The channa dal was very good. No offtaste.

                                                                        The saag paneer was excellent.

                                                                        There were two kinds of rice, something called "zeera rice", which looked like slightly fried basmati rice, cumin seeds, nuts (peanuts?), perhaps a few strands of coconut. It was a heavier dish and was the kind of dish that would compliment another simple food or stand alone on its own merits. I enjoyed tasting this as something different, but preferred the more simple plain basmati rice to compliment the vegetarian dishes I had on my plate..

                                                                        On seconds, I took the plain basmati which I preferred with the other vegetarian dishes.

                                                                        There were five different kinds of chicken dishes - one was a delicious "chicken methi". It was as good as I can recall of the best chickien dishes I had at Gateway to India which reminded me of home cooked chicken dishes. Chicken tikka masala was good, also. The chicken biryani was decent, and the chicken on the bones was easy to remove. I read where such parts are used to flavor this dish. Two other chicken dishes looked good, but I found myself sufficient with the chicken choices I had on my plate. There may have been another meat dish, but I didn't notice.

                                                                        Today was the first time I saw two kinds of salads. The lettuce, cucumber, and tomato were cold and very crisp. The other lettuce mixture was decent.
                                                                        Because I didn't have the pakoras, I didn't use any of the chutneys.

                                                                        Naan was brought to the table, and was not overly puffy - slightly crispy with a sufficient degree of puffiness and moisture.

                                                                        The surprise dessert was a purple looking semolina looking pudding with small round items (which I later discovered were raisins!). The more I looked at it, the more it looked like gajar (carrot) ka halwa. I was told the dessert was a "beetroot sweet." In fact, the dessert tasted like carrot halwa, but was of a color of nothing other than purple. From its taste, I would have never guessed that the dessert had been made from beets. It was very good and something I had never seen - anywhere. Two other desserts consisted of gulab jamun, and fresh canteloupe slices.

                                                                        So - between the decent sambhar, the delicious vegetarian dishes, the large variety of chicken dishes, and the surprise dessert (and variety) made this buffet meal memorable, and among the best I have had in years, albeit with a slightly smaller variety than what would be at Taste of India.

                                                                        I don't recall any of the dishes being overly oily or drenched in cream. (I have yet to see pakoras at this restaurant that look appealing.)

                                                                        The restaurant was no more than half filled, whereas Chinnar was more crowded on the same day (it's good that people are supporting that restaurant during the week for lunches - maybe that will encourage them to increase their variety of selections and include soup). If more people knew how good Bawarchi can be, they would definitely eat at this restaurant. The price of their lunch buffet is the same as that as Taste of India, which is more than Chinnar, but you are getting a larger selection of items than found at Chinnar.

                                                                        I hope that the local population supports all of these restaurants and don't ignore Bawarchi - they deserve more patrons given the quality of their food.

                                                                        I have heard from more than a few people, very knowledgeable about Indian food that the cooking style at Chinnar and Bawarchi is closer to real home cooked food than that found at some other area restaurants. It should be noted that the cooking style of Indian restaurants reflects a particular region in India. I was told by a fellow patron that Bawarchi's influence comes from that of the cuisine of eastern India. (Bawarchi advertises itself as offering cuisine from the Hyderebad section of India.)

                                                                        We are very fortunate here in the western suburbs to have Taste of India, Chinnar, and Bawarchi to choose from. Not all Indian restaurants are as good as they are and offer the kind of buffet selection they do.

                                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                          Are any of the restaurants above near Montgomeryville, PA? I'm not too familiar with the 'burbs, and am looking for Indian restaurants in that area (preferably S. Indian or really good N. Indian). Thanks all for your help!

                                                                          1. re: Lotus7

                                                                            I can think of only two such restaurants near Montgomeryville, not meaning that there aren't others, but I am unaware of them.

                                                                            Sultan is in the Montgomery Commons Shopping Center in North Wales. I stopped by some months ago for their lunch buffet (just looking), and the food looked decent. I was told that due to some Indian holiday, they had a few more items than they normally have. The aroma in the restaurant was pleasant and the food looked like your normal standard buffet food for such a restaurant.

                                                                            Another restaurant nearby at 1218 Welsh Road near the large Korean grocery supermarket in North Wales, is called "Greater India."
                                                                            The interior is very nice. One or two reviews on this board commented on the restaurant. I can't comment on this restaurant due to not having eaten there nor been there during serving times.

                                                                            If you have some free time and are able to drive south to the Wayne/King of Prussia/Malvern area, the trip is well worth the time and effort to enjoy the lunch buffets at these restaurants.

                                                                            I haven't been to Taste of India on the weekend for some months now, but if their spread is like it was, you will be amazed at the variety of foods put out. I have gotten more used to eating at these restaurants during the week and being satisfied with fewer dishes. Although Chinnar offers the smallest variety of these restaurants for the buffet, they do a good job with the main dishes. (On the weekend, they add sambhar and idli.) Bawarchi offers a few more dishes than Chinnar for the lunch buffet, but adds more spice to their dishes. I almost anticipate on every trip to Bawarchi being surprised by something new due to my having been there only a few times. Most other restaurants (serving North Indian) tend to offer the same dishes that are the most popular of patrons.

                                                                            If you don't have extra time to try one of these restaurants, I think you'll be satisfied with Sultan. We will be interested to get your review!! (And don't forget about the Malvern area - Royal India, Himalyan, and Devi out in Exton - TOI is out there, too.)

                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                              Hi just a quick update to you. I ended up going to Food Castle in Bensalem. The options were too few in Montgomeryville and Bensalem was a pretty short drive. They only offered the buffet which was fine by me. Huge selection of food--Punjabi (pakora, samosa, paneer tika masala, matar paneer, bindi, cauliflower, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, lamb curry, naan, a few S. Indian dishes (idli sambar, biryani), and many Indo-Chinese dishes including haka noodles, veg manchurian, soup, chili chicken, ginger chicken...I know I'm missing some items here--sorry! I felt the best items were the chili chicken and tandoori chicken. Overall the food was heavy, but if you stick to a few dishes (I went for the less creamy items) you'll have a really enjoyable meal. I think the very best part of the buffet were the desserts--gulab jamun and a mini version of ras malai. Absoultely delicious. I will visit this place again, and let you know how it goes!

                                                                      2. re: poodiesgirl

                                                                        it's been awhile since i've rated! to be fair i haven't been to aman's recently, but i wasn't overly wowed when i did go (not buffet - takeout). ate at ATOI recently and both me and my coworker (another ATOI frequenter) thought it was not up to their usual standard. spice notched down, flavor notched down, naan not as fresh-tasting as i have been used to. i may just be spoiled by tiffin (just finished a tiffin meal, by the way) and i continue to be more and more impressed - they just keep on improving. their naan started out a little shaky but i dare you to find better naan anywhere (save for maybe royal india, whose naan is also spectacular). all that said, i haven't been to RI or H for some time now either. i've been a workaholic, what can i say. ATOI is losing ground for my #1 spot, what with chinnar and bawarchi continuously improving; hope they step it up! i like chinnar and bawarchi for different reasons. bawarchi when i want southern indian, and when i'm not totally starving. chinnar when i feel like i haven't eaten in a week.

                                                                        i can't believe this thread is as long as it is! newcomers to it beware (and indulge!). thanks all for keeping me abreast of the goings on at some of my favorite eateries!

                                                                        1. re: rabidog

                                                                          Well I was at Aman's recently with my kids and I was disappointed compared to previous meals there. Don't know if it was an off night but the food (Vindaloo) was not up to snuff. The kids Tikka Masala was good, but that is to be expected. Recent trips to Sultan, which is 5 minutes from my house, have been even more disappointing. I will not eat at Passage to India, twice was enough for me. So, I am becoming increasingly skeptical that I can find really good Indian food in Montco anymore! There seems to be an ever increasing number of Indian restaurants popping up, is the quality decreasing with the increasing popularity? Hope not. I think it's time to venture into the city and hit Tiffin or Palace at the Ben (never been to either)or head dowm to TOI again, my personal favorite.

                                                                          1. re: Schpsychman

                                                                            please do yourself a favor and make tiffin first! you'll find the same stuff at palace of the ben, but less tasty and much more expensive. while the surrounding blocks are still up and coming, tiffin is WELL worth your visit from, well, wherever. tiffin is BYO so come prepared (there's not a GOOD state store around, but there is one about five blocks down girard near 2nd). PATB on the other hand has a liquor license. i've not yet seen the new tiffin upstairs dining room (i live a block away so it's usually my go-to lazy takeout night option), has anyone been? i do on occasion dine downstairs though. i enjoy watching the open kitchen. i have never seen more efficient workers (a lot of them, i counted 12 once!) in such a small space and the delivery men are a riot in their three-piece suits.

                                                                            1. re: rabidog

                                                                              I will do that Rabidog. Just the fact that Tiffin is BYOB and Ben is not is enough to sway me. Add in ALL the comments about the food and the fact that we love going into NoLib's and we WILL get there! In fact, I am getting that usual craving for great Indian food, maybe this weekend I'll take the wife and go and then hit a movie. Thanks, I can smell it now.....

                                                                          2. re: rabidog

                                                                            I wish Tiffin was closer to where I live and travel!! If they ever do a lunch buffet, I may get inspired to make a special trip. (I still haven't made it out to Exton to try Devi, either.)

                                                                            Interesting observation about TOI. I will be going back there shortly. I haven't eaten there in awhile due to my desire to go to other places that offered some dishes I hadn't had before with a treatment with less sauce and oil. I just didn't want to give up the flavor that I was getting at TOI.

                                                                            I will be interested to see if my experience of the taste of food at TOI matches your recent experiences. If Royal India was closer and had a different ambience, I would go there more often. The quality of food there compensates to some degree for the ambience. I do like the more peaceful ambience found at Chinnar and Bawarchi.

                                                                            Almost every restaurant in this area offers soup for the lunch buffet. I don't know why Chinnar can't put something together. Maybe that's why the price of its lunch buffet is a bit less than elsewhere. In the winter, it's nourishing to have something hot like that. Even Aman's had some simple vegetable broth with cubed tofu. What's the big deal?

                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                              at tiffin's current location (and i hope they stay, because when the wind blows just right i'm so close i can smell it!) i don't think it would be possible to introduce a buffet. granted i've never been upstairs, but general logic would tell me it's about the same size as the downstairs, which is teeny. :) there are only five tables and one is often in use by the delivery team. plus, i don't know if this area has enough business yet support a lunch buffet. i don't know if it's been mentioned, but it looks like tiffin has recently started selling spices, garam masala, etc. i haven't tried them yet.

                                                                              1. re: rabidog

                                                                                Odd that recently I saw the downside of having buffets! Obviously the upside is the value and variety. The downside I was reminded of was the continual trips back and forth to stock one's table and at times a long wait to get some items. There is something to be said for staying seated and being served! But there is a price for that, of course.

                                                                                I was reminded of that recently by a recent trip to Taste of India at a time of the week that the place tends to get crowded. A group of ten has as much right to enjoy the place as a smaller party. If the smaller group is planning on going to the buffet line and hear "group of ten", their plans for immediate stocking of food may be delayed by a bit, not including seconds that may involve other large groups, and in particular, TOI does tend to attract large groups during lunch time.

                                                                                I recently saw more people at this place in the first ten minutes after it opened than some similar restaurants have during their entire lunch time.

                                                                                I was reminded, too, of how much heavier the food is here. I hadn't been to TOI in quite awhile, and found most of the dishes submerged in excessive sauces. The mattar paneer was excellent, as was the kofta in some sauce and the channa masala, but they were in some very rich sauce. Both the chana masala and aloo beinghan (eggplant and potato) were submerged in excessive sauce and being on the oily side.

                                                                                The chicken soup was very good and had a slight spicy taste to it that made it an enjoyable change from the typical chicken soup. There was ample bits of chicken pieces in the soup, too. It consisted of basically a chicken broth with bits of chicken - no other vegetables or greens (like cilantro or parsely).

                                                                                The pakoras here, were the real deal, not like what is labeled as such at Bawarchi. They were big and filled with all kinds of various vegetables. I enjoyed the tamarind and mint chutneys to add some zest to their flavor. Both complimented the salty and oily taste.
                                                                                I did take a small plate of a samosa and pakoras but one of the servers removed the plate (more about this later).

                                                                                The naan was noticeably more chewier than what I've grown accustomed to at other similar restaurants. It may be a personal thing, but I've grown to prefer the more crispier less thick kind offered by Bawarchi and Royal India. This thicker kind of naan perhaps may be more suitable for being used as a fork to gather items on one's plate. Some people from India do use the naan in this way, in place of a fork.

                                                                                Two salads were available at the buffet line, and many desserts. No fooling around here in that regard. I had some satisfying gelatin-type cubes of a light brown colored pudding. They tasted like a combination of butterscotch and mango. Hadn't had the carrot halwa in over a year and had to resample that. It was very good. I noticed more pineapple in it than I've had elsewhere.

                                                                                Of al the chicken dishes, just had the chicken tikka masala and chicken tandoori. I noticed that the basmati rice has an oilier body to it than most other similar restaurants.

                                                                                I left stuffed and felt my cholesterol lowering pursuit had been set back by months with the food I had eaten. Perhaps if I had had just a small amount of a few items, it would have been ok.

                                                                                I noticed at least two new servers, one who knows his stuff and who I recognized as having worked elsewhere. The other person may have been newer. TOI management must tell their servers to clean the plates from tables at the earliest moment. I consistently have battles with at least one to leave my table alone and not take off plates that still contain food. (At Bawarchi I don't have this problem.) On my recent trip, I lost one plate of food that wasn't even touched, and another plate I was able to stop from being removed. It's just a matter of improper training from the top.

                                                                                I understand that the restaurant is used as an escape from one's work day and therefore pent up energy is expelled during the lunch hour, but sometimes I wonder if the conduct code is to use the publice space however one desires. I could hear several people's conversation from half way across the room at the beginning of the lunch time, and as the time progressed, the place became very loud, with no sense of any background music being played, just lots of people talking loudly.

                                                                                For some people, this kind of setting is fine. If you want a quieter setting, desire to hear some exotic Indian music accompanying your eating adventure, these busier days at TOI will not satisfy.

                                                                                After this meal, I longed for a more peaceful and more harmonious setting for dining, as well as taking in food prepared in a way with less oil and less rich. Sure I will give up the variety, the great pakoras, and some of the other treats, but I've gotten to the point, where this kind of experience will be less frequently desired.

                                                                                I know hitting this place during peak lunch time on a busy day just makes for a less than desirable experience.

                                                                                After I left, I thought of what makes for an enjoyable meal, and the possibility that less may be more.

                                                                                Having overeaten, or at least, having forgotten that the richness of this food requires smaller quantities, I am giving thought of the benefit of eating more simpler food, food not prentending to be much more than healthy food at a place such as Su Tao. I've resisted going there thinking that I will have a dull experience. I can make tofu dishes on my own that are decent, but maybe I can experience something new and exciting there. I doubt I would leave their buffet feeling nearly ready to explode.

                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                  Chinnar now changes part of its menu on the weekend - it sometimes offers soup, sometimes sambhar. Most Indian restuarants in this area have sambhar on the weekend. For the time being, that is now not the case with Chinnar.

                                                                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                    Slight change at Chinnar. They have found popularity in Chinese flavored dishes, so they have added more of them and replaced an Indian selection with that. For example, instead of soup on the weekend, they have a Chinese inspired noodle dish.

                                                                                    That's what the nearby customer base wants so the restaurant wants to cater to that. I've said before, if I want Chinese food, I'll go to a Chinese restaurant. When I go to an Indian restaurant, I prefer selections of more traditional Indian foods. If they want to do some fusion type stuff, ok. (TOI makes those delicious cauliflower snacks with a Chinese cuisine inspired marinade/flavoring. That is something special. But I don't find noodles to be any improvement over what could have been offered from traditional Indian cuisine, like some sort of alternative to plain basmati rice which is the only rice dish they had. Substituting noodles for a soup offering to me is a big loss. I did see patrons taking the noodles, so if I want something more traditional, I'll have to go elsewhere.)

                                                                                    Chinnar is still inexpensive, particularly on the weekends, where you can still get mango lassi included as part of the buffet. They had the most desserts in all the time I've visited ... fresh orange slices, fresh honeydew, gulab jamun (they were cold and the sauce tasted like more of rosewater than honey and sugar, was not as pleasing to my taste than any gj I've had elsewhere), carrot halwa (was just semolina, raisins, pureed carrots, was tasteless), and kheer.

                                                                                    The four chicken dishes were just ok. I'm not a fan of their chicken tandoori, and the sauce used in the chicken tikkan masala although tasting of a cream/tomato base, didn't have the extra wow factor that you will find from the sauce at a place like TOI. They had a jalfrezzi (veg medley) that had a heavy taste of tomato paste. Its sauce taste was very different from what I've had elsewhere. There were more than enough vegetarian selections to please any vegetarian! They had some potato puffs that were very simple, no spice flavor to speak of, and were decent compliments to the other dishes, such as the saag and chana masala that DID have some spice.

                                                                                    This place does make excellent chana masala, and the saag was outstanding (they added some puree of broccoli rabe and other vegetables). Their version of saag consists of thicker remains of spinach vs. a pureed mush which you sometimes find at other nearby Indian restaurants.

                                                                                    The staff there is very welcoming, and the atmosphere is a very peaceful one. A patron can eat in peace. One of the most hospitable and peaceful places to eat in, at least over the weekend.

                                                                                2. re: rabidog

                                                                                  FYI, the upstairs at Tiffin is actually huge compared to the downstairs, it's two rooms with probably 15-18 tables in one of them. I've never been in the other room.

                                                                                  1. re: Buckethead

                                                                                    If a person orders a main dish at Tiffin, let's say, Chana Masala, what comes with it and how much is the meal? Some places throw in extra things. Minar Palace included in the price for its saag paneer, rice and a small salad with raita.

                                                                                    I forgot to add that Chinnar makes a version of Rajma that had more sauce/liquid to bean ratio than to my liking. It also tasted like there was an absence of any additional flavor/spice/herb. I combined it with other dishes to make it more tasty than it was than by itself.

                                                                                    The other thing I wanted to compliment Chinnar with is its stylish table dressing - beautiful table cloths and very stylish glasses and silverware. Can't say enough about how appreciative the management and staff is for patron's business. (contrast that with the attitude from some other places).

                                                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                      I have to pay tribute to Bawarchi for offering alternative cuisine to the normal north Indian style dishes that most Indian restaurants out here in the western suburbs offer.

                                                                                      A recent visit was very satisfying and gave me an experience of eating "exotic" food, which reminded me of the experience of tasting a "new" cuisine, that is, after a lifetime of eating traditional American food, being exposed to spices and foods prepared in ways I had never experienced.

                                                                                      The main vegetarian dishes in the lunch buffet consisted of an eggplant masala which consisted of baby eggplant (uncut, resembling the shape of very large figs, which look like small punching bags) in a very tasty thick yellow colored masala sauce.
                                                                                      Each eggplant was extremely tender, and the experience of this tenderness got me to marvel at such a miracle of the delicacy of this dish!

                                                                                      Another veg dish was a dal called, "methi dal", green colored mushy mixture of small beans, whole and also pureed, somewhat speckled color mixture. The taste was very exotic, pleasant tasting, and something like I have never had at any other Indian restaurant in this area. (I think I had this dish one time before at Bawarchi). The other veg dish was bhindi masala which consisted of cubed okra, potatoes and a few other vegetables cooked through some fried method. It was passable. I wasn't crazy about the remnant of oil left on the food in this dish. Some of the contents seemed overcooked in that they were drier than my preference.(This is one dish that I have had at TOI - their approach is to leave the okra more in an uncut state, and not to chop up the vegetables into small pieces as is the style at Bawarchi - even though the amount of oil is present at the TOI dish, given that the vegetables are in a larger uncut state, you don't notice the oil as much and the vegetables don't get dried out as much - they are still tender and fresh tasting.)

                                                                                      The pakoras resembled those I have had at other places, not normally a big deal, but I have never seen them in the buffet at THIS restaurant as they were. They were good on my visit.

                                                                                      I know that some people like the chicken biryani, but I just don't like the quality of the chicken in the biryani. The restaurant had FOUR other varieties of chicken, so it was not a problem looking elsewhere for this food. First time I had a version of a chicken dish at this restaurant, called "chicken korma." It rivaled the best chicken tikka masala I have tasted elsewhere. It had that same tasty sauce, but was a bit lighter in flavor and sauce consistency/texture (as though the cream content was less/lower). Other chicken dishes included chicken tandoori
                                                                                      (average taste/quality), chicken curry, and kalmi chicken (I may have the name wrong),

                                                                                      The sambhar consisted of a broth that reminded me of what tasted like canned vegetable broth, but with all the vegetables in the broth, the flavor was greatly enhanced. Vegetables included items such as peeled whole tomatoes, green tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and many other vegetables. The variety of vegetables in the broth was really a treat. The idli and especially the vada were fantastic. For anyone who likes doughnuts, they would love these vada - they were deep fried, but were free of any remnant of oil. They were amazing because they were crisp to bite into but the interior were chewy and moist. I had to limit myself to three - they had an addictive quality from the texture and subtle taste. I skipped the upma.

                                                                                      Two rice dishes were offered -plain basmati and the other a vegetable pilau.

                                                                                      Four desserts included gulab jamun (didn't have), sliced canteloupe, sliced watermelon, and extremely delicious beet root halwa (tasted like the carrot halwa at TOI; it was very sweet and very flavorful - hard to know that it was made from beets due to the resemblance to a slight carrot taste. Come to think of it, both vegetables could be considered "root" vegetables, so they probably do share some common genes!)

                                                                                      The restaurant was the most crowded I have seen it mid-week. It was about 80% full. I left having eaten more than I normally do, yet I didn't feel that uncomfortable. (I can say that the foods eaten contained much less cream and fat than were present at other places. I think the richest dish I had was the chicken korma and the beet root halwa. Even the delicious vada seemed harmless even though they had been deep fried.)

                                                                                      All in all, it was a very good experience, and I strongly recommend this restaurant for anyone who wants to experience something more exotic in the way of Indian cuisine from the other Indian places doing north Indian cuisine.

                                                                                      One last thing - and this seems very odd to me, but I have noticed this phenomena at almost every visit to this place ... at every other restaurant I have been to I have noticed a more even distribution of patrons being of both gender. For some reason, at Bawarchi, the patrons with rare exception are males. On my recent visit, of the thirty customers, there were at most, two, and possibly, just one woman present. I have no idea why this phenomean seems to be!! I can understand if the restaurant were located in selected locations in center city, but I know it's not a liefestyle preference thing here, just that for some reason, more women seem to give their business and presence to Taste of India, Chinnar, and the other restaurants. I wonder if other people have noticed this phenomena, too!!!

                                                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                        You get a dal, the most common seems to be a very garlicky yellow lentil dal but they also have some soupier black lentil versions as well. I like that it varies, it's almost a "soup of the day" sort of vibe.

                                                                                        Note that their chana masala is more homestyle, so made with water instead of yogurt or any dairy (it's more similar to the chana masala my Indian friends make than the creamier version I get when I order out).

                                                                                        1. re: joypirate

                                                                                          You seem to be knowledgeable about Indian food and the restaurants we have discussed on this board.

                                                                                          I think I understand what you mean about the ingredients used to make chana masala. I'm not sure I'd be able to identify which restaurants do what. The chana masala I have had at Chinnar, Himalyan, and Bawarchi, have been more on the plain side (not bad, just tasting like more of a mixture of chick peas and a minimum of other ingredients). On the other hand, the version of Chana Masala at Taste of India is at times much soupier (although sometimes the dish is prepared with a thicker sauce).

                                                                                          Since you brought up the presence of yogurt or cream, would you say that Royal India, Chinnar, Himalyan use this dairy ingredient in their sauce?

                                                                                          With my brief introduction to south Indian foods, I have found the absence to a large degree of cream/dairy in many of their dishes, probably explaining why I can leave these restaurants without feeling stuffed.

                                                                                          The main vegetarian dishes I have seen at Bawarchi include a bhindi masala (which tasted oily and overcooked - and a dish I much prefer prepared the way Taste of India does it!), a dal (either Tur dal, Methi dal, or chana dal), a dish featuring small baby eggplants in a thick sauce, a saag dish, a mushroom dish, and a paneer in a sauce dish. I wonder if these are the main vegetarian dishes they recycle for the buffet. I am familiar with the dishes that most of the other restaraunts recycle for the lunch buffet.
                                                                                          With your visits there, are there any other vegetarian dishes they offer in the lunch buffet to look forward to?

                                                                                          Since I visited Devi once (recently), I know only what they offered from that one visit, and my guess is that on other days, they offer more interesting fare than what I saw the one time I was there (in that two of the dishes were very plain for me - one being the red kidney beans without anthing else added to them, and the other mushrooms in a sauce). If not for the spinach dish and the rice pulau, I would have just had a good memory of my visit primarily from the sambar, idli, and vada. The other dishes were very plain - when combined with each other, they were satisfying.

                                                                                          At places like Taste of India or Royal India, most individual dishes are very satisfying just by themselves due to their richness.

                                                                                          One dish I find that some of these places go overboard with the presence of dairy is with the preparation of saag paneer, or saag with something else in the mix. More than a few times I have had it at Himalyan, and the cream content seemed way overdone. Because the flavor in TOI's version of it is so rich, I overlook the dairy indulgence. The versions of this I have had at Chinnar and Bawarchi impress me as being healthier albeit not as rich with flavor.

                                                                                  2. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                    I went to Devi yesterday on my boss's recommendation (he is Indian, from North India but says that he craves South Indian food) and simply loved it. The sambar was so flavorful, and my masala dosa was huge, crispy, and just wonderful all around.

                                                                                    Will be going back on Saturday! :)

                                                                              2. I had to revisit this thread due to my recent visit to an Indian restaurant others had posted about and gave neutral to good reviews on, but which I had not visited. (not Tiffin, sorry rabidog!). And I find the meaning of the subject title of this thread all the more meaningful.

                                                                                I drove down to Devi, outside my comfort zone, to Exton. I had read that the restaurant, serving south Indian food, did a better job on sambhar. A restaurant review of this place in a local paper didn't excite me, since the reviewer pointed out that the place served alot of high carbohydrate type dishes, lots of breads. But other people encouraged me in that they told me they did offer a fair amount of vegetarian dishes which I prefer over meat dishes. I had seen pictures of the interior which looked like a very plainly decorated place.

                                                                                Upon entering the restaurant mid-week, my first impression was that the accommodations, while modest, were alright. Paper place mats on wooden tables sort of took me aback, but I adjusted.

                                                                                I was not overwhelmed with the types of dishes I saw, but I proceeded to dig in. The sambhar, as I had been informed, was the real deal. If not the best I have had in this area, it was in the top two or three. It was thick, very spicy, filled with shredded coconut and various vegetables, and was hotter than the soup served at other restaurants. The only thing I could have asked more for, was a larger bowl!! I could not get enough of this stuff!!!! It reminded me of the time I went to Himalyan last year and had their sambhar when it was made thick and spicy. At this point, I felt the trip was well worth the drive if for nothing else than to taste this delicious and authentic soup. (There was also rasam displayed next to the sambhar, but given that it is a sour soup, I passed on it. I just kept on returning for refills of that sambhar which I could not get enough of.)

                                                                                The idlis were ok. A little on the soggy side, and not as good as what I had at Bawarchi. The vadas were very good. I passed on the pappadam, which didn't look spicy to me. (The best pappadam I had was at Gateway to India, no longer in business.)

                                                                                The server asked if I wanted a dosa, and since I heard this was D's specialty, I affirmed. When asked about the degree of spice, I requested moderate spice more on the hot side. A dosa was brought to me, looking nothing like what I have seen at TOI and H. I found out later that what those places serve and call dosas are actually a form of "uthappam", which is more of a rolled up pancake. The dosa I was served was crepe-like. Very thin and definitely of the texture of a crispy crepe. Inside the middle was a small mush of a potato mixture. It was not spicy in the least. This dosa looked just like what I got at Taj Mahal, when it was in business in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center, and which interestingly, also served south Indian style food. The crepe was so large, and the filling was so small, I didn't know what to make of it!! I would have preferred a smaller sized crepe with more filling and with more heat, something more similar to what I see at TOI or H.

                                                                                The naan were made in a way I have never seen at any Indian restaurant. They had more of a cake like texture. Not bad, but thicker, and not as chewy as I've had elsewhere. More like you would expect if you made bread from a pastry flour than a bread flour, in that the strands of gluten hadn't had time to stretch out and cause resistance to the bite. In their own unique way, they were interesting.

                                                                                Now on to the dishes. I passed on the plain rice, since the rice pulau looked interesting. It turned out to be the best such rice pulau I have had at any restaurant in all the years I've eaten Indian food in this area. I could have just filled up on that dish. It didn't taste oily, and had a very light and agreeable taste, and included a few various vegetables.

                                                                                I took a small amount of a mushroom dish, that looked like some kind of whole button mushrooms in a thick yellow sauce. I don't find mushrooms exciting (unless they are on pizza!!), but the combination of the mushroom (which was very tender and chewy) with the delicious sauce made that dish interesting. The star dish was some kind of spinach mush, but not like a pureed saag paneer. I hadn't seen this kind of dish at any restaurant. I wasn't sure if it was mustard greens or spinach. I did find out later that it was spinach. The vegetable hadn't been pureed, but had been cooked down somewhat and was mixed with other ingredients/foods that I was unable to identify. It was VERY good. The name of the dish may have been something like ... Chettinad, which is a mixture of vegetables, I think. The dish tasted like a bunch of various vegetables in a masala, with a predominance of shredded spinach leaves, with a hint of coconut and yogurt. (I may have the taste confused with this next dish!)

                                                                                There was also a cubed potato dish which had a light taste to it, and tasted like it was made with some yogurt and coconut.

                                                                                One of these dishes had the name of "aviyal" or something like that - I don't recall if the aviyal referred to the potato dish or the spinach dish. Ditto with the name Chittanad as referring to one of these dishes.

                                                                                One dish that I didn't understand consisted of a tray of what looked like just plain kidney beans that may have been marinated or cooked in some sauce which was now absent. Only the red kidney beans were by themselves. When I added all these various dishes on the same plate, they all melded together beautifully.

                                                                                I skipped the pakoras which looked like they had been prepared the same way as I saw at Bawarchi - mostly deep fried dough with barely a trace of interior vegetable filling. Light years away from what you get at TOI. Too bad, because there were six chutneys to choose from!

                                                                                There was a large tray of salad, consisting of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and perhaps one or two other vegetables. I put raita on top for a dressing. That salad helped to cool me from the many cups of sambhar I had earlier.

                                                                                There were about four desserts. Two were dairy milk-like rice dishes, nothing exciting. There was a large mound of Neopolitan flavor ice cream (strawberry/vanilla/chocolate) which was complete void of flavor - it tasted like something one would get a local supermarket from the cheapest brand sold. What I did like was the other dessert - a tray of various fresh fruits consisting of red grapes, bits of watermelon, canteloupe, and honeydew.

                                                                                When I finished eating, I realized that I was full, but not uncomfortable in the least. I also realized that except for the pakoras, there wasn't one dish that I would have called unhealthy, but rather very healthy. I also realized the pleasure in eating in a vegetarian restaurant where almost any dish could be considered healthy, or at least not causing you to be careful with your eating.

                                                                                My small gripes include that this restaurant needs to provide medium or small sized plates, and larger bowls. They had one sized plates, large, which are fine for filling up your main meal, but if you want a small serving of side dishes, such as salad, naan, and/or pakoras, you have to use the one size fits all plate. The bowls were extremely tiny. You cannot imagine how small they were unless you saw them!! When I relaxed from eating the sambhar, I had my spoon resting inside the bowl, and the weight of the spoon tipped over the filled bowl of soup. It was ridiculous!!

                                                                                When I got dessert, I could barely fit any amount of ice cream or fruit into the small bowls.

                                                                                The paper mat settings were sort of chintzy, but if using them keeps the place to stay in business and to offer a lunch buffet at $7.95, so be it. It probably is quite costly to use linen settings as found at Chinnar and TOI. (Indian restaurants that offer chicken, and lamb, I would expect to charge more for a lunch buffet. If all you are serving are dishes made with vegetables, the cost should be lower. Weekend lunch buffets here are more expensive at $10.95. Maybe they have a larger variety of foods that justify that price. Dinner buffets on Friday and Saturday are $11.95, a price I consider very reasonable considering what an entree would cost at dinner time.)

                                                                                On this Tuesday, the restaurant was half filled, which is not bad for early in the week. It seems like there were some regulars there, and I had to remind myself that this was a vegetarian restaurant which by its name is an automatic turnoff for many people. For me, it was an interesting experience to go to a place that makes nothing but vegetarian food, and to see the varieties they do with it.

                                                                                I recommend Devi, and can say that I found the food prepared in a manner that has a light touch, and which some people whose home is India, might refer to as closer to home cooking. The cooking style while more similar to Bawarchi than TOI, Royal India, or H, still offers the restaurant goer a different experience of Indian cuisine.

                                                                                So, the restaurants in this area, that I have found prepare their foods in a lighter way, that some associate with home cooking style more than restaurant style include Chinnar, Bawarchi, and Devi. If I want to indulge and be more overwhelmed with stronger flavor and oil, I still recommend TOI, Royal India, and Himalyan.

                                                                                Other Chowhounder's experience of Devi are welcomed! Especially anyone who visits during the weekend or dinner buffets.

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                  interesting - though i haven't been in awhile, my review agrees with yours, but you seem to find less fault with them for those reasons. your description of the dosas is dead-on, exactly what i remember getting there too. most definitely a lighter buffet, not a place to stuff one's self to the max, which is probably all too often my intent going to an indian buffet! the creams aren't there, but i also found the spices weren't there, either.

                                                                                  went to royal india recently and realized how much i'd been missing that place. i will be back again soon. the naan wasn't brought out to the table fresh like usual, but it was still pretty fresh. they also had baturas available. dishes are more and more like ATOIs on every visit - spicier, creamier. much less soupy than when i first started going there. paneer makhani was excellent - my favorite!

                                                                                  1. re: rabidog

                                                                                    rabidog - the only review by you of Devi that I could find on this thread was the one dated from Oct. 18,2007, wherein you said that you liked the dosas.

                                                                                    Next time I go here, I will combine the paper thin dosa with various chutneys. I thought hours later that the very small bowls might be used in their silver large bowls, commonly referred to as a thali, consisting of many diffferent kinds of foods placed in separate bowls.

                                                                                    But that soup experience was just plain strange, where I couldn't just let the bowl rest on the table with the spoon inside it - even filled with liquid, the weight of the spoon tips the bowl over.

                                                                                    Even a day later, I still found myself with a residual taste of whatever spice/flavor was used, and I found it a very pleasant reminder. I did have multiple bowls of sambar, in that I loved it so much, and could have just filled up on that alone. I think the flavor infused into my body cells and genetic code.

                                                                                    You are right, the spice flavor was on the mild side, but I wouldn't say as mild as some of the dishes at Chinnar. At Devi, due to its south Indian influence, I think they used a greater amount of coconut to flavor the dishes, along with other flavors. At Bawarchi, they use curry leaves in some of their dishes for flavoring. I don't think you will find it at RI, TOI, or H.

                                                                                    Yes, the flavor at Royal India is very good, but I did enjoy being able to eat all that vegetarian food, and not feel close to exploding or uncomfortable. And I loved that rice pulau they had - have never had such a dish at other Indian restaurants without tasting the prevalence of substantial oil used to prepare the dish.

                                                                                    As with my resignation to give up looking for appealing desserts when I used to frequent Gateway to India, I feel the same thing with Devi. The offerings at the mid-week lunch buffet, except for the fresh fruit were sub par as compared to what you get at almost any other similar Indian restaurant.

                                                                                    For a change of pace, I really enjoyed most of my experience there.

                                                                                    I'd like to know what day at Royal India is quieter, less crowded, yet still offers a nice selection. And don't you find those music videos playing overhead during lunch distracting? I don't know of any other restaurant in this area that does that. And have you ever been to RI and seen them run out of food, close to peak lunch time? Even at Devi, close to 1pm, they still had filled trays and people coming in to eat.

                                                                                    I thought of you as I drove around scouting the Exton area, in that I hadn't been there in years, and was amazed at all the various restaurants for you to explore, including various Japanese restaurants, like AOKI, Mexican (?) such as Desert Moon (?), and fusion at Z'Wei. People who work in the Exton area have quite a selection of various cuisines to choose from. My comfort zone for medium length drives extends to Malvern!

                                                                                    I do intend to revisit Devi. I have been to various Indian restaurants for the lunch buffet when they have as one of their vegetarian dishes, that mushroom curry dish. I am not crazy about that as a main vegetarian entree - it's more like a side dish to me. You mentioned that absence of cream at Devi in their dishes. The mushroom curry dish I had was in what seemed like a rich cream sauce. It was of yellow color and the richest sauce of the dishes that day. I enjoyed getting away from all the heavy fried dishes and food submerged in sauces I have had at some of the other places, and I also left feeling that I had eaten something very enjoyable and wouldn't have to walk or work it off!

                                                                                    (The yearning for pakoras like those made at TOI and elsewhere was revived this evening as I am muching on Golden brand Zucchini Pancakes, sort of like a flattened version of a pakora, and delicious, just missing the extra spice, but other than that satisfying.)

                                                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                      Just wanna add my 2 cents here and report that, after my last visit to Sultan in North Wales, it will be my last. The food was noticebaly poor, even to my children. The Vindaloo tasted mighty strange and bad and everything else was equally bad. It's a shame because it is 5 minutes from my house and the owners are very nice.

                                                                                      On a different note, I have been to Cross Culture in Doylestown twice with my wife and we have really liked it both times. A bit pricey but in a lovely setting and BYOB. When not wanting to tavel far this will likely now be our place to go. When in the traveling mood I have to make it back to Taste of India.

                                                                                      1. re: Schpsychman

                                                                                        Good to get a current update on Sultan. I had peeked in the place last fall on the weekend and thought the weekend buffet smelled and looked ok - not exceptional but appealing. Its location is a long drive from where I live, and what I saw didn't justify a return trip since I can get similar fare at most restaurants closer to where I live.

                                                                                        Cross Culture has not been reviewed much. I can understand why you would choose to go to Taste of India when driving a long distance to have Indian food. I assume you were referring to their weekend buffet.

                                                                                        I may suggest, that if you want a change of pace, and are willing to drive a few minutes further (and it is just a few minutes away), to try Bawarchi in the Chesterbrook Shopping Center. If you have never been there nor had the Hyderabad style of cuisine, you will have a novel and exotic experience. They don't have the same amount of food to choose from as Taste of India (what restaurant in this area does? although Himalyan and Royal India have alot to choose from also), but they do have an adequate variety to satisfy one's appetite for Indian food both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

                                                                                        I'd recommend Chinnar, but if you are driving a long distance, their food while decent, may not have you justifying that distance for basic Indian fare.

                                                                                        If you are really up for a longer drive, Devi offers a different experience, too, since they offer vegetarian only, and prepare dishes according to a south Indian way. You will not have all the great desserts, pakoras, and samosas that Taste of India offers, as well as all the non-vegetarian dishes, but you will be exposed to some dishes you will not find at the restaurants doing north Indian cooking.

                                                                                        The drive to Devi was about five miles beyond my "comfort zone" (Frazer/Malvern is about my comfort level, in that a drive to Royal India and Himalyan feels like a stretch to me, but the meals there make the drive worthwhile for their buffet offering although Himalyan dishes at times tend to get overly oily), but I can see myself doing the drive again to get certain dishes I don't find are being made as well as they do - namely the sambhar (I was getting my fix at Himalyan and Bawarchi of this soup.) and the rice pulau which were outstanding. And the spinach dish also was exceptional.

                                                                                        My mindset now, is that if I have a craving for both Indian food and desiring to eat healthy, I have Bawarchi, Chinnar, and Devi, to choose from. If I want to throw caution to the wind, and get intoxicated with strong flavor and rich foods, I will head to Taste of India and Royal India. It's going to take some strong reviews to get me to go back to Himalyan for awhile.

                                                                                      2. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                        haha - royal india is actually my favorite ambiance out of the bunch! i like the little arbor you have to walk through to get to the side entrance, the purple walls, the colorful lights, all of it! i work in somewhat of a zoo (disguised as an office), so i'm just accustomed to noise i guess. the music there has never bothered me.

                                                                                        was my visit to devi that recent? it seems like it was longer ago, and for some reason i thought it was springtime; guess i was mistaken (i'd have no idea where to find my post!). but i do remember the dosa being very crepe-like as you described with crispy edges and a very small amount of potato filling. i can't recall for sure, but i think it may have been my very first dosa. since then i've found every other rendition to be way more filled than that.

                                                                                        1. re: rabidog

                                                                                          So you have such music videos playing in your work space, too, eh?

                                                                                          I understand what you are saying about the entrance way into Royal India and the colorful lights. It is truly a unique environment unlike any other such restaurant.

                                                                                          I suppose some people like energy stuff going on around them while they are eating, while other people prefer a calmer environment. I think the calmest environment may have been that inside Gateway to India. I have noticed in recent months since a change of staff (servers) that Taste of India is frequently playing a kind of music whose style I cannot identify (qawalli?), but it's a kind of contemporary upbeat music that is the soundtrack to Bollywood films.

                                                                                          You will not find that kind of music playing in the background at Himalyan, Chinnar, or Bawarchi, which reflects their older (different generation) staff.

                                                                                          As I have said before, I don't care much to be eating at such a buffet and in my field of vision and hearing are videos of scenes of the genre shown (no need to go into detail here other than to say that many of them are very racy and erotically suggestive).

                                                                                          If you don't mind loud talking, and being subject to the sound and sight of the video, then lunch time at Royal India, I suppose, can keep your energy level up to an agitated/energized level.

                                                                                          I, myself, like to go into Indian restaurants as somewhat of an escape from my usual surroundings, and I find being emersed in exotic music that is more relaxing and contemplative in nature, which some forms of Indian music are, allows me to enjoy the exotic food more.

                                                                                          The last time I was at Royal India, they were expanding into a larger room. If that is the case, then the space issue should be different, but on a busy day, during lunch time, their dining space does not handle crowds well. People waiting in line are on top of people eating, seated at nearby tables, some of which are both next to the entrance/exit door as well as the buffet area. The best place to be on those days, is seated as far away as possible from the buffet area, which still isn't too far away.

                                                                                          These issues don't exist with the other Indian restaurants, although Himalyan did put up that intrusive entrance hallway smack into the center of the main eating area..

                                                                                          The dosa served at Devi, as you mentioned, is like a thin overly large crepe, with very little potato filling. Maybe someone knows what to do with all that extra dough, but the excess calls for it to be dipped into something or topped or eaten with something else. It's just too dry by itself. The dosa served at Gateway to India seemed of perfect size, as was the filling, that mint chutney-like mixture of ingredients.

                                                                                          You didn't mention the additional room at Royal India, so I take it that you have not been there in at least a month. Someone on this board will probably post their new setup and how that affects the ambience and space thing there.

                                                                                          1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                            no, no, i did see that room, and i was actually quite worried - i thought it was pretty ugly compared to the purple back room! but it was so uncrowded they didn't seem to be using the new front room. i've actually been twice in the last couple weeks and am more and more impressed with them. my last visit this past monday was out of this world - and i had the most discerning of diners directly from india with me. she was delighted to see a nearly vegetarian buffet (it was really split like 80/20) and we LOVED the paneer makhani dish and also found the dals very flavorful. they had the yellow-hued ones on this visit. bread was brought fresh to the table, excellent. the tomato soup was notable as well - i usually don't eat more than two bites of the soup, but here i had two bowls!

                                                                                            finally, the buffet seems to keep expanding. two visits ago, i failed to notice the mango lassi station at the buffet, around the corner from the main buffet table. then on this last visit i took note of that area, which was chock full of various desserts. however it wasn't until my second helping that i noticed the buffet had been expanded once again, and the mango lassi station (as well as the halwa) was in a completely seperate area from the rest of the buffet, closer to the cashier. totally overwhelming. and we were one of two tables in there, on a monday right at noon!!!

                                                                                            you would have been deeply disturbed. probably because of the lack of customers, they were watching a soccer (football?) match and the volume was up really loud to the point where even i noticed. still, i'll be back, and often. they may have just edged out ATOI as my official favorite, is that possible?

                                                                                  2. You have to try The Dosa Hut and Chat House. It's on Ridge Pike in Eagleville. Take 422 to the Audubon/Trooper exit. Make a left on Ridge and it's about 1 and half miles up the road on the left. We had dinner there this week and it was fantastic. The service isn't that great but the food was excellent. It's a hole in the wall but it's definitely worth the trip. The best dosa I have had in a long time

                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: neener41

                                                                                      neener41 - thanks for filling us in on this apparently new place. Maybe I missed someone's post on The Dosa Hut and Chat House. I don't recall anyone mentioning this place. I was about five minutes from this area today - if I would have known, I would have dropped in.

                                                                                      Any other description of the place? South Indian, North Indian cooking or a combination of both? No lunch buffet yet? If not, they are unique - one of the only places in this area that doesn't have a buffet! Up by the Park Ridge shopping center, you've got that Chinese restaurant that has a huge lunch buffet at very inexpensive prices. It's certainly not gourmet food by any means, but if you need a fix of Chinese food and a large choice of items, and are low on funds, you'd be pressed to find better value elsewhere, albeit at a price for top quality.

                                                                                      I have grown fond of main Indian dishes, particularly quality vegetarian dishes, vs. getting filled up on the more starchy dishes. I like to have a small dosa to compliment another dish, such as sambhar or some other soup.

                                                                                      Besides you really liking the dosa you had, what did it come with? Did you have a choice of filling? What else did you have? Was the food spicy?

                                                                                      And to rabidog - thanks for keeping us filled in on your adventures at Royal India. I don't recall any dish I had there that wasn't good. A few were very good, and the rest good. (not a bad stat for a restaurant!!). I found that RI offered food that was tasty, spicy, but not as oily as TOI, and they did their vegetarian dishes better, especially the dal dishes. Everytime I was there, I had to remind myself to peak into all crevices - they always had the free lassi hidden in the corner by the soup. Most people would not even sample the soup, or even see the lassi !!

                                                                                      Soccer today, eh? I wouldn't mind seeing a news broadcast, even if it's from India. I would find that interesting to watch!! The other stuff is just plain distracting for some of us patrons. On a slow day, maybe it doesn't matter what is on the tv from their point of view, just something to uplift the spirit of people working there. And for the few people who were there, who is going to complain, in that if not for the workers willing to be there on a slow day, at least they were open for you.

                                                                                      Normally for sporting events, the voice of the announcer is quite animated. As boisterous as some of the Bollywood music videos are, they might seem tamer than a soccer announcer screaming "GOAL" as you are sipping your lassi.

                                                                                      Future trips for me do include a return visit to Devi, Bawarchi, then maybe Royal India, and eventually back to TOI. The last trip to Himalyan reminded me of how other restaurants do dishes with less oil. I do like the spice flavor at H in their dishes, just not the amount of oil used to fry the foods. The consistency of foods at Devi, Bawarchi, Chinnar, and Royal India seem a bit healthier and easier to handle. I do like Devi, and Bawarchi for exposing me to some new dishes.

                                                                                      I am surprised that RI was even open on Monday. That seems to be the slowest day for these places, at least out here in the suburbs. Tuesday is slow, too, even at TOI. Have you ever been to RI on a Friday at noon? Maybe, on that day, they use that new extra room to full capacity.

                                                                                      If anyone has been to Devi, and had a huge dosa given to them with that small amount of filling, could they tell me what they do with all that extra dry dough?
                                                                                      What do you do with all that extra dry dough? I have some ideas, but it would be interesting to know what the experts do!

                                                                                      Can't wait to get back to Bawarchi, but it will come only after a return visit to Devi!!

                                                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                        I'm not sure if it is southern or northern. They have about 9 or 10 options for dosa fillings. It's served with a broth for dipping. We had chicken tikki masala, chili paneer, and lamb biriyani. All three were great. All were spicy but great flavor. Nothing was too overwhelming. We also had their samosa which was very good as well. they have a chat menu. A ton of different curries. They do have a great vegetarian selection. They do not have a lunch buffet. Everything was really fresh. I have tried that chinese place. It's ok but I would rather go to shanghai garden down the street. I also love abacus by north penn high. Shanghai garden is actually owned by his sister. Do you know of any thai places? I've been dying for some.

                                                                                        1. re: neener41

                                                                                          Thanks for the rundown on the menu listing for Dosa House. I did a search on the net and found the menu for the restaurant. Lots of dosas, and chats, and the regular assortment of other main dishes.

                                                                                          For vegetarian variety, I suggest Bawarchi and some of the other places, as they seem to focus on that part of cuisine vs. doing a variety of dosas.

                                                                                          I suggest you check the threads posted on Thai restaurants and restaurants in the King of Prussia and western suburbs area. Rabidog has posted several thorough messages on one of these boards about her recommendations for Thai restaurants.

                                                                                          I have yet to indulge, other than eating frozen prepackaged Thai dishes (heaven forbid) I have bought at the supermarket. I love the sauces.

                                                                                          With reservation with taking this thread dealing with Indian restaurants onto a different subject matter, let me just say, that there are Thai restaurants in various locations in the western suburbs, and most if not all, have been commented on in posted threads dealing with Thai restaurants. Sorry, but I can't help you out in this matter, other than to point you to threads that will answer your question.

                                                                                          1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                            Directions warning for anyone going to Devi and taking 202.
                                                                                            Going south to the area, if you miss the rte 30/frazer/exton/rte100 exit off of 202 south, you will arrive at Lincoln Highway miles further, which I assumed was rte 30, and then proceeded to drive for miles and miles into Downingtown.

                                                                                            I didn't know the difference between business rte 30 and rte 30. If you head back north on 202, there is no similar exit to get you back in the direction of the other exit off 202 south. You will find yourself on 401, and having to drive many miles east on rte 30 to get back to Devi. In short, my normal 12 mile roundtrip adventure which I normally make to nearby Indian restaurants turned out to be over 3 times as far. I thought I was never going to find the place.

                                                                                            If I hadn't driven so long and so far, and if there were other similar restaurants nearby, I would have passed the selection on my visit.
                                                                                            I saw only two main vegetarian dishes that appealed to me, and the rest were basically side dishes. I realized that other non-vegetarian restaurants, such as Royal India, Taste of India, Himalyan, Chinnar, and Bawarchi offer as many vegetarian dishes, and they all do a better job at least for a few of them.

                                                                                            The treat at Devi, is that you get the best sambhar of any of these restaurants by far. It is the real thing. (I cannot comment on the rasam - I assume it's also authentic.) You also get great vadas. Their version of idli is ok - this was the second time I have visited and I realize that the version here is simply on the softer side (not as soggy as the time I had it at Chinnar). The other treats are that you get some dishes that you will not necessarily find at nearby restaurants, such as variations on rice dishes. (The day of my visit the buffet offered in addition to plain basmati rice, lemon rice, which was very mildly fragrant. Although it had some small bits of nuts in it, it still had a light feel to it. The menu said it is cooked with lime juice.)

                                                                                            The star dish of the day was a spinach dal which rivaled the best dal dishes I have had at Bawarchi, and not found at any other restaurant I have had at other nearby Indian restaurants.

                                                                                            The only other major vegetarian dish was a cabbage vegetable dish that reminded me of something similar at Himalyan. It was alright.
                                                                                            The potato and pea in a creamy sauce was pleasant also, not overly rich, but did have some substance to it. Another tray contained a curry sauce which was appropriate for being added to rice, like a sauce topping. Other trays consisted of upma, breads, fried vegetable fritters (which were more fried breading than vegetables, and resembled chips more than anything else), vadas, idlis, and their version of naan. Yes, half of the main buffet table consisted of these starchy foods, instead of other kinds of foods which you would find at other restaurants.

                                                                                            There was a good salad at the other buffet section, along with a huge tray of raita (mild in flavor) and chutneys. Desserts consisted of freshly cut fruit (honeydew, which was tasteless, watermelon, and red grapes), vanilla ice cream (not your gourmet variety, but adequate), and carrot halwa (which was very good).

                                                                                            After my second visit here, I realized that the restaurant devotes space in their buffet to items, like the raita and breads, that could be better utilized with more substantial dishes.

                                                                                            Food is prepared in a lighter way here. For the few visits I have made to restaurants serving food other than in a north Indian style, in comparing Bawarchi to Devi, I find Bawarchi far more satisfying, except for their sambar, which cannot be found of this quality anywhere in the area, although Bawarchi's version may be second best, with Himalyan coming in third (and making a decent sambar).
                                                                                            One reason for this may be, that cuisine from the Hyderabad region tends to be spicier than the cuisine that Devi does. (Taste of India's cuisine is done more in the Punjabi style, which is another story all together! Oilier, heavier, more flavorful - in other words, you will experience very different cuisine there.)

                                                                                            The host was very pleasant at Devi. I find this restaurant with its more humble decor still an inviting place to eat at, with a comfortable amount of space to move through the area, from table to buffet area and back.

                                                                                            If a person is in the Exton area, this restaurant will offer you a healthy way to eat. I always enjoy going to a place that is all vegetarian. There is a different kind of mentality involved in the cooking and from patrons. If a person is stationed closer to the Malvern/King of Prussia/Wayne area, I'd recommend they visit any of the Indian restaurants in those areas first, unless they need a fix of authentic sambar. Devi is a more distant drive from those locations, and doesn't offer significantly much better food to justify the longer drive to get there.

                                                                                            My second visit here has revved up the desire to re-visit any of the other Indian restaurants, particularly Royal India. On reflection, what I miss most is the more substantial nature of the dishes, which I find at places like RI, and even at Bawarchi.

                                                                                            When I left Devi, I felt as though the place was "short" on the selection of dishes on the order of about two dishes minimum. For a place that presents itself as all vegetarian, it should at least offer more of a selection of vegetarian dishes than the number available at other non-vegetarian Indian restaurants (which in some cases is even greater).

                                                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                              For Devi, I would definitely recommend ordering off the menu rather than going to the buffet (I've ordered off the menu once, and been to the dinner buffet twice.) While the buffet is great for being able to try different things, I felt that the quality of food is far superior off the menu, and prices are moderate.

                                                                                              A dosa off the menu is much larger, crisper, and is served with tomato, onion, and coconut chutneys as well as a small serving of sambar. (These chutneys are also available at the buffet) The dosa should definitely be eaten with chutneys; I also enjoyed dipping pieces of dosa in the sambar.

                                                                                              The sambar from the buffet is very very good, though my experience is that the non-buffet sambar was even better - hotter temperature and sharper flavors.

                                                                                              I also visited Chinnar this past weekend on recommendations from this board - enjoyed it very much (the lamb rogan josh was oh so tender and the tandoori chicken was very flavorful) and will be back soon!

                                                                                              1. re: worshipsf

                                                                                                I have to admit that ATOI is the only buffet in this area I've tried. The weekday lunch buffet always hits the spot for me and co-workers. But does anyone have a suggestion for a less spicy weekend lunch buffet in the area? Unfortunately my guy cannot stomach the high spice level at ATOI, but is willing to try some other places.

                                                                                                1. re: FoolForFood

                                                                                                  I would suggest trying Chinnar (not far from ATOI)- fresh & not a spicy buffet IMO. Although, I have only been there during the week so far, not sure if the spice level differs on the weekend.

                                                                                                  1. re: pamd

                                                                                                    FoolForFood - ANY Indian restaurant within a 20 mile distance of TOI will offer you less spicy food in the weekend buffet!!!!

                                                                                                    Any!!!

                                                                                                    Royal India may come the closest to TOI for spicyness, but still much less aggressive. AS pamd said, Chinnar's spice flavoring is very tame. I do like their food, but my preference is for more spice. I wish TOI combined Chinnar's way of cooking their food in a less oily way, but still keeping its robust flavoring. My last adventure at TOI had me overwhelmed with how much oil was dripping off my plate of bhind masala. The alu gobi while very good, also has more than its share of oil.

                                                                                                    I do feel much healthier and lighter after eating at Bawarchi, Devi, and Chinnar vs. leaving Himalyan and TOI, both of which use a greater amount of oil and frying in their cooking of their dishes (buffet I am referring to), and to a lesser extent Royal India, than the first three.

                                                                                                    ( I haven't been to Desi Village in years, and I think they use less oil, also. Haven't been to Jaipur in King of Prussia for its lunch buffet in years after seeing a small variety of items.)

                                                                                                    You will also find that Aman's may be very much to your liking - they are known for being more discreet with spice/flavoring.

                                                                                                    You don't need to do much research of restaurants to find a weekend lunch buffet with less intense spice that Taste of India. TOI is the extreme. (Some Indian restuarants in Bensalem and West Philly may be outside your driving area, and they may offer a spice intensity not to your preference for tamer flavor.)

                                                                                                    If you like the flavor of Taste of India's food, I suggest trying Royal India, for slightly lesser spice intensity without giving up much in flavor. Himalyan offers less spice intensity (but the food is still rich), whereas Chinnar, Aman's, Bawarchi, and Devi, will offer you lighter, pleasant, and less spicy food.

                                                                                                    We are so fortunate to have such a selection of such restaurants in our region, and that these places aren't swamped with crowds (except for Fridays!!)

                                                                                                    I forgot to add that when I was asked how I wanted my dosa when I was at the buffet as Devi, I said, "spicy." It was nowhere near as spicy as I wanted. I don't know what they were thinking. Last time I requested mildly spiced dosa. This time, I could taste that they may have chopped in a chili pepper to add some heat, but it was still not very hot. The spiciest dish was the sambar.

                                                                                                    When I go to Devi, I am content to just have the sambar (which I cannot get enough of - it is like being thirsty and being given water, only to be quenched after having had 6 cups of water - that's what my body is telling me when I take in that soup - I just can't get enough of it!!) and the vadas.

                                                                                                    On reflection, I really enjoyed the lemon rice which was very light and easy to go down, with some substance to it in the form of small nuts. I thought of how the nonvegetarian restaurants are able to have at least the same number of vegetarian dishes as Devi AND nonvegetarian dishes, because where Devi fills its trays with breads and other starches and raita, the other restaurants fill their trays with chicken dishes and salads. Maybe because the dishes are vegetarian, Devi figures people need to fill up with the starches. I'd rather see a standard main veg dish always being available such as chana masala instead of various kinds of breads. I need only a variety of two kinds of breads, not five which Devi had - naan, pappadam type bread, vada, idli, and the dosa. How many kinds of breads do people need?

                                                                                                    At the other restuarants, they typically offer only naan. Gateway to India, when it was in busines offered naan and pappadam. Bawarchi offers in its daily lunch buffet naan, idli, and vada, but still at least four main course vegetarian dishes, AND at least four chicken dishes, plus sambar and salad.

                                                                                                    TOI in its weekend lunch buffet offers naan, paratha, uppatham. They put out a separate table and trays for other foods. With all the breads they put out, they cut out one or two trays that would oherwise feature a main course vegetarian dish, which is why I do prefer them during the week.

                                                                                                    While they do have a few additional desserts, appetizers, and salads on the weekend, I do like having a greater choice of vegetarian dishes.

                                                                                                    One of the nice things about Bawarchi, Chinnar, and Devi, is that you will have a greater selection of rice dishes than at Himalyan, Royal India, and TOI.

                                                                                                    Let us know of your adventures and if the less intense spice flavoring at these restaurants suit your preference! (No other nearby Indian restaurant comes close to TOI, although RI is the most similar, with Aman's the least similar, relatively speaking.)

                                                                                                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                                      yes i'd agree - check out royal india!

                                                                                                      i am on a roll and went there again a couple days ago. not as spectacular as the last visit i posed about (the week before). got to warn you the baturas are oily! i think they just didn't have my fave dishes out. no paneer makhani - mutter paneer instead. no tomato soup - sambar instead (though there was a second option i didn't try - mulligatawny?). the mutter paneer and the sambar just aren't as good, in my opinion. though the dessert array was spectacular and there was mango juice AND masala tea available.
                                                                                                      and while i do wish they would kick up the spices there, that's not necessarily to say that they are lacking spice. i think the more i eat of it the more immune i become! i guess chinnar is your best bet for less spicy, more creamy.

                                                                                                      1. re: rabidog

                                                                                                        FelafelBoy and rabidog - these are the two most helpful recommendations I've ever received on this site.

                                                                                                        Thank god you set the record straight on TOI's spice level. My less than adventurous other half even complained about the spiciness of TOI's chicken tikka....

                                                                                                        Chinnar and Royal India sound promising - though I'd give my kidney for Minar Palace's re-opening. Thanks.

                                                                                    2. Update on a recent mid-day visit to Chinnar.

                                                                                      First, the positives - the variety of food was amazing! Six vegetarian selections! (chana masala, navratan korma, tarka dal, spinach with potatoes, turnip masla, and green beans). Five different kinds of chicken. A lamb dish. Salad. Vegetable fritters. Naan. Rice. Those sweet Chinese cuisine-type fried cauliflower snacks that TOI puts out on the weekend. Two different trays of fresh fruit (one consisting of strawberries and honeydew). Carrot halwa. Two different kinds of dairy desserts. Mango lassi. Masala Tea.

                                                                                      No, this was not on the weekend, this was a weekday lunch buffet.

                                                                                      The food tasted very fresh, and barely a remnant of oil on my plate from the food.

                                                                                      I was suprised how crowded the restaurant was - it was filled to near capacity on a non-peak day.

                                                                                      (The vegetable fritters were excellent - I had some eggplant slices that were mouth watering. The coating was very crunchy and perfectly done. The turnips were also excellent - I normally don't care for them, but these had a real nice mild flavor them. The rice was done nicely - without a coating of oil.)

                                                                                      The downsides - I was reminded how much I prefer more flavorful food. The spice flavor on all the food was very bland. For anyone who doesn't like spicy Indian food and/or who wants food that tastes healthy, and appears to be prepared in a healthier way, Chinnar is a good place.

                                                                                      The lack of spice intensity and presence of strong flavor will cause me to go to a different Indian restaurant next time.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                        Post positioned here due to my previous encounter with fresh tasting but very lightly flavored/spiced Indian food ... which led me to a place that I view as offering healthy AND tasty food ... Bawarchi.

                                                                                        Great food should not be overlooked or unacknowledged which is why I am posting my recent experience.

                                                                                        The only negative I want to get out of the way - their version of pakoras is not to my liking, in that they are basically fried batter with very small bits of a vegetable scattered in the batter. If you like such fried items, help yourself. I'll stick with the version of pakoras I prefer at TOI and Royal India that have some inner food that consists of something other than fried batter.

                                                                                        Now for the good items ... Bawarchi had a version of saag paneer that resembled to a small degree the taste of this dish I used to get at Minar Palace. It wasn't identical or very close, but it was the closest of any saag paneer I have had at any Indian restaurant that serves this dish to resemble what Minar Palace did.

                                                                                        The tarka dal was very good. Vegetable biryani was very good, containing small bits of vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and other veggies in a pleasant tasting rice that wasn't coated in too much oil.

                                                                                        The sambhar, while not as thick as served at Himalyan or Devi, had lots of vegetables in the broth, including green pepper, okra, tomatoes and other vegetables. They tasted very fresh.

                                                                                        Today's buffet featured fried idli (they softened once they were dunked in the sambhar) and DELICIOUS vada. They were brought out close to 12pm, so my consumption of them was after they were just made, and they were mouth wateringly good. Again, just the sambhar and vadas made the trip worthwhile.

                                                                                        The fact that the saag paneer, dal, and vegetable biryani were also very good added to the enjoyment of the meal.

                                                                                        A special treat included among the various chicken dishes was methi dal - it had a very nice flavor and was spicy.

                                                                                        Desserts consisted of two trays of sliced oranges and chunks of honeydew, gulab jamun, and carrot halwa (which was very good - not as rich as you get at TOI, but a bit richer than the dish at Chinnar).

                                                                                        These were just some of the highlights of the visit. I highly recommend Bawarchi for a person who wants authentic Indian food that is prepared in a relatively healthy way (with respect to not using excessive oil in cooking), moderately spicy food, and a nice selection of foods.

                                                                                        It was nice to see that the restaurant was moderately busy, and customers came in during a wide period of time during lunch hours, not just during a small window (such as 12 to 12:40).

                                                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                                                          As always, I agree with FelafelBoy on Bawarchi. Went there for lunch buffet today after a long time. It was a yummy experience.

                                                                                          Highlights of today buffet were:

                                                                                          1. Aloo Tikkis ( with spinach/coriander also in the coating..so they were green version of usual Aloo tikkis you get in Himalayan)
                                                                                          2. Delicious Vadas (not as huge as DEVI vadas..but nevertheless good and fresh)
                                                                                          3. Peanut Chutney and Tomato chutney were excellent accompaniments to the vadas
                                                                                          4. Veg Noodles was decent
                                                                                          5. Naan and some saag curry, chana masala - all tasted different and South Indian I would say. Nice break from the traditional masala taste
                                                                                          6. Spinach daal was good
                                                                                          7. fried idli swere there. Were OK. I was more excited abt vada and aloo tikki.
                                                                                          8. Dosa (small. but good) was also part of the buffet.
                                                                                          9. End it all with a nice cup of masala tea.

                                                                                          IMHO, this is the best Indian restaurant in this area NOW.

                                                                                      2. This weekend I made another trip over to Jaipur, which was originally recommended to me by my vegetarian Indian boss, and is now by far my favorite Indian buffet in the area!

                                                                                        Jaipur's weakpoints IMO are the relatively smaller selection (compared to other buffets) and a surprisingly lackluster rendition of basmati rice. However, the rice has been steadily improving, and with 3-4 vegetarian entrees and 3-4 meat entrees, the selection is hardly as limited as one might fear.

                                                                                        In general, I find their food wonderfully spiced and full of flavor, yet without the heaviness of TOI. Also for the omnivores out there, I must say that Jaipur's chicken dishes are head and shoulders above any other place's! The chicken is always deliciously tender and bursting with beautiful tandoori smokiness... quite a difference from the sometimes tough, tasteless chunks of breast meat that I've found elsewhere.

                                                                                        I do wish that Jaipur would include a mango lassi or other drink like many other places do, but overall, quite a deal IMO for $8.95 weekdays and $10.95 weekends.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: worshipsf

                                                                                          Have you tried Chinnar? Last time I went I thought all of their chicken (and veggie) dishes were great. I always find their variety/options the best too. Of course weekday/weekend differs. Also all drinks are included there & very friendly staff.

                                                                                        2. Re-visited Bawarchi recently after my last visit to another Indian restaurant was very satisfying, but left me with the taste of food that had been prepared for the American palate

                                                                                          My visit to Bawarchi did not disappoint. I hadn't had this food in a long time, and just as Taste of India knocked my socks off the first time I visited it years ago, so did Bawarchi with the flavor of its dishes. I had forgotten how tasty its Sambar is. Even though it was not thick, the soup was very rich in exotic flavors and was loaded with various thickly cut chunks of vegetables, like eggplant, peppers, onions, and other vegetables.

                                                                                          Vadas were done perfectly -fried and crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside, and with no trace of oil on the surface. Idlis were done perfectly - dense but airy to the bite. The star dish for me was the spinach dal, which was very creamy without any cream, bursting with flavor. Small pieces of spinach throughout the dal literally melted in my mouth. The combination of the spinach with the legumes seemed to be a perfect match. There were two other vegetable dishes, a "bagora baigan" or something like that which looked and tasted like baby eggplant in a thick sauce, and a vegetable korma which seemed like nothing more than thick chunks of potato in a vegetable puree/sauce.

                                                                                          There was plain basmati rice, cooked perfectly, and a lemon rice with nuts.

                                                                                          Three different chicken dishes, a lamb dish, excellent naan (moist and chewy, and warm, reminding me of the times that I have had similar naan at Taste of India and Royal India - other Indian restaurants I have been to in this area tend to make drier naan, nowhere near as good as the naan I had at the other places), various chutneys. Since I was last here, Bawarchi has improved on its salad - there were finely cut various greens, and a separate tray with sliced cucumber, carrots and another vegetable.

                                                                                          Three dessert selections - canteloupe, galub jamun, and carrot halwa (which I had and enjoyed very much) which seemed more buttery than the last time I had it here..

                                                                                          While Bawarchi does not have the selection of a Chinnar, it makes up for the smaller selection with the more exotic flavor of its dishes that left me with the strong feeling that I had tasted food cooked for the Indian palate. I do prefer some of the dishes I had at Chinnar (at least the TYPE of dish), due to my preference for north Indian cuisine, but once in awhile it is a huge treat to taste the cuisine of south India (Hyderabad cuisine here at Bawarchi) as well as experiencing cuisine that uses spices and flavors more authentic to the Indian palate.

                                                                                          I reflected that one of the main ingredients flavoring food here was the use of curry leaves, leaving a distinctively different taste than that from curry powder. I saw in some dishes actual curry leaves (in the sambar? in one of the vegetarian dishes?) which led me to realize that the "exotic flavor" I was experiencing was influenced by the use of the curry leaves.

                                                                                          My favorite dish at Bawarchi is the dal, followed by the sambar combined with vadas and idli. Eating the salad covred with raita complimented the taste of the sambar.

                                                                                          On this visit, the tandoori chicken while not as flavorful as the "marinade" used by Taste of India, was still very good and moist.

                                                                                          Even in the middle of the week, Bawarchi was filled to near capacity, and in recent years I have never seen this restaurant this crowded. It was good to see that the public was supporting a restaurant with good quality.

                                                                                          Even though I sampled alot of the various dishes, had more than my share of sambar, a few vadas, naan, several vegetarian dishes, two helpings of chicken, and a small amount of the carrot halwa, I left without feeling "stuffed", ready to "burst at the seams." I think consuming primarily vegetarian food cooked in lighter sauces helped.

                                                                                          1. I'm curious, has anyone else tried Dana Mandi on 42nd and Chestnut in University City? It's a no-thrills eating area tucked into the back of the Indian grocery store, which a number of my Indian classmates recommended and which I have to say served the best rendition of saag paneer I've ever had.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: fivefivefive

                                                                                              That's the back of the IndoPak, right? Do you know what the costs are like? (I'm assuming it's cash only, so I just want a heads up on what I need to keep on hand.)

                                                                                              I'll take one for the team and try a few different items. :)

                                                                                              1. re: Ali

                                                                                                It's in the back of Rice and Spice.

                                                                                                I did a write-up http://comradechufood.blogspot.com/20..., which includes their (fairly small) menu. And they do accept credit card.

                                                                                                1. re: fivefivefive

                                                                                                  Thanks for the tip about the credit card - magical words for someone not of the cash-carrying nation! I tried the food today and it was pretty good, a little different (lighter) than the usual Indian fare.

                                                                                                  The saag paneer was definitely good, the paneer being the huge highlight. It wasn't terribly heavy, a great lunch dish. It wasn't swimming in grease, which was a nice change, but it wasn't exactly diet food, either. The paneer was great, not the usual slightly rubbery affair (which I kind of like) but something with it's own taste that stands up against the dominant spinach.

                                                                                                  The aloo gobi was very nice. It swam in the usual ghee mess, but it didn't taste heavy. I could actually taste the cauliflower. Speaking of which, I think I got only one tiny piece of potato in the whole half order. I like cauliflower, so that was fine, but it was a little odd.

                                                                                                  The chicken curry (they were out of the goat curry I ordered) was the highlight of my meal. I was a little hesitant when I saw the grease floating on top, but once my naan dipped into the broth, I was sold. It was light and lovely, tasting exceptionally of chicken in a way that makes me question why it is that I generally don't like chicken. The broth was lovely, chicken-y, and well-perked by the herb addition. The chicken was tender without being over cooked. I'd totally go back for this dish!!!

                                                                                                  The naan was a little weird. It REEKED of ghee. I don't know whether that was because it was packaged with my paratha or what, but that was the end result. Either way, it wasn't the amazing type of naan where you want to eat tons of by itself, but the kind designed to be best served with something (in this case, the chicken curry) - it had enough substance, taste, and texture to be good but not enough to stand on it's own.

                                                                                                  I also got the aloo paratha (fine, nothing special) and a gobi paratha (not sure about that one since i haven't eaten it yet). Either way, for anyone considering getting take out, make sure you spare a few minutes at home. Both my pieces of paratha were rather soggy when they got home, but a few minutes in a dry pan (large - my 12" one barely held one piece) crisped them up just fine.

                                                                                                  The samosa was good, spicy and crispy. It was nothing special, but I'd get another one if I happened to be around. The crazy orange fried bread pudding thing was ... well, it's fried, crazy orange bread pudding thing. It sort of tastes as odd as it sounds, and I'm not terribly crazy about it, but I might try one again if I happen to see them bring out a fresh batch.

                                                                                                  All in all, I can't believe there's been a place like this in UCity all this time and I never knew. I spent $20 for 3 meals' worth of food (half orders of everything) and didn't have to plan in advance like I would have to for Tiffin or any of the other good Indian spots in the city.

                                                                                                  Thanks for the heads up!!!

                                                                                                  1. re: Ali

                                                                                                    Cool, glad you liked it and thanks for writing up about the other dishes.