Let’s talk about buffets. More specifically – let’s talk about Indian lunch buffets.
The quest for a good Indian lunch buffet is one that has consumed me for years. The journey hasn’t been unfruitful – I’ve found delicious Indian to go in gas stations along Hillsborough Street and upscale Indian fusion on Glenwood South, but for the first time, I found an Indian lunch buffet worth talking about. Kadhai: The Indian Wok is located in an unassuming shopping center not far from Crabtree Valley Mall. The walls are a lovely bright yellow and the space is full of natural light and art. The main buffet is strategically located directly to the right of the entrance to entice customers.
I had spent my morning building a cat tower out of cardboard boxes and by the time I was done, it was 1:30pm and I was starving. Lucky for me, Kadhai has a lunch buffet that runs until 2:30pm. For $10.00 I was able to indulge in pulao rice, vegetable fried rice, naan, cabbage bhaji, red kidney beans and potato, broccoli bhaji, aloo gobi masala, saag paneer, chana masala, aloo and mater, (is your head spinning yet?), dal makhani, chicken madras, tandoori chicken, chicken vindaloo and more. I love Indian buffets because the symphony of Indian curries, stews, and sauced vegetables only tastes better the longer it simmers. Kadhai boasts a great variety in dishes for both vegetarians and meat eaters.
Although chicken was the main ingredient in all of the meat dishes, I was pleased to find that the chef had applied different preparations to the chicken for each dish. No matter the cooking method – braised, baked, pan seared – all of the chicken was very moist and well seasoned. The chicken madras and chicken vindaloo stood out for me. The chicken madras wasn’t made in the thick curry sauce I’ve normally had, but instead had subtle coconut cream tones to balance out the strong madras curry spice. The addition of coconut milk also helped to thin out the sauce and let it seep into the rice, which was oh so good. The chicken vindaloo really packed a punch with the bold flavors and had large cuts of dark meat (my favorite!).
Despite everything being chicken, my friends who had gone previously said they were able to enjoy lamb and goat dishes off the buffet, so I’ll just have to come back to try those dishes too.
For vegetarians, the saag paneer is on point. If you don’t know what saag paneer is, that’s ok – just get in your car right now and go try some. We can now be friends. This saag paneer had a lot of things going for it: 1. The paneer had been lightly pan-fried before being tossed into the creamed spiced spinach, 2. They definitely don’t skimp on how much they put in, and 3. The paneer cubes were huge. HUGE. I took a picture with my fork in it for scale. The spinach was creamed and not complete mush, and the paneer was light, but not rubbery. I went back for seconds. And thirds.
The dal makhani was also noteworthy as it was delicious on its own, but also perfect to soak into the rice or scoop up with naan. It tasted so meaty despite the fact there was no meat in it at all. I would note that because the naan is on the hot bar, it was a little dried out (could have also been because I did go towards the end of the lunch period). The naan still served its purpose of being the perfect thing to sop up the sauces, but it wasn’t the fluffy naan that I could eat for days on its own. For those that live for naan, I did notice that it was available to order off the menu, so I’m sure that would fresher than what was available at the buffet.
Lastly, dessert comprised of fresh fruit and rice pudding. The rice pudding was on the floral side. The rice had good bite and was creamy, but whenever I finished a bite, I was left with a nose of what reminded me of my shampoo. I’m not totally in love with eating my shampoo, but hey, that’s just me. All in all, this was a great experience. I was so impressed by the lunch buffet variety and quality. I know the buffet items change, so I can’t wait to go back to eat saag paneer, and hopefully try goat and lamb madras.
Christine Nguyen is a structural engineer working in downtown Raleigh. She is an alumna of NC State University and Virginia Tech where she was a member of the Food Science Club. Christine is an avid traveler, and a lover of good food and company. You can follow her on Instagram @atinywin.