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Jan 14, 2009 01:14 PM

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.

                  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:

                                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.