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|August 13 - 19, 2009
• How to eat breakfast
What you eat in the morning can make or break your day
by Julie Deardorff
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Saag, spice and everything nice
Tandoori Grill perfects the Indian buffet
It’s been a while since our last foray to a local Indian buffet, and in the interim I’ve developed a trick or two to better put these subcontinental groaning boards to the test. For instance, any buffet is at its best at the start of lunch hour when the steam trays are loaded with curries and meats, and the countertops free of errant splatters of dahl. The trick then is to show up around 1 p.m. and see if a restaurant can keep the buffet hot, presentable and adequately replenished.
With this in mind, colleagues Laurie-Jo, Carin, and her newborn son, Sam, joined me in investigating the $9.49 lunch buffet at South Boulder’s Tandoori Grill. The grill’s soothing red earth tones and contemplative music unobtrusively pouring through the speakers made for a pleasantly mellow experience. Later in the meal, this comforting atmosphere helped the baby, to turn a phrase, sleep like a baby.
Initially, we found nothing surprising about the buffet offerings. There was the typical assortment of curries, and hearty meatless choices such as dahl, which suited vegetarian Laurie-Jo just fine. Carnivores like Carin and myself honed in on the poultry, including the restaurant’s namesake chicken. Whether a dish was meatless or not, we quickly came to the conclusion that adding something extra made nearly all the buffet selections here outshine the competition.
It was a hot day, and cooling beverages were the first order of business. While the $3.50 mango lassi wasn’t cheap, it provided outstanding refreshment. Tending more towards the tang of tropical fruit than yogurt, this traditional drink possessed just the right amount of sweetness, which is to say, not too much.
After a few sips, we swooped down on the sparkling buffet, which likely looked as good as it did when the restaurant started serving. To Laurie-Jo’s joy, meatless choices abounded, including a remarkable tarka dahl, which possessed not only the obligatory lentils, but also weighty kidney beans. Expertly spiced, this protein-laden dish had unexpected depth for something simply containing beans and lentils, with a noticeable but not overwhelming level of heat. More bland was the filling chickpea curry, although the garbanzos happily hadn’t gone mushy in the steam tray.
Like the dahl, the saag had an unexpected element. In addition to spinach, this selection included cabbage. While I at first wondered if this was a cost-cutting measure of some sort, I welcomed the addition of this leafy vegetable, as it seemed to lighten the mineral-like qualities of the spinach. The pakora fried vegetables weren’t crisp, but that’s the price one pays for being able to immediately access them out of the steam tray. These fritters couldn’t be faulted on flavor, and both the mint and roasted tomato chutneys added cooling zing.
The chicken curry was fine, although not as memorable as some of the other meaty choices. I appreciated that the tandoori chicken lacked the food coloring common in many versions, and this moist poultry had a subtly smoky flavor reminiscent of good barbecue.
The flavor profile was enhanced by chile and a splash of lemon. Carin and I agreed our favorite was the impossibly airy meatballs in a piquant masala gravy, shot through with lamb flavor. As we departed, we all agreed the Tandoori Grill passed the buffet test with flying colors.
Clay’s obscurity corner
Originating in the Punjab region, lassi is available both in salted and sweet versions. Less familiar in the U.S., salted versions add pepper and spices commonly associated with savory dishes such as cumin. Another version that you’re unlikely to find in the U.S. (at least not legally) is bhang lassi. Bhang is derived from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant, and is either smoked or taken in liquid form. The Indian state of Rajasthan is a popular destination for tourists seeking out this beverage, which is available from allegedly government-authorized shops in a variety of strength levels.
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