[HOU] Gourmet India report
Way out on Westheimer this place I spotted several times doing good business. Stopped in today for their $12.99 Sunday Brunch buffet.
I have to say I was very impressed. Non-timid food (at last!). The buffet was not of the nature where everything seems genetically linked with its buffet-mate (in a not-so-good "Deliverance" kind of way) but each dish shone with its own contribution. I really enjoyed this.
Also they had appetizers on the left such that you could do it in at least two traditional courses rather than "pile-it-on-your-plate-lest-an-asteroid-strike-the-planet" Las Vegas Cousin Eddie approach.
Vegetable Pakora and chicken pakora were good, especially the former. What I so often miss in Indian food is just a subtle hint in the flovor. Here the chick-pea flour was well up there and a delicate herb (curry leaf maybe?). Chicken pakora was a little more generic but could be nicely stepped up with the onions and sliced hot peppers (likely too hot for the timid, which I liked) and the coriander chutney.
Papads were there but a little limp. The mystery of why USA papads are roasted vs. deep-fried (as in the UK, and I suspect also, often, in India) remains a mystery.
A second visit and I had a lovely color contrast with goat curry (ruby), chicken tikka (pink) masala, dal (dark yellow), and hotplate vegetables (misc.) and more of that onion and hot green pepper slices.
Bread was brought to your table - "fresh bread" - by waiter.
A cold Kingfisher and you are good to go.
While this looks rather like any other Indian buffet I assure the food must be cooked daily and with some significant thought and talent in the back. The goat was especially good with good meat and sauce textures. But overall it was the "brightness" of the flavors that told you you were in good hands. Don't find it often.
You almost hit Hwy 6 running west on Westheimer before you find it but hey that's good for me as I live out that way. Just wish this place was a good bit closer as it's definitely worth returning to.
Enthusiastic recommendation based on this first visit. Good service also.
281 – 493 - 5435
13155 Westheimer Road @ Synott
Houston TX, 77077
In terms of your question regarding the papads, there are many different styles of papads. In India, you get both toasted and fried papads depending on the region with the toasted being more prevelent in the North. Sindhi papads which are typically smaller and have less spice are usually fried.
It just has always been a curiosity to me why the far more "savory" fried variety are not found in the US - not typically a nation averse to fried foods. In fact I would stake money that any Indian place in town that started frying its papadums would garner increased business, plaudits, and buzz akin to the dreaded Olive Garden Bread Sticks phenom, purely on that basis.
Perhaps it's because many more customers at US Indian places are of Indian heritage. That would make sense. So my theory above would only apply to increased non-Indian patronage.
I still say that nothing compliments a strong gin & tonic (or two) like a stack of deep-fried papadums. :-) But that's just me.
This place has not kept up the kick-off standard. Still a nice space (in terms of decor and comfort) but the food has lost all of its edge. I have switched affiliation to Maharajah (Hwy6 just north of Westpark Tollway overpass) for buffet lunch in this area.
My wife reports a similar feeling upon a recent venture here with work colleagues.
Interesting note on papadums. An old Indian friend taught me a need trick. Most of these prepackaged versions (and all are) merely need a short run in a microwave. They are already packed with oils, and the waves fry the buggers. Crunchy and delicate after a few seconds. Make sure each part of the papadum is cooked, they are quite nasty otherwise.
I still find myself frying a batch of papadums quite freqnetly, not just for Indian meals but just as a really fine snack with drinks (particulary a nice strong G&T). Heat oil to 400 and it takes but 5 seconds (you need a pair of tongs). Far superior (including in terms of carb overload) to a bowl of potato chips.
I love "Shri papad brand (the one with a happy looking Indian boy on the packet.)
One reason for this is the address on the packet.
Which is (no kidding).
Oracle Point, Next to Shakar Bazar,
Opp. Railway Station,
Bandra (West), Mumbai
For those that remember Monty Python it is evocative of (approximation from memory)
"Please send complaints to
Complaints Department, Behind the Hot Water Pipes,
. . ..
bb, I would love to have your opinion of my local/neighborhood favorite, Cafe India on Williams Trace Blvd. (just off Highway 6) in Sugar Land. Wonderful biryani and saag paneer, and the naan is fresh and hot. Lunch buffet seven days a week, just table service in the evening. We injure ourselves every time we go. Do give it a try the next time you are in the SL area.
I have been there, but not recently.
My memory of the place is that it was good (and clearly patronized by a steady stream of Indian Pakistani folks) but I recall its being let down in the service department, and also requests for something with a bit of spice were ignored.
One thing that is usually unmentioned but good is the old-school service at Indian places. Here I seem to recall a rather harried young Anglo girl who was not in the mold of the smooth silent Indian waiter serving, refilling and removing with minimal fuss and intrusion (what a joy not to be asked "how is it tasting?" !! ).
This is all a few years ago however.
My wife works nearby and she favors Madras Pavilion over Cafe India for what it's worth.
I will try to have a revisit of the place and report back.