Updates (2009) on Indian restaurants in Philly area
Rather than having to plow through long threads on the already existing subjects on Indian restaurants in the Philly area, particularly in the western suburbs, I thought it might be helpful to start a new thread on the matter of changes which may be of interest to patrons of such restaurants.
As of early July 2009, here is what I noticed regarding two restaurants in the western suburbs ...
Bawarchi (in Chesterbrook Shopping Center, PA) - they obtained additional space by way of the business that used to be located adjacent to their location (the inside wall where the buffet trays used to be).
When I was there, they were still in the process of fixing up the new room. It had an ugly floor design which didn't match their original space and I trust they will be doing something about that floor design! Their buffet setup was moved to the other side near the back of the main dining area. Same food, same vareity, same taste, same price. (I still recommend, but be warned that there are very few desserts - the rest of the buffet makes up for this, though.)
side note: it is said that the sign of an authentic and decent "ethnic" restaurant is the presence of a large number of people, percentage wise, "native" to the cuisine area of that restaurant. On the day I was at Bawarchi, there were very few patrons there who were not from India. The food there is more "exotic" with fewer recognizable tastes to the western taste buds, so I'd think this restaurant would appeal to those people who are more used to the Hyderabad cuisine and/or who find the seasonings appealing.
Taste of India (at Gateway Shopping Center in Wayne, PA) - as of last week, I saw a sign taped to the front window informing of "Lunch Buffet $7.95 plus tax, Monday - Thursday, $8.95 plus tax Friday - Sunday. This price change is a huge drop from the previously increased prices. I don't know if the price change is due to slower summer business, the tough economic environment with fewer people being able to afford to eat out, and/ior competition in the area from other restaurants which had underpriced them. Plus, I don't know if the buffet is the same as it was in previous years, i.e. if $7.95 and $8.95 gets you the same variety and quality as before.
Chinnar (in Wayne, PA). - there has been a large sign on its front window informing of the lunch buffet now offering soup as well as a salad bar. Prevously, Chinnar did not offer soup as part of its lunch buffet.(It should be noted that the one time I was there and had the soup, it was very bland and lacked any distinctive "Indian spice" flavor.). The salad bar was barely different from its past offering of the basics for a salad. Still had a very large variety of main meal and side dishes in its lunch buffet as well as lassi and tea as part of its buffet. Most of the patrons were non-Indian. I was surpised to see the number of Indians present in light of the availability of other Indian restaurants in the area serving more authentic Indian flavored foods. Chinnar still offers a very satisfying variety of foods in its lunch buffet at a very reasonable price.
Some highs and lows of a recent trip to Chinnar ...
Was in the mood for some food that tasted home-cooked, not restaurant style. Also didn't want to be blown away by spicy and oily tasting food, and also wanted a nice variety. Mission accomplished!
The surprise was a dish C had at the lunch buffet I had never seen before here - dal tarka. It was excellent - really really good. One of the best I have ever tasted. In fact, this is the best dish I have ever had here.
Even the tomato soup tasted very good - somewhere between canned soup and what I have had at Taste of India. It did taste rich and had a hint of something special (in the way of spices) added to it - and it was hot!
The other buffet dishes were the usual (meaning good) - even the chicken tandoori impressed me with its crispy exterior and flavorful taste. The curry chicken was weak on the flavor (curry) side.
There was a vegetable dish that was a combination of various items - almost tasted like a combination of roasted vegetables and lightly fried - it was good.
The baingan bharta was decent.
What I just don't get is what C does with its saag paneer. I have never seen it prepared the way they do at any other restaurant. Although the paneer looks "normal," the saag is a very bright green color, is very soupy, and has a taste that to my palate is not agreeable. With its flavorful treatment of all other dishes (and I have yet to have any other dish here that is not "likeable"), I just don't get why they treat this dish so differently (at least to my taste - maybe other people like the taste).
On a cold day, having such a great variety of dishes offered, flavored mildly, and without much oil as some other restaurants, is a great way to enjoy lunch.
Chinnar has a very pleasant ambience, also. A nice place to have a quiet lunch.
Note - as with Bawarchi, there are few desserts, but with all the other satisfying dishes, it's hard to have room for anything else. (There is mango lassi and masala tea offered as part of the lunch buffet, as well as a salad with some various additions.)
It was time to revisit Taste of India on the weekend for its lunch buffet after having been away for years, and desiring its "variety" after having been to a few other Indian restaurants with less variety. On a colder day, I preferred to take in the "heavier" food of TOI at the risk of not being able to exercise self-discipline.
TOI tends to feature more of the "favorites" on the weekend, so I knew I could count on the Mulligatawney (vegetarian lentil) and at least be assured of having chana masala, as well as a choice of dozens of desserts.
The price is back down to $8.99, so how can one go wrong? All they have to do is have at least a few favorites and the trip is worthwhile. Such was the case with my visit.
I went there on an empty stomach, like any pro would do. The mulligatawney soup was satisfying - not spicy like what I remembered from years ago, but for a thick lentil soup better than what I have had elsewhere. There were the usual salads, my favorite being the generic one (consisting of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, red onions), which I mixed with raita; it is a nice compliment to the mulligatawny soup. There was also a "punjabi" salad, which was spicier and consisted of more exotic vegetables.
On the "chat" table were various fried items to use as the holder for the finely cut up red onions and diced tomatoes, along with chick peas.
The last time I had TOI's version of sambar, it was not very appealing - it was too sour for me. I preferred the version of this "soup" I had had at Devi in Exton and at Bawarchi. But ... today, this soup was out of this world. It was very very spicy, bursting with flavor, and filled with all kinds of vegetables. It reminde me of the days at TOI years ago when I fantasized about just having soup and salad with naan and how that would be sufficient.
Dosas were more like what a person told me an "uppma" (??) is like - more of a pancake batter. Inside the folded over dough was a slightly flavored potato mixture. Nothing special, but ok.
The other standout of the day was the chicken tandoori. I say that TOI has the most flavorful chicken tandoori of any such restaruant serving a lunch buffet. I like the combination of the chicken mixed with the chana masala. TOI tends to make chana masala more soupy, and so with this extra "sauce," it goes together well with the "drier" chicken that is removed from the bones.
The alu gobi was ok - it had more of a bitter taste to it today than I recall from the past. The dish was mostly cauliflower vs. more potatoes. I like a more even combination of the two.
The eggplant dish was not bainghan bharta but some shredded version of eggplant in a sauce that was too oily to my liking. Chinaar does a much better version of this, albeit without much flavor, but cooked in what would seem to be a healthier less oily manner.
Pakoras were in a sauce. I prefer to eat pakoras in a drier state and combine them with a chutney.
Paneer was in a thick tikka masala sauce. While the sauce was very rich, the paneer were not moist and chewy, but rather dried out and tough. Maybe some people like them that way. I have had them prepared differently, and I prefer them soft, moist, and more of the consistency of soft tofu cubes.
The naan was very good today. There were various drinks available at the "chat" table, including Indian masala tea (labeled "with milk"). I made the mistake of taking some mango lassi after my meal, and drinking that rich drink after having had all the chicken, the soups, the breads, and the rich dishes, caused me to nearly explode!! (dairy has a way of taking one over the edge and filling one's stomach up quickly).
There was a very nice assortment of desserts ranging from the traditional "dairy" basied ones (kheer - which today was thicker than it normally is, which is what I like), mango pudding squares, galub jamun, carrot halwa, various sweets including small cut carrot cake type squares wit a frosting (too dense and sweet to my preference, but they looked very appealing!) to very appealing freshly cut squares of honeydew. Not having been to TOI for its weekend buffet in years, I opted out for the mango pudding squares and one small carrot cake square. If I was in control of my faculties, I would have chosen the honeydew!!! Clearly the best and healthiest choice.
Even though there were some dishes that were subpar (the tough paneer, the excess use of oil in some dishes, and the overabundance of sauces in some of the dishes), there were a few that were knockouts (like their version of sambar which stands alone as a meal in itself), which justify a return trip, and a more judicious manner of eating.
Not having been here in awhile, its space, offering, and flavor reminded me of why I come back here. Nice table cloth coverings on the tables, richly flavored foods, and a selection of foods at the lunch buffet that covers the gamut from soups to breads, to salads to desserts and everything in between. One simply has to exercise some caution with discriminating between the "healthier " dishes and the richer ones which are so available to indulge in.
In sum, I credit TOI for providing such a large variety of foods for patrons to enjoy for a weekend buffet, and to keep the prices at a very affordable level.
Thanks for the detailed review. If I remember correctly, TOI serves a super flavorful garlic naan and equally good puffy bread on the weekends - YUM. I'm surprised you didn't opt for the rasmalai (sp) for dessert. It's hit or miss - depending on whether they are leftover from the week prior, but I definitely leave room for a couple of them. I agree that the oily sauces at TOI will be better suited in the winter months. I just hope the prices remain the same.
Correction in my Nov. 24, 2009 post ...
"Dosas were more like what a person told me an "uppma" (??) is like - more of a pancake batter. " ....
"Uppma" should have been "uttapam.". I am not sure if this is what TOI made for what looked like potato dosas. Their dough is thicker and airier than dosas I have had elsewhere. I think uttapam is what they were, but I don't know for certain.
Yes, on the weekend, there are more breads. This was the first time I have been to a weekend lunch buffet at TOI where parathas were not offered. No problem - they tend to be pretty oily. On the day I was there, there were puris, which are also quite oily. These didn't look too bad. I just stayed with the naan, which was very delicious - they were plain. I have never been to TOI when they have featured garlic naan as part of the lunch buffet. With the very spicy sambar, the plain naan and dosas were a fine compliment.
I did have rasmalai, perhaps at some other restaurant, and they tasted very plain, like a cheese ball in a milky sauce. I read a recipe for it which includes pistachios and almond paste, as well as cream, cheese, sugar, etc. Now, if TOI uses those ingredients, I can understand why you recommend them. On my next trip, I will sample one.
But keep in mind, on my last trip, for desserts, I passed up on the carrot halwa, honeydew, galub jamun, kheer, and countless other desserts.
I would have been content, as I said, to have just had the sambar with the salad and naan dunked in some raita and I would have been just as happy.
I also meant to refer to the table cloths as "linen table cloths." Their appearance does help to enrich the appearance of the table settings. I think for the size of the restaurant (which is small), the physical ambience is "warm."
I would now label Bawarchi's ambience "cool." Come to think of it, given the nature of the cuisine and the style of cooking based on the locale, perhaps it's no accident that the ambience is what it is.
Haven't been to Royal India in a long time, and I remembered when I first walked into its original space, I felt its ambience was "warm" (they also do north Indian style cooking with heavier sauces).
I can't seem to edit my last post, so here is what I wanted to change at the beginning of that post ...
Correction in my Nov. 24, 2009 post ...
"Chat" should have been spelled "chaat."
The "fried holders" at the "chat table" are what is called, "pani puris."
And the bread that I thought was puris at the main buffet table were probably bhaturas.
"Uppma" should have been "uttapam.". The dough for the dosas at TOI is thicker and airier than that of the dosas I have had elsewhere which leads me to believe that they are what is called, "uttapam," but I am not sure..
Yes, on the weekend, there are more breads. This was the first time I have been to a weekend lunch buffet at TOI where parathas were not offered. No problem - they tend to be pretty oily. On the day I was there, there were the naan and the bhaturas. . I just stayed with the naan, which was very delicious - they were plain. I have never been to TOI when they have featured garlic naan as part of the lunch buffet. With the very spicy sambar, the plain naan and dosas were a fine compliment.
A reminder to folks who are thinking of going to Taste of India ...
Sometimes their main entree selections at the lunch buffet are excellent and other times, they are lacking in imagination, but ... even with those occassional shortcomings, there is still something very enjoyable ... witness my last experience ...
The chana masala was way too salty and thin, and the zucchini dish was immersed in too much mashed sauce to my liking which hid the taste of the vegetable. Perhaps some other ingredient, such as oil, was helping to mask the flavor of the vegetable.
The vegetarian dishes consisted of the chana masala, the zucchini dish, paneer tikka masala, a version of mattar paneer that was different from what I am used to (it was very good), and pakoras in a sauce. There was also their usual abundant salads and sambar (which contained the most variety of vegetables in any dish I saw that day). For a pure vegetarian, I am not sure that the selection of dishes on that day would have been as satisfying as dishes they have had on other days, or what is offered at Chinnar or Aman's.
What was truly excellent on my visit was the tomato soup. I cannot imagine this soup being any better than what I had. It was the best tomato soup I have ever had. It was very rich (yes, they use cream) and also had some very mouth watering herbs and/or spices that created magic in my mouth. Even though there was rich cream in the soup, the spices created some heat. And speaking of heat, when I finished the cup of soup, there was still steam coming out of the cup.
The sambar provided a different kind of soup experience. The uttapam mixed with mint chutney helped to offset the heat of the sambar.
The chicken tandoori was very flavorful and different from the bland chicken other restaurants tend to make involving, as another poster commented, a coating that appears to be "burned" on the surface of the chicken. With TOI, that coating seems to be infused in to the chicken.
TOI on the weekend tends to have a huge variety of desserts. They normally have some sort of custard/pudding squares among them which normally are mango flavored. On my visit these squares were green-colored. They had a flavor I had never had before and they were very refreshing. The only thing I can compare them to is some sort of fragrant honeydew-type flavor with some exotic Indian spice flavors. They were very refreshing and satisfying. They had some burfi pastry squares with the edible silver topping (vark?). They tasted very buttery yet contained no butter. The carrot halwa was very delicious - that, I assume DID have butter (!!). Fresh honeydew pieces were very good, too.
So, even with the selection of vegetarian dishes which didn't appeal to me so much that day, there was still many other items to enjoy.
It always amazes me when I see people pass up on trying the soups and sambar. If you ever go to TOI and see "tomato soup," don't assume it's the tomato soup you know of. I have had it here before - sometimes it is overly sweet and rich, and other days, it is like something you might imagine having at a very expensive gourmet restaurant. On this day, they made the tomato soup that would have won a prize for the best ever made.
For the price they charge for the weekend buffet, there is great value in their offering.
ah, i have nothing to contribute except to say this thread makes me miss working in that area and having a car. i haven't been to any of these wonderful places in a year now, as it was one year ago today i was laid off. where does the time go?! great reviews, felafelboy; always appreciated!!!
There's a new Indian restaurant in East Norriton (I think) on Germantown Pike called Bombay High.
They've been open maybe 2 weeks and the food is pretty good. (Not as good as Aman's but that's our favorite so we're biased).
The service isn't the best, but perhaps that's a kink they'll work out in time.
The weekly advertising flyer for various stores and restaurants had an ad for Bombay High. The ad referred to a "grand lunch buffet" every day. The site given was bombay-high.com.
What makes their food not "as good" as that of Aman's? Been to its lunch buffet? I would be interested in their selection, such as the variety of vegetarian dishes, soups, salads, dals, rice, desserts.
I really like the selection of main dishes at the lunch buffet at Chinnar, the dal selections at Bawarchi, and the overall selection at Royal India and Taste of India (the last two have great soups, salads, and a large variety of desserts to go along with everything else they offer. Chinnar and Bawarchi offer a very limited selection of desserts.)
If I find that Bombay High offers something different from the other restaurants closer to me, I will make a trip up there.
Haha, my husband loves tandoori chicken b/c it's usually the only non-spicy or mildly spicy item on the buffet. He dips it in raita.
I'm not a fan of Desi. My husband's co-worker is Pakistani and he told us that a lot of the food is Pakistani-influenced, which may explain why the food tastes a bit off to me.
I am not Indian but I lived in India for six years in the 1970’s and love Indian food. Although I did not order tandoori dishes for at least twenty years now I find myself ordering tandoori with some regularity. The reason is that I, or my friends wife, can cook many Indian dishes at home but we can only simulate tandoori because we do not have a tandoor. Your description of tandoori is very unfair I remember eating terrific tandoori at Moti Mahal in old Delhi and Bukhara in New Delhi and Karim’s in old Delhi. Tandoori is a wonderful cooking technique and unique to India. Although, I must say that there are very few restaurants in the USA that make great tandoori but all Indian restaurants offer tandoori. There is also the fact that authentic chicken makhani cannot be made without tandoori chicken.
Good to hear from someone with a more experienced background in Indian cuisine than most of us here who did not grow up with that cuisine.
I assume that you are partial to the regional cooking you are most familiar with due to your background. I understand that makes a difference in preference for spice/flavor and preparation.
I wonder what common aspect you find most appealing between DV an B, the two restaurants you indentified as your favorites.
Regarding tandoori chicken ... a neighbor of mine (from India) told me that most tc made in restaurants doesn't resemble the tc she identified. She talked of how flavorful it can be. I have had tc at various restaurants that resembles what you describe, but ... the tc I have had at Taste of India impresses me as having more flavor, which is why I have come to enjoy that dish at their buffet with the other vegetable dishes that tend to be swimming in an abundance of sauce.
What region of India are you from, and what characterizes its cuisine? That would help to put your comments in the context of the restaurant preferences you made. (south Indians I understand would be partial to cuisine from that part of the country and people from the Punjab and north would find another cuisine more "favorable.")
Hadn't eaten at Taste of India in the Gateway Shopping Center in Wayne ever since they increased their weekly lunch buffet price to over $11. It is still at the $7.99 price I saw advertised on its door over the summer.
The smell of the restaurant, politely put, was not like I ever remembered it, but the food was the same.
Since I have eaten "lighter" versions of Indian food since my last trip here, the heaviness of the food was noticeable - it was still very tasty, but heavy with oil, cream, and buttery seasonings and additions.
The rice was noticeably different from the rice at other places, in that it was coated in some sort of light oil. It was good, but not as light as one would find at other nearby restaurants.
The chana masala was much more flavorable than at other restaruants I have been to. Although the saag paneer was very flavorful, the amount of cream in it made it richer than it had to be.
I was always a fan of the way that TOI did its chicken tandoori, and its moistness and flavor was superior to that of the same dish I have had elsewhere which is a weaker version of this.
There was some sort of zucchini and potato dish which was quite heavy.
Excellent fresh green salad filled with all kinds of vegetables. There was a pakora dish consisting of the pakoras immersed in a heavy sauce. I passed on that and the other fried vegetable dish.
Lots of desserts. Seeing all the sweets here makes this place a dessert paradise for sweet lovers. There was a very attractive assortment of traditional Indian sweets consisting of very colorful burfis and laddus. I took a few small samples of each and almost felt like they made the trip worthwhile (even though the delicious flavor of the chana masala was still working its magic in me). TOI's version of carrot halwa is much more buttery than that I have had at Chinnar and Bawarchi which is basically grated carrots with a hint of butter, spice, and sugar. The one dessert at TOI I also had on this day was a mango pudding square - its not overly sweet and is sort of refreshing.
Since my last trip here over a year ago, I did notice the addition of two items not previously offered during the week - mango lassi and Indian tea. Previously, only places like Chinnar offered them as part of the lunch buffet during the week. Guess TOI figures it has to complete with the competition so it gave in.
In the middle of the week, this restaurant was less than half filled. Considering its price for the buffet and the variety of items, it deserved to be more crowded. I would recommend this kind of food when the weather starts getting much colder. This heavier food is more conducive to that kind of weather.
Due to previous trips here, I have learned to eat in moderation, and to take only very small samples of various sweets, to avoid the heavier fried and creamy dishes, and to take a smaller selection of main meal dishes. It worked.
re: Displaced California Foodie
We love Tiffin, it's our go-to place for guaranteed great food! We usually go to the one on Girard Ave, but did check out the Mt. Airy location a month or so ago. We were not disappointed. Plus, we've learned they're opening another one in Elkins Park, very close to where we live! Yahoo!
re: Hungryin theBurbs
we live right by the mt. airy tiffin.
really like the food; we'd go there more often, but:
-if you eat there, you really feel like you're not the priority. not that they're rude or anything, it's just clear that take out and delivery are their thing, not eat-in;
-if you get take out, it's like a plastics party. i know that getting take out will require some plastic containers, but they just seem to go out of their way to maximize the amount of plastic you get.
so, we still eat their food, just not as much as we would otherwise.
I've taken full advantage of TOI's price reduction. They are seriously hurting for business. It's odd when only a few tables are occupied during a Friday lunch hour.
And I have to say that the lowered price hasn't really affected the selection. They haven't substituted a "cheap" dish for a meat dish. Everything seems the same to me. Though I can't help but think that the decrease in patronage means that some of the dishes are more likely to be reheated leftovers.
It is amazing isn't it that the quality and variety has remained the same?
Then again, the price was at this leve before they increased it dramatically. I wonder how many people were driven away - permanently when they increased the price to nearly $11 during the week and close to $15 for the weekend buffets.
I had little desire to return given that there were alternatives in the area - and ... unless I am celebrating a certain occassion, that amount of money for a casual lunch fill is out of my budget.
And yes, I am well aware that to get these iems ala carte any other time would cost at least twice as much, so even at the higher level, relatively speaking, it was still a bargain. And the price that TOI now charges for the weekend buffet should drive traffic back in - it's a great bargain and great value for the restaurant dollar.
But, the going rate for these lunch buffets in most of these restaurants during the week is around $9. Bawarchi charges more (with tax around $9.50) and has a much smaller variety of dishes, but there are a few that are not available at most of the other Indian restaurants that do north Indian/Punjabi style.
Every so often, I have a craving for sambar, idlis, vadas, and the tasty dal that is served there. The other dishes are mediocre.
At Taste of India, you get such a variety. You just have to be prepared to ingest foods prepared with alot of high fat ingredients. As I mentioned, the display of desserts during midweek was worth the trip to the place in itself. The tray of differently colored sweets (laddus, burfis) is like nothing I have seen at any other restaurant in the area (and that includes Royal Indian, Himalyan, Gateway to India, Jaipur, Desi Village, Devi, Bawarchi, and Chinnar).
I was surprised that with the smaller number of people, there were ADDITIONAL items as part of the lunch buffet, such as the mango lassi and Indian tea, that previously were not offered during the week lunch buffet.
I do enjoy fewer people in the restaurant, but I know that the price paid for an affordable buffet with many options is support by the public.
Maybe the cutbacks by companies in the area has had its affect on people who frequent the restaurant. The other restaurants in the Gateway Shopping Center seemed to be doing ok. For a few extra dollars, I'd rather go to these luch buffets to get a sampling of more dishes than to be limited to just a salad, sandwhich and a drink.
And as I said before, for anyone who views this area as distant to where they live, it is well worth the 45 to 60 minute drive to choose among the favorites we have recommended.
I have yet to visit Tiffin due to its location being close to another place that serves Indian food of a very authentic variety. And ... I do prefer the buffets as a lunch option.
I wanted to add, that the host at Bawarchi is very hospitable and appeciative of patrons, as you also find at Chinnar. At some of the other restaurants, the manner is not so expressive in this way .... if you know what I mean. Could be a cultural thing, but a "thank you for your business" gesture either by word or look is something that does convey good will - its absence conveys taking a business transaction for granted.
I hope the public continues to support these restaurants.
I appreciate your informative posts, FelafelBoy.
I agree that the host at Bawarchi is friendly and hospitable. I did not get that same impression at Taste of India.
Unfortunately, I think that horrendous flooring in the "new wing" at Bawarchi is there to stay. I saw them installing it when they first expanded into the former nail salon. Not sure what they were thinking...
ShakenNotStirred - your appreciation is appreciated!
I agree with you about the design of the new room. The flooring design and ambience does not match with the warm ambience conveyed by the hospitality of the servers and host. It is better suited for the interior of a large department store to encourage people to remain in an agitated state of mind moving to the next purchase, not sitting down to a relaxing meal. The large squares and design of the floor tiling don't match the feeling conveyed by the overhead chandeliers. It's a total mismatch.
I enjoyed the food on my last visit - the flavors from the Hyderabad cuisine style of cooking yields a result that no other restaurant in the area matches, from the flavors in the sambar (filled with large chunks of vegetables including squash, onions, and carrots) to the dal and navraton korma. My favorite dish on this day were the baby eggplants immersed in a very pleasantly flavored sauce. Those eggplants melted in my mouth!
The naan was very moist, and the vadas tasted like they had just been removed from the deep fryer - the exterior were very crunchy and the interior was moist and chewy.
I skipped the pakoras/fritters, due to the appearance of them consisting of mostly fried batter with very litle vegetable filling.
Two kinds of rice were very appealing - plain basmati and yellow rice including small nuts. These plain rices mixed well with the other dishes that complimented the dryness of the rice.
Chicken tandoori was very moist.
On this day, there was an interesting salda - very small bits of green cabbage and red pepper. Mixed with slices of carrots and cucumbers topped with raita made a refreshing combination.
The three desserts did not appeal to me this day - freshly cut canteloupe, galub jamun, and some soupy looking dairy dessert.
Perhaps if I hadn't had so much sambar, I might have enjoyed the masala tea as part of the buffet with the galub jamun. That is one nice finishing touch that Taste of India has - the selection and taste of the desserts. No one comes close to what they do for their lunch buffet offering in this regard.
It should be noted, that the flavors at Bawarchi may not appeal to the American palate that is more used to "familiar" flavors.
The negatives on my visit included the following - the appeal of certain smells is a subjective thing, and for me, on this day, the smell from the kind of incense being burned was repelling - it had a bitter smell and interfered with the pleasant aroma and taste of the food. The smell reminded me of what I remember as being the smell from the "smudging" done at native American ceremonies. It is meant of cleansing and hygeine, i believe. I have smelled various kinds of incense, and this was the most repelling I have ever smelled. Also on this day, tracks from the more raucous part of "Slumdog Millionaire" were being played. The combination of the smells, the sounds, and the sight (of the flooring in the new room) made for an experience that was unpleasant. Fortunately, most of the food was good and the servers and host were pleasant.
Smells are important in enjoying the taste of food, and on this day, the smell of the kind of incense burned was at odds with the aroma and flavor of the food.
Experiences like this encourage me to occassionally visit, and to revisit other Indian restaurants in the area that offer a different ambience, variety, and flavor (and more desserts!)
It should be noted that Bawarchi 's lunch buffet is one dollar more than that of TOI. I understood that when TOI was getting more traffic, but now it seems the other way around. Bawarchi was 60 percent filled, including the use of its new room. The higher cost of the buffet I could see in the quality of the food and perhaps the pay of the personnel. With TOI, you simply get a larger variety of food.
I noticed that at Bawarchi, items are cut up more delicately (other than the vegetables in the sambar), wheras at TOI, things are cut in larger chunks and cooked with more oil - that might be in keeping with the climate these cuisines originate - one from a hot climate, the other from a colder one, necessitating appropriate cooking techniques.
I definitely did not feel as bloated after eating at the buffet at Bawarchi (I actually felt "normal") vs. the way I feel after eating at TOI.
Thank you for your "heads up." Yes, Elkins Park is a schlep for me, as much as driving to CC, which is why I still haven't been able to get myself to get to Minar Palace for its saag paneer. The few days I have been to CC, the place has either been closed (on its "day of rest"), or I have been too busy. Didn't even make it to Sitar India on the one day I was in West Philly enjoying a blissful music concert across the street.(The music was just as delicious as I am sure the food would have been.)
Interesting that Tiffin is opening up places where there is not much competition. They might have a tough time in the Exton-Malvern-Wayne-King of Prussia-Norristown-Montgomeryville-N. Wales area with all the Indian restaurants here. I don't know of any places in this area that do not serve a lunch buffet. Without that option, they might find it very difficult to draw anything but a dinner crowd.
Sitar India Restaurant
60 S 38th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
re: Displaced California Foodie
To respond to your request, here goes ...my comments refer to the lunch buffet offering ...
first, let me say, if you read through the various threads pertaining to your request, you will get a sense of what appeals to you.
What is best to me may not be best for you, so I will touch on the strong points of a few restaurants that I have been to in the past (have not been to many in the last year, so things may have changed). I will not comment on restaurants I have not had a personal experience with and suggest you read the comments of folks who have been to places in areas such as Montgomeryville and N. Wales (one restaurant has been panned repeatedly, the other is supposed to be decent).
My favorites in the western suburbs of the area referred to in my recent posts ...
Taste of India -
pros - north Indian food, intense rich creamy flavors, flavors are less sour than those found in south Indian cuisine (barely a taste of curry leaves being used to flavor dishes here or anything else creating a sour taste, other than the sambar which they serve on the weekend, which tends to be very sour), large variety of selections for the lunch buffet (caution - food is very rich, not diet food, and hospitality is conveyed in a way that lacks of "warmth" and "attention" or "appreciation for one's patronage"), outstanding selection and quality of desserts, may have lowest price of any such buffet in the area for this cuisine - considering the selection and taste, best value now, pleasant but small interior with nice tablecloths.
Bawarchi - the only south Indian cuisine style restaurant in the area outside of Exton-based Devi. Exotic flavors, decent variety of foods, very hospitable staff. (slightly higher priced lunch buffet).
Few desserts and unimaginable at that. Decor is bizarre and last visit I had there was affected by the ambience (of the mismatch between the music, choice of incense being burned, and the sight of the floor tiling in the new room). One of the few places that leave you with the feeling of having eaten healthy food (other than the fried batter foods) no matter how much you have eaten, and allow you to leave the restaurant not feeling like you acquired the mass of another body from the portions you have consumed.
Chinnar - the best in the area for people who want a large variety of dishes at a buffet and who do not want to eat spicy food. Most mildly flavored Indian food of any place I have been to. Some dishes there would be acceptable even to people who claim that they do not like Indian food -that's how mild the seasoning is. Chinnar tends to offer the most popular dishes in its buffet, so as far as a choice of foods, one would rarely be disappointed in not finding something that is recognizable and appealing.
Royal India - more north Indian style, sort of like TOI, with much better dal makhani. Shorter serving time for buffet, tends to run out of food quickly. Nice selection, good quality. RI sometimes serves "Indo-Chinese" styled dishes. If that is your preference, you might like the availability of such dishes at an Indian restaurant. A new area opened up for eating at RI - I haven't been there since this addition, so I can't comment on the new "ambience," and feel of the place.
Himalayan - decent quality, nice selection, pleasantly flavored dishes, north Indian style (not sour at all). Negative - sometimes the dishes get too oily and desserts though many in number do not match the quality you'd find at TOI. I have been to H for the buffet where there was only one or two appealing main entrees. At RI, TOI, Chinnar, and Bawarchi, there are always - always, many appealing dishes to choose from.
Devi - healthy south Indian vegetarian dishes. The best sambar of any restaurant in the suburbs hands down. Limited variety of foods, very plain but functional decor.
Aman - basic home cooked style dishes, mildly flavored, food prepared in way that is not oily like some other places.
Other restaurants in the area you may enjoy. I find them to be very average and sometimes subpar. If you find any that are noteable, please share your experiences. I think there is a place called, "Dosa Hut" in Eagleville near Jeffersonville. Haven't eaten there, so I can't comment.
I sometimes go to particular restaurants mainly because I am in the mood for a particular dish or flavor. Let us know of your adventures! You may want to let us know how some places are in Bensalem that do vegetarian cuisine.
From what I have heard, the most authentic Indian cooking is done by individuals from India in their residential kitchens, and by devotees at the various Hindu temples.
You can sample some of this kind of food at the various Indian festivals that are held in the area at various times of the year in different venues.
re: Displaced California Foodie
Try Aman's in the K-Mart plaza on DeKalb Pike in East Norriton. There are a number of strings on this on the PA Board. We went based on Chowhound recommendations and liked it a lot . We definitely plan to go back. The food and the service were excellent, and it's very much a family-oriented place.