Monday, February 15, 2016

Nirvana Indian Restaurant: Me vs. Buffet

Just because it's a "buffet" doesn't necessarily mean it's preceded with "all you can eat". Unless the food is really, really, really good. (:
Chicken Tandoori hot from the kitchen
A few weeks ago, with my superpowers feeling spent, the wind howling, and snow in the air, I made my way out to Nirvana Indian Restaurant, located on Western Turnpike in Altamont, to try their buffet lunch ($8.99 per person).  When I walked in the door and got a hit of those enticing smokey smells, warmth, and all that food, I knew I had to put some serious superwillpower  to work.

Too weak. One of our servers immediately brought over a sizzling plate of Chicken Tandoori, one for each of us. Charred, tender little drumsticks, nice and spicy - I was told there were more for the asking, but I heard that shiny line of warming trays calling my name and so I just smiled my thanks. Knowing there was more made it a bit easier to restrain myself before the first round.

Round One: I started light, the Sweet Bean and Pea Salad with carrots and onion was delicious, a nice surprise, crunchy and refreshing with lots of textures and color. I also tried the Red Onion, Cucumber and Tomato Salad - very simple, very oniony, black pepper, vinegar - this was a nice foil for some of the other dishes I would try later, but alone it was a bit brash.  A small mound of brown basmati rice (that was nice; white also available), along with a bit of hot tea, and I found my strength was returning, but clearly, not my resolve.
All the offerings were clearly labeled
Round Two included Chicken Malabar - a mild, slightly sweet coconut curry with potatoes, Channa Saag - a spinach and chickpea stew that was creamy and packed some heat, a bit of Lemon Pickle - ferocious and hot hot hot and very sour, with pits (good I think but I didn't know how to eat it), and Poriyal - broccoli with onion and black mustard seeds and more of those chilies, tender but not at all mushy. I usually avoid bread at buffets, but the Naan was hot and soft, waiting patiently for me at the end of the line, and so many dishes called for a way to soak up the sauce. I only took two, maybe three, I don't remember exactly. But I digress.
A nice big buffet with lots of choice - not the "usual" 
Round three:  By now the room was busy but the chafing dishes were kept stocked and it was easy to get to them without crowding, so I edged my way in to try the Dalmakhani Lentils - spicy, complex, creamy and delicious, the Goat Curry - not super tender but not tough, drenched in a rich, dark, aromatic broth, a Vegetable Makhani - very good, with an interesting tomato cream sauce, and the Gobi Mutter - cauliflower, potatoes, peas, this was a nice shift in tastes to something mild and soothing. They had Fish Sticks as one of the choices, which I thought odd - they were bland and greasy and heavily breaded (and cold - yes, I tried one), until I saw a family with two young children, and guess what the kids were eating?
Fish Sticks, Lentils, and Goat Curry. Guess which one is not like the others?
Certainly there were plenty of vegetarian options to choose from, and, overall, lots of variety and not all the "usual" choices. Also many bowls of chutneys and pickles on the lineup - the sweet mango chutney was particularly good.

A nice selection of condiments and a few simple salads to tease your palate

Now that I was surely full and then some, I tried the Rice Kheer, a classic Indian rice pudding laced with cardamom. Then I had one more bowl. I mean, after all that, why stop now!??? Yes, it was that good. But I was happyfull, content even, and feeling cozy. We talked to a few of the other patrons - everyone seemed very friendly, and the service was also very good, kind and attentive.

OK, not to gripe, but the place could really use a facelift - a bit worn down inside and out - but if business is good maybe they can make that happen.

Those little burners went out before we left, and the lids were always left up, but the buffet was clean and well tended
This time, Buffet won. And so, with a gentle burp, I look forward to my next visit to see if I have the superwillpower to beat the buffet at Nirvana. It'll be tough. It's that good.

Zena Goddess of Fire

1 comment:

Albany Landlord said...

Thanks for the thorough review so I can pick the best stuff and not be forced to try everything as you were... ;) I have to try this place.