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Best Indian Buffet

What places have the best Indian buffet? Food is most important factor (e.g. authenticity be it Northern or Southern, fresh naan/breads, variety). Price and service are not important.

I live in the city, but have been reading and am not seeing a consensus on great buffet options, most seem to point either to the East or South so I am not limiting the discussion to the SF city limits. Certainly open to trip-worthy recommendations, just interested in the best food and will go anywhere.

Please specify if buffet is lunch or dinner only.

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  1. After a visit to the Legion of Honor i enjoyed the lunch buffet at India Clay Oven,2436 Clement Street. Food was very good, varied and freshly replenished. Another poster who went on my recommendation was quite enthusiastic.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wolfe


      India Clay Oven
      2436 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121

      1. re: wolfe

        Great, is the Clement location better than their other locations on Folsom or Kearny?


      2. Amber India has a great lunch buffet -- I think it's much better than others I've had in SF (including India Clay Oven).

        Amber India
        Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: Steve Green

          After a long day at MacWorld last week, we stopped at Amber India for the lunchtime buffet for $16.95 between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Excellent array of dishes! The Tandoori Chicken was moist and well-seasoned — I was especially delighted by the catfish curry. Salads and desserts are lovely, too. Attentive service.

          Another favorite: the Friday lunch buffet at Sultan — the buffet is served M-F — but, Fridays have special dishes!

          340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        2. Amber SF opened last year & haven't been but my review of original location in Mountain View (inserted into another thread). Went once more after that visit & food was very good. Best buffet south of SF, IMO.


          14 Replies
          1. re: ceekskat

            At first, I was going to mention the original Amber India in Mountain View -- similar food to the SF location for considerably less $$ (and correspondingly less atmosphere). I didn't bring it up, since the OP wasn't concerned about price.

            I'm going to expand on my previous post though, and say that both the MV and SF Ambers beat all other Indian food I've tried in the Bay Area. Come to think of it, Amber beats any of the several dozen Indian places I've tried in other parts of the US and Canada. YMMV. Oh, and don't miss the butter chicken.

            1. re: Steve Green

              The indian choices in the greater south peninsula are rich.

              I'm personally not a huge partisan of Amber. I find their tastes to be a little muted; I'd prefer something a little bolder and more complex. But it's good, don't get me wrong. Never had their lunch buffet - maybe I'll put it on the list.

              Darbar in palo alto is my go-to indian, primarily for the vindaloo. The vindaloo there is gorgeously rich and deep, more clove and cinnamon than fire, but plenty of all that. Arguably it's not much like vindaloo other places (I've had a lot of vindaloo), but I like it better. The lunch buffet is great, although rarely is the vindaloo on offer. Nan's fresh-cooked at lunch, although there nan is good-not-great.

              Turmeric, in Sunnyvale, is a favorite. It's just upscale enough, just cheap enough, and the food's excellent. Since it's all the way down in sunnyvale, I don't get there so often.

              Passage to India in MV (abbreviated among my indian lunch friends as P2I, thus allowing a 4 character lunch invite - P2I?) has been on the upswing for the last 6 months at least. I had written it off about a year ago, but my friends kept going, and the quality went back up. Great selection.

              I used to love Suraj on the south edge of Redwood City, and I admit the last time I went there for buffet it was OK (still warm entrees and plenty of them) but not what I had remembered. Still has the mango soft-squeeze machine though).

              Worth mentioning is the buffet at Annapourna in San Mateo. The place is unusual in that it's 100% veg, 100% south indian, so lots of idly and sambar and onions. I've only been there a couple of times because I like my meat for lunch, but it's unusual and interesting.

              I want to put another plug in for the under appreciated Khana Peena in Berkeley, although I don't know if they have a buffet. I miss that place.

              1. re: bbulkow

                They still have it but I don't think they have 1/2 price Tuesday, one Tuesday a month, anymore.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  BBulkow, can you compare recent lunch buffet visits at turmeric with P2I? Is one more authentic vs. westernized than the other? What about each place's bread/rice offerings?

                  It sounds like from other posts that Turmeric has less variety but better quality. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/514988

                  1. re: justtryit

                    We go to Passage more often because it is closer and my kids like it more. It has decent quality, variety, and not too many cream based dishes (a pet peeve of mine - I want to taste spices, not cream). According to my husband, both naan's are just OK. Passage usually has a veggie biryani on their dinner buffet, but it is just OK. Passage also has a few south indian breads, not shining examples, but decent variety. Tumeric has some truly outstanding dishes that make me want to overstuff myself. The carrot halwa at Passage is the only thing there that makes me want to do that. But it is a solid buffet I think.

                    Amber does have great butter chicken, for those that like that. They have a few other dishes that are really good on the buffet, but most are solid IMO, not amazing. Rice is usually just standard saffron rice.

                    I don't like Darbar, but that being said, the same folks opened a place down on El Camino where Southern Spice used to be, and I did like their vindaloo off the menu, as well as an eggplant dish. We haven't been to the buffet there. I find the combination of spices to be less harmonious, not necessarily that it is more flavorful. The last time I was at Darbar, which was admittedly quite some time ago - it was very bland.

                    1. re: jsaimd

                      went to Turmeric for lunch on Monday and thought it was great. There were 13-15 hot entrees to choose from, plus naan, rice, a salad, sauces, and two desserts, all for $10.95. It was quite rich as most of the curries seemed to have quite a bit of cream. Nevertheless I loved it and was very very full afterwards.

                      Will have to find time to try Passage and Amber.

                    2. re: justtryit

                      My vote is for Darbar. It is North Indian. Big spread with fresh dishes, unlike a lot of places which taste as if they've been reheating them for days.

                      1. re: justtryit

                        Just saw this request - I think Turmeric has more selection and better taste than P2I. P2I's a little more every-day. Neither one is particularly Americanized; the customer base for both is indian techie immigrants.

                        Many of the dishes at Darbar are on the bland side - it is palo alto - but the vindaloo's kickin'.

                      2. re: bbulkow


                        2299 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94403

                        Turmeric Restaurant
                        141 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

                        Passage To India
                        1991 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                        Khana Peena Indian Cuisine
                        1889 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                        Suraj Indian Cuisine
                        2550 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA 94061

                        Darbar Indian Cuisine
                        129 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Sorry, but I just went to Khana Peena's lunch buffet on Friday at your recommendation, and I found it to be mediocre, shading to bad. There were few complex flavors, spice or distinction between the dishes. I've had dinner here a few times and found it adequate; much better than the buffet. There was quite a variety of dishes, but none stood out. I would love to find a good Indian Buffet place in Berkeley, but this is just not it.

                        2. re: Steve Green

                          sounds like Amber is a must try. Is there a considerable difference in the quality or variety of food between the SF and MV locations?

                          1. re: justtryit

                            Visited Amber SF last Saturday for lunch. Had the buffet, $20 a person.

                            The food was good, it definitely hit the spot even though I prefer Turmeric in Sunnyvale. There were about a dozen or so hot offerings, which I think is relatively poor variety for a weekend service for $20. Favorites were the chaat "bar", where a man was making liberally spiced, crispy potatoes; freshly brought to the table naan; lamb cardamom stew; saag paneer; and lamb kebab. Catfish was a miss for me, the taste was a bit too tart and it was kept on a serving dish that overcooked it. Also had a chai for $3.25, though I think I prefer The Sentinel's.

                            Overall, I enjoyed it but probably would not go back because of price.

                          2. re: Steve Green

                            I've been to Amber India in Mountain View, and just wanted to comment on atmo/price (food was good, mostly North Indian with some unusual menu options but nothing stands out in my memory) -- haven't been to the SF location, but MV is quite a nice restaurant and prices are above the average Indian place.

                            Now I want to go back for lunch...

                        3. Naan' N Curry has good buffet. The taste is more than acceptable. It has kebabs which is quite good. Last time I requested beef kebabs and they made them specially for us for no additional charge. They only had chicken kebabs. It was around $9 and includes drinks. All the sauces are pretty good.
                          Dinner is around $12 with the same selections as lunch

                          This is the one near Union Square

                          336 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Han

                            I'd like to respectively disagree with the recommendation for Naan 'N Curry for their dinner buffet. I went a few months ago around 6pm for an early dinner. Although I was excited about the look of the buffet ($14.95), once I sat down to eat, every single item was cold. I recommend buying the regular menu instead- at least it's hot!

                            In Marin, I'd recommend Bombay Garden on 4th street and in a pinch, the buffet at India Palace in the Travel Lodge in Mill Valley on 101 is pretty good, too. There's also a place called India Village in a mall on Francisco Blvd that I would recommend.

                            1. re: melisky

                              I agree with melinsky on this one. I like Naan n' Curry and think they make a better naan than a lot of the cheaper places around, and it's a great deal for lunch, but the buffet food is often lukewarm. And curries laden with cream and ghee just aren't appealing when they're lukewarm.

                              1. re: melisky

                                There is a buffet at lunch

                                Taj of Marin
                                909 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

                                India Palace Restaurant
                                707 Redwood Highway, Mill Valley, CA

                                India Village
                                555 Francisco Blvd E # 22, San Rafael, CA

                                1. re: melisky

                                  I second the rec for India Village. I've liked it for a long time, and an Indian friend was here for an extended visit and it became her go-to place. I've had their lunch buffet and like it a lot; it's not as large as some larger places but quite good. Also have ordered from their menu several times. Now i'm getting hungry...

                                  India Village
                                  555 Francisco Blvd E # 22, San Rafael, CA

                              2. My favorite is still Om (Southern Indian) in downtown San Rafael. It's a small buffet compared to some, and changes daily. There are about 12 or 14 hot dishes, as well as cold salad and fruit, and a dessert (usually a cardamom-spiced pudding or similar). The $8.99 buffet includes your choice of a masala dosa or chappathi. Buffets can be bland, but the food at Om is pretty spicy.

                                I think the buffet is lunch-only, but I'm not sure. They started the buffet format about a year ago, but you can still order off the menu.


                                Here are some links to Om discussions on this board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/484136

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: TerriL

                                  I work in San Rafael so I tend to go to Marin locations frequently. My favorites are Om (best food), India Village (best atmosphere), and Lotus (best service). But all are excellent.

                                  1. re: thejab

                                    Om is Southern Indian and very good. India Village is (I assume) Northern Indian. Very different food at the two places. I kind of rotate between them.

                                2. I used to eat lunch at Shiva in Mountain View. I don't know if it's the same, I haven't been for a couple years, but it changed regularly and had items not found in most buffets, like goat curry and bindi. It was very high quality at the time.

                                  Shiva's Indian Restaurant
                                  800 California St Ste 100, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                  1. My favorite Indian buffet is at Bombay Garden near El Camino and Lawrence in Santa Clara, but not enough to recommend such a long road trip down from SF.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: J T

                                      A good alternative to Amber India, in downtown San Carlos on the main drag (and much more scenic than the Amber India Mountain View strip mall neighborhood!): Saffron India Bistro. A daily lunch buffet and 2 evenings a week as well; lunch is $11 (and they give you a $1-off coupon for a next visit), $14 for dinner. Good and tasty (all-you-can-eat) buffet food with hot naan brought to the table, with polite service and a small, charming environment; great masala dishes, butter chicken and tandoori chicken. Gets 4 stars out of 5 at Yelp.

                                      1. re: Mikerman

                                        If you're int raditional Indian fare, Saffron isn't the right choice. Their interpretation of Indian cuisine is quite different with clashing flavors. They do a poor job of indian fusion cuisine.. I'd rather make the trip to Amber India. Also, don't waste your time going to Bombay Palace. The food is terrible and the place is deserted every day. It must be the constant ownership changes.

                                        1. re: gourmetwannabe

                                          Thanks for the information. I don't see much dfference between Saffrron and Amber, taste and selection-wise, and Saffron is much closer to me (and it's less expensive, to boot). But it's been awhile since I ate at Amber and maybe I need another trip back ...

                                    2. I recently discovered the lunch buffet at India Palace in Alameda (about a 5-minute drive through the Webster Tube from downtown Oakland), which is my new favorite Indian buffet in the East Bay.

                                      It's only about $9 and is available Tues-Sat. at lunch only. The selection is great, condiments (e.g., chutneys) are exceptional, and dining room and service are pleasant.

                                      And there's plenty of parking.

                                      India Palace
                                      737 Buena Vista Ave
                                      Alameda, CA 94501
                                      (510) 814-8778‎

                                      1. I ate at Turmeric again last night. The only disappointing thing about Turmeric is that they don't provide fresh naan for the table (it's in the buffet). Good things about Turmeric (this is cut and pasted from a previous Chowhound review I wrote):

                                        I love their $12.95 dinner buffet (Fri. - Sun. only). (Their lunch buffet is $10.95 which is a good deal.) It's not the biggest around (like Bombay Garden or Passage to India), but it's the tastiest.
                                        Here's why:

                                        1) Make your own papdi chaat bar. They provide the "fixins" like the fried round balls as a base, then you pile on raw onions, cooked potato, chickpeas, yogurt sauce, cilantro, tamarind, and mint. (I've never seen this at a buffet before.)

                                        2) Gobi Mussalam. I've never had this dish anywhere else but it consist of giant mounts of baked cauliflower topped with sliced almonds. So good. Even though they rotate dishes this one is almost always in the buffet.

                                        3) Potato and spinach cakes (when they have them).

                                        4) Good quality meat in the boti kabob or malai chicken or whatever they call it. The husband thinks it's a little bland. Even if you think so you can just put some sauce on it from another dish.

                                        5) Lots of great vegetarian dishes to choose from.

                                        6) Everything is well labeled. The servers are super quick to whisk your dirty plates away. (In fact, I think they provide the best buffet service anywhere.) They also keep many of the entrees in covered dishes so they don't get cold or dry out. (Unfortunately the tandoori chicken was dried out because none of the patrons were keeping the lid down like they did for other dishes.)

                                        My Current Indian Buffet Rankings:
                                        1) Turmeric, Sunnyvale (weekday lunch and weekend dinner buffets, check to make sure)
                                        2) Passage to India, Mountain View
                                        3) Priya, Berkeley
                                        4) Bombay Garden, Sunnyvale
                                        5) Mehak, Berkeley
                                        6) Sargam, Walnut Creek
                                        7) Mayuri, Santa Clara
                                        8) Maharaja?, Mtn View --- on Castro St., can't remember name but it's not Sue's, maybe Godavari?
                                        9) Tandoori Mahal, San Francisco
                                        10) Rangoli, San Jose
                                        11) Khana Peena, Berkeley
                                        12) Sahib, Richmond
                                        13) Taj, Sunnyvale
                                        14) Swarna,Walnut Creek
                                        15) Mezbaan, Santa Clara
                                        16) Grand Indian Buffet, Sunnyvale
                                        17) Tandoori Bites, San Jose
                                        18) India Palace, Berkeley
                                        19) Raj, Oakland
                                        20) Nawab, San Mateo
                                        21) Udupi Palace, Sunnyvale

                                        Here's my Yelp list (and map) with detailed reviews:

                                        Highly Raita-d or Aloo-sers?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: katya

                                          I think the buffet at Khana Peena in Rockridge at 5316 College Ave Oakland is great!

                                          $10 for the buffet which includes a soda, chuntney and free hot naan in a beautiful clean outdoor setting. (with cloth napkins and tablecloths)

                                          Plus I find the food always superior in many ways to other Indian buffets I have tried.

                                          Easy parking on the side streets too.

                                          This is one of the best deals in the Bay area.

                                        2. I tried Amber (Yerba Buena Lane)'s buffet lunch on Saturday. Loved the pani puri & bhel puri starters. The palak paneer was delicious, as were the chicken tandoori. And the steamed Nepali momo dumplings were particularly good.

                                          I haven't tried as many Indian restaurants in SF as I'd like to, and some past experiences have been simply awful (Gaylord, Breads of India) unfortunately. Some were good but not outstanding, e.g. Ghazal near Jack London Sq in Oakland, Dosa at Mission, House of Curries in Berkeley, etc.

                                          But Amber's great - perhaps the best & authentic tasting Indian buffet I've had in SF so far.

                                          1. Had lunch at passage to india this afternoon. The owner stopped by the table and let us in on some changes afoot.

                                            She's trying to add some more interesting dishes, but decrease the selection. In a couple of weeks she's going to revamp the serving area for better flow, and is considering a live Dosa station (pick your fillings, cook to order). And make the rotation of dishes more regular, so if you like a particular dish, you can find out when it's in rotation. There was a dark lamb curry that was especially good today.

                                            There were a couple of new dishes I don't think I've had anywhere else. One was a rice with lots of brown spices (cardamom, cinnamon, etc) and very lightly fried. Another involved cauliflower lightly fried with spices (no sauce). Tasty.

                                            She told us the story of the "desi chinese" dishes - there's not that many places that include desi chinese in buffet form, and Indian folk come from all over - "even fremont" - for the taste. To my western palate, it's kind of weird, so I haven't dived in.

                                            P2I's keeping it real, although I do think Tumeric's still pretty far above.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                              Just wanted to chime in about another lunch buffet in San Francisco at Sultan, which happens to be next door to the tendernob location of Naan 'N Curry (skip!). I had lunch there about two weeks ago and I thought overall, the food was very good in contrast to the average meals I've had next door and a good value for $10.95. They bring you a basket of fresh naan when you sit down. The buffet itself had an interesting variety of both North and South Indian as well as a curiously labeled Asian - Chinese? veggie salad, which was the only salad offered, so it made sense somehow.

                                              The spice and heat level was surprisingly high, which was a nice change from the usual Westernized blandness and gave me a good excuse to eat a lot of the rice and bread.

                                              But the highlight of the meal was on the dessert table. Besides the fresh fruit (pineapple and grapes), they offered an amazing saffron bread pudding with a touch of almonds. I'm not a bread pudding fan, but this was truly one of the best things I've tasted in a long time. I wished they offered free chai because I bet it would be really strong here, but you can't have everything, I guess.

                                              Just wanted to give them a shout-out!

                                              340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                              1. re: melisky

                                                We had dinner at Sultan on Valentine's Day [trying to avoid prices that were artificially inflated for the night] and found it to be very good.

                                                From an earlier report on here,
                                                "We had a really nice Tomato Cucumber salad to start [lovely tomatoes that actually tasted like tomato]; DH had Rogan Josh which was excellent. I ordered Spinach Chicken. When the order came, I took a serving and started in on the spinach. Then I took a bite of the chicken and thought, wow this has a really weird texture.

                                                I thought it might have been tofu, but that didn't seem right either. When the waitress was called, she said it was paneer. She quickly apologized for the mistake and wisked it away. The correct dish was brought out in a fairly short time.

                                                We also had Garlic Naan; the naan was really light and fluffy, but there was too much raw garlic on the naan for my taste, my husband thought it was great.

                                                It is a minimalist decorators' dream. There was only 1 piece of "art" on the walls, but that really doesn't add or detract from the food.

                                                The prices were right; entrees were $10 or so."