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authentic indian food in the philly area/burbs

  • c

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!).