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Edmonton RROTM - November: Zaika

Hi Edmontonian Chowhounds,

here are the details for our November restaurant review of the month. Hopefully we can get lots of reviews on this one. I think there were only a couple on the last months!

Restaurant: Zaika Indian Bistro bar
2303 Ellwood Drive
Ellerslie Crossroads

Please post your reviews as a reply to this post at the end of the month.

Thanks! & happy chowing!

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  1. Thanks Cleo for taking the reins on this one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodiesnorth

      Had lunch in their lounge today.

      I'll repost at month's end

      Too bad it is so far from where I live but the Henday does make it more accessible that it would have otherwise been albeit the construction zone in which they are located can be a tad hectic.

    2. Had dinner there on thursday with the wife, the drink special was any bottle $4 so we enjoyed a Singha and a Stella. We both decided on the buffet as it looked very good and fresh. The fish pakora was salmon and looked excellent but the flavor turned out to be pretty bland. The samosas were very tasty and the only complaint I have was i wish there was more dip selection for these as they were missing my favorite kind (not sure what it is called but it is kind of a jelly consistency that is sweet with a bit of spice). The butter chicken was very good, dal was very good, the nan bread was good but i like when they cook it in front of you (no oven in the dining room), lamb curry was okay, rice pudding was good they also had some traditional sweets that i can not comment on as i still have not developed a taste for these. The service was excellent, attentive but not to much so and the price was very reasonable. I definitely go back as this is very close to my house and its nice to see that the area is getting a few non chain restaurants unlike south edmonton common. (will try to work on my review writing skills as it does not compare to some of the reviews posted last month from others)

      3 Replies
      1. re: brigal

        Thanks for the update brigal. Don't worry about your review skills, your post is snappy and to the point; which is perfect! Too bad they didn't have your favorite chutney or raita.. How much was the evening buffet by the way?

        1. re: raidar

          Evening is $17, lunch $12.
          Have been there twice this month so far...can see it happening again before month's end. Will post a review later.

          1. re: Dan G

            going to be away for the rest of the month, so I am posting now :)

            We went early on in the month (4 of us) on a Sunday night. There were lots of big groups there, but we got in right away (6:30pm), no reservations

            I did some research ahead of time about their wine list and I was impressed with their deliberate choice of wines that compliment Indian food. I am glad that I did this as our waitress did not really seem like she new a lot about the wine.

            The service was prompt and friendly, until the end when we went to get our bill, our server had disappeared.

            We all went buffet. I was hoping to do a la carte but could not convince the rest of them. We did order a paneer dish and garlic naan off the menu. The paneer was delicious, rich and creamy with lots of peas. The garlic naan was not as garlicky as in other Indian restos. The buffet is comprehensive, butter chicken, tandoori, pakora, samosa, naan, chana masala, veg korma, goat curry etc. The spice level is definitely toned down, the only one with heat was the eggplant dish. Overall the buffet was good, the best was the fish pakora. my major complaint was the heat, the buffet was warm, not hot, which is one of the reasons I don't like buffets. The dishes were tasty though.

            I wonder if you ordered the items that are found on the buffet as an a la carte dish, if you get fresh, or just what they are making for the buffet? This is the problem I see with having a buffet every night.

            I only go out for Indian about 1x/year. I think considering where it is, I would probably go somewhere closer. It really did not seem any different/better or worse than the other places I have been. I am really not a connoisseur of Indian food though.

      2. This almost worked out. All the way down for lunch one day, even had a peek inside, and a very last minute change of plans had me leaving the premises. I doubt I'll get back in the next few days. It looked pretty sharp inside, which might come with the area (new developments etc..).The takeout menu I grabbed seemed to have the usual assortment of offerings, but then again, I somehow missed the website until now...To December!

        1. Well, I might as well chip in with my 2 cents worth, or 4 since I was there twice.

          First visit…found it hard to find! Monday night around 7 pm,not very busy. Decided to opt for the buffet as probably the best way to try a variety of dishes, and it was a good price.

          Buffet was, generally, very good. Came with fresh made naan, delivered to the table. Just plain, not one of the many varieties they offer, but very good as naan goes.

          Buffet had standard fare, plus a few interesting items you don’t see everywhere, such as paneer makhani (cheese in tomato sauce), which was delicious, and goat curry which I skipped. Though the serving dishes look big, they aren’t very deep so they get refilled often, keeping things like the samosas and rice fresh and hot. There seemed to be someone from the kitchen attending to it at all times. Only thing that I tried that didn’t work well was fish pakora that were tasty, but lacked crispness. Tandoori chicken was moist and meaty.

          Butter chicken was extremely good, wife raved about the channa masala and the bhangan bhartha ( I was going for meat, skipped the veggie items!). All the curries had good sauces, texture wise, creamy, not thin or oily…. And something, or things, had heat, I think it was the paneer and butter chicken, oddly enough.

          Dessert…Had a variety of dessert squares which were interesting…can’t say I liked all of them but that is probably more about me than the quality of the desserts. However, the ras mala, cheese dumplings soaked in a sweetened, thickened milk delicately flavored with cardamom was a hit. Odd…can’t say I liked every bite, but that is what makes it so interesting…the way it varied- would definitely have again.

          Things that could be improved – maybe a rice other than plain. Salad bar was a bit lacking, but who really goes to an Indian buffet for salad bar.

          Unfortunately, woke up around 4 am with absolutely killer heartburn, not sure what to blame it on.

          Second visit, again a Monday night, this time much busier though, and again couldn’t resist the buffet. Some items same…this time naan was on the buffet, they said if they aren’t busy they deliver, but on busy nights leave it out. Got fresh pakora – far better when crispy. Veggie korma had interesting variety of veggies, including baby corn, mushrooms, paneer – thick, lots of vegetables, very flavourful. Yellow dal was a bit lackluster, runny. Eggplant dish was great though, very flavourful and sinus-cleaningly spicy. Basa coconut curry had great sauce, but basa isn’t that interesting – more of a delivery for sauce than a good fish. Butter chicken was similar to previous, but this time had a deep smoky tandoori flavour, maybe best I have ever had on a buffet.

          Desserts – banana pudding was good, rice pudding a bit bland, more of those odd Indian sweet balls…good, but I don’t think I will ever really like Indian desserts.

          Overall, I think it was very good. Will get around to actual menu some day! Since I live in the south end and it is just a jaunt down the Henday, can see me returning. How does it compare to others…probably liked it better than Dawat’s buffet, better than I remember New Asian (haven’t been in a few years because I didn’t think it was very good). Valuewise, very good.

          Have seen comments about the decor, how it is modern, different, etc. Well, it actually just looks like a normal restaurant, dark wood, chrome, leather. In one way, it is a nice change from the traditional Indian decor, but also I don't like the homogeneity...

          1. I checked out Zaika at lunch time on a Sunday. I went for the buffet to try out as many dishes as possible. Sunday at lunch was slow, so my guess is the food sat for a while before I ate it. The food was warm and not hot.

            Here’s my take on the buffet dishes I tried.
            Butter chicken was spicy but not rich so not typical. It’s supposed to be buttery, creamy and tomatoey! Disappointing.
            The chicken biryani rice was spicy hot and not particularly flavourful. Disappointing
            Paneer with corn and mushrooms, tasty and spicy. Very good.
            Chili fish-tasted spicy and flavourful. Yum.
            Vegetable pakoras-heavy and not overly flavourful, likely the result of sitting out for too long and over battered.
            Black chick peas-nice spicy flavour. Very good.
            Lamb stew- Very good lots of flavour, nice sauce that I mopped up with the naan.
            Mango chutney was good, but spicy hot.
            Tried a pickled vegetable of some sort, not sure what but it was tasty.
            Basmati rice, naan and popadum were good, standard Indian fare and prepared competently.
            The salad bar, dessert bar and assorted chutneys all had a decent variety but NO LABELS. The Indian dishes need to be labelled. Also, what’s with the bacon bits, packaged croutons and the Greek salad? Blech. Put more Indian dishes out, how about (Indian) carrot salad?
            Rice pudding very good and flavoured with pistachios and cardomom(?) Tasty!
            Chai tea, OK but nothing memorable.

            I usually go to India Grill on 99th St. Different dishes but about the same in terms of variety. I like spicy hot food, but not just for the sake of the heat. There has to be flavour too!
            I would try it Zaika again and if it were busy, I’d give the buffet another shot, otherwise I would order off the menu.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Saz

              how much are the buffets at India Grill ?

            2. Arrived on a Friday night around 6:30pm without a reservation. The hostess (I think the owner, as I had seen a photo of the owner featured in the Journal) informed us that all dining room tables were full/reserved, but they could accomodate us in the bar area.

              Enjoyed the decor of this place, a very welcome change from the "traditional" Indian restaurant decor. Didn't find eating in the bar area to be any issue....most other tables had food as well. I doubt this place will attract much of a crowd who just shows up for drinks, but who knows.

              Partner and I both had the buffet although we ordered the chaat papdi as an appetizer. Found it to be tasty but the whole dish had obviously been prepared much earlier and then sat in the fridge. A big no-no in my opinion, although unfortunately a lot of restaurants have this problem, normally with ice cold salads.

              Enjoyed the buffet although there seemed to be a lot of "favourites" and not that many interesting choices (butter chicken, channa masala, etc., tandoori chicken). I normally find that the buffet at Dawaat is better and mixing up the choices and offering new dishes, especially more vegetarian dishes.

              All the food we ate was hot and fresh and the crispy stuff was crispy (fish pakoras, very well done).

              I have to admit that although some of the choices were somewhat unoriginal as I mentioned above, they were all very well done and very flavourful.

              I would definitely go back if I were in the area, although I wouldn't make a special trip for it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: egon61

                how much are the buffets at Dawaat?

              2. Lunch buffet $12

                Lunch time had a few people so service was pretty good. Although it was a darker, tone on tone decor, we still like the look of the resturant. The resturant itself looked clean and seeing waiters clean the tables and take of the buffet circle was a good sign.

                Aloo Tikki:Mashed potato patties with green peas and spices. Warm and losing the crispiness but tasty.

                Amritsari Fish: excellent, freshly frind, fish was tender and crispy without greasiness.

                Kashiri Biryani: basmati rice with veggies and pakora and spices. Mild.
                Steamed white basmati rice.
                Would have liked to seen saffron rice. Still pretty good

                Palak Paneer:homemade cheese with thick creamy spinach sauce. Very spinachy and big cubes of cheese

                Chana Masala: chick peas spicy nice

                Goat Curry: tender flavorful very good.

                Butter Chicken, Tomato creamy sauce with large pieces of chicken

                Tandori chicken

                Plain naan fresh

                Salad bar was a bit strange and un-indianish with no labels on the desert or the salad / side dishes.
                We thought this was a great buffet. We found it spicy flavorful. If they had samosas we would have been even happier. Hopefully after the quality does not go down after the newness wears out.

                4 Replies
                1. re: chewy_bakah

                  sounds like they change the items on the buffet regularly, good to know!

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Most of what I intended to say has already been said by others so I will not bore you with it.

                    I dropped in at the lunch hour since after reading about it, I had a craving for East Indian food. Initially had some difficulty locating it given all of the construction but pulled into a completely empty parking lot. I was the only person in the place except for the hostess and server in the bar.

                    I elected to sit at the bar and over the next 15 or 20 minutes a number of groups arrived so that by the time I left, the restaurant and parking lot were full.

                    I did not know what to order and was going to order from their appetizers but then elected to go the buffet route as it smelled good. That is something for me as generally speaking, I LOATHE buffets. The dal and curried goat dishes were very good although you had to be careful with the bones in the latter.

                    All in all, I enjoyed what I ate and probably would go back if I lived in the area. Mind you with the Henday, it is not that far time wise to get from the west end.

                    One question for those of you more familiar with East Indian food and buffets. What is the proper etiquette? Are all "buffets", "as much as you can eat" or are you supposed to restrict one's self to a plate? I ask as I have seen differing advertisements.

                    That evening, my appetite having been whetted for more curry I dropped into the Darwaat location in Mayfield Common and assisted by a helpful server ordered a number of dishes to take home. I preferred Zaika. Mind you some take out dishes just do not "translate" and are negatively affected by the travel time as anything breaded or deep fried suffered.

                    I would like to go back to Zaika with a number of people and try and share various dishes.

                    My British friends who love their curry are more prone to order a dish per person and some rice rather than a lot of choices taking a bit from many which is my preference.

                    1. re: Bob Mac

                      I don't think I have been to an Indian buffet that wasn't all you can eat, except there is a tiny one in RIverbend Square that is one plate only at lunch, but it is very inexpensive.

                      Certainly at both Zaika and Dawaat I have made more than one trip to the buffet, and have seen most people do likewise. I usually end up doing multiple plates because I prefer to put a small portion on my plate and not have the sauces run together.

                      I was at Zaika again two nights ago (I do l live fairly close), and again good food (again, the buffet). Butter chicken was more tomato-ey and very spicy. New additions were a potato and bamboo curry (bamboo was inch-long rounds rather than sliced) that was good, but bamboo itself isn't that interesting. And a yoghurt curry, that was a thin but rich sauce, loads of cumin seeds in it, and pakoras cooked in it. Delicious!

                      1. re: Dan G

                        I haven't had the opportunity to try their buffet but have ordered a la carte and take outs - both occasions won positive reviews with dining companions. I also liked that they didn't "dumb" down the spiciness of the vindaloo we ordered. The server did ask us how much spiciness we can handle though.

                        I was initially attracted by their selections of appetizers, they have a few items that differ from your usual pakora and samosa. Having visited India in the past, I have cravings for the gol gappa and papri chaat from time to time (they are essentially snacks sold by street vendors). If you don't want to venture out to an East Indian grocery to put together some of these, you can get some at this place.

                2. I was there again one night last week (worked late, and it's by far the best in terms of quality/location for where I live). On our way out, we made a reservation for a group next week, and the owner wondered if we had an idea yet would be doing buffet or menu. We said probably buffet, and she actually asked if there were any particular items we would want...wrote them down in the calender... that's good buffet service!

                  1. Inspite of having the best tasting indian food, many Edmontonian chowhounders did not recognize India Garden. But I`m happy that its sister establishment Zaika was noticed. Both restaurants don`t catch your eyes because they are located in industrial areas.