Monday, December 14, 2009

NJ Buffet Masala

Never does an Indian restaurant seem to have a buffet that touches it's a la carte.  But if you want to get a notion of a lot of things at once, or just want a shameful amount of interesting and possibly nutritious food for a low price, here is a guide for Morris County and a bit of the perimeter.

Chand Palace, Parsippany

"Moon Palace" offers vegetarian food every day except Tuesday, when they are closed for lunch and offer a non-veg buffet dinner at their catering hall next door.  What you may find lacking in meatness is largely made up for by thick sauces and dairy, and an array of strong legumes.  Like every buffet I've ever met, the spicing is not overly complex, but the food is always peppery -- if there is any signature here, it is dry heat, this despite cream sauces and oily concoctions.

Every meal features rice, naan (including stuffed), and a station of accompaniments:  relishes, yogurt, and raw vegetables.  Sambhar is also a daily offering, for your dosa (potato crepe) or utthapam (vegetable pancake).  Appetizers tend to be deep fried, and well. 

Entrees are usually the "hits" from the menu, and always include something creamy and something like a dal (stewed lentils).  Most entrees do not feature exotic ingredients, with lotus root and lychee being about as extreme as it gets.  It is, of course, the sauces and seasoning that take this food somewhere else.

It may be my imagination, but there is a medicinal feel to the food at Chand, and I mean that in a good way. It's not surprising, given the care that is put into this restaurant.  Despite fatty and fried aplenty, it is very possible to concoct a healthy and aesthetic meal, with food always warm and fresh.

Saffron, East Hanover

Despite food that is way too oily (and not even with traditional oils), this place can still be pretty amazing.  The chef is a wizard with certain dishes, like anything spinach, and despite having lamb and chicken every day, the vegetable count is higher here than at Chand.  A trio of broccoli, beets, and string beans with garlic and pepper are usually out, next to a handful of vegetarian entrees.

Desserts can be really good, and Saffron's spice tea is the best I've ever had, though one of the army of waitstaff tells me the tea is still lame by Indian standards.   If Chand is (or can be) an elegant and healthful indulgence, Saffron is a bit sloppier and more decadent.  The atmosphere reflects this too, with multiple tiers, Indian relics, and a ceiling painted like the sky. 

Bombay Spice, Bridgewater

Sort of Saffron lite, a homey kitchen in contrast to the more rarified Saffron, whose strength is similarly not (necessarily) entrees.  Bombay excels in fried appetizers, desserts, and madras coffee.  Entrees may be quite good, but can be watery and bland.  Is that a punishable offence in India? 

To their credit, the food is always warm, as most often is the service.

Spice Grill, Parsippany and East Hanover

Same owner, different concepts.  The EH location is closer to fine dining, while Parsippany is more of a casual kitchen.  Both tend to be too oily, but very tasty.   Service is spotty, which is not a problem in Parsippany, but is somewhat off-putting in the full service restaurant.

I stopped going to Parsippany after EH opened, as have pretty much settled on Chand or Saffron when in  Morris County, so things may not be as I write at the Spice Grills.  Definately get a dosa at the EH location if they have it (weekends?), and watch out for the fruit -- it never looks washed.

Begum Palace, Madison

Nice place, if bland.  Sort of Indian for the very pale (Marge Simpson:  "the secret ingredient is salt." )  A good place to go if (for some reason) you want really mild Indian food.

Cloves, Budd Lake

I haven't been here in about a year, and stopped going because nonedible objects too regularly showed up in the dishes.  But despite this (and possibly a few other unsavory practices), the food was good, and  refreshingly different too, relying less on oil and seasoning than featured ingredients.   The atmosphere is dizzying, with spirals everywhere.

Caffe India, Morristown

Caffe milquetoast, with temperature problems to boot.  It's a shame, really, because I have a feeling the chef is an artist. 

Pooja, Warren

The only thing I remember is rice served on plastic wrap, which I suppose is two strikes against the place?

Baadshah, Parsippany

Another place I am sorry to have cut off, but why take chances with the implications of a pesticide notice, when Chand is right down the street?  But Baadshah had good food, Pakistani home-style, and pleasant staff.  I hope they have sorted out their troubles.

Cinnamon, Morris Plains

An extensive buffet, and tasty if a bit junky.  The food is somewhat like the Parsippany Spice Grill's.

The Clay Oven, Ledgewood 

The interior is kind of neat, Ganesh in rustic American comfort.  And metal bristles in my naan.

Udipi Cafe and Ahaar, Parsippany

RIP.  I saw the former go downhill, which is a shame.  Not only was it the only south Indian place for many miles, but the owners were most generous.

And Ahaar spoiled me even more. An astonishing array of dishes were put out for every buffet, and always one if not a handful were exceptional.  The food was spicy and hot, and savory without cream or excessive oil.  Eating here was a treat and an education, and only organic ingredients could up the Ahaar standard.


  1. All good to know. I don't get up to north Jersey much anymore, but when I do I just usually go to The Great Wazu for old time's sake (though I still think that back in the day, Angelo's on Ridgedale made a better sub).

    I did some lunch takeout from Saffron in EH a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised. I got saag chicken, and you're right: awesome spinach.


  2. Jill, I might be wrong here (I'm hoping my rear view mirror deceived me), but last time I drove down Ridgedale Avenue I thought I saw Angelos was gone. Not like "changed hands" or "under new management" but completely not existing--an empty lot. Kind of a downer, although I hadn't been there in probably 25 years.

  3. Bombay’s Dimple Restaurant is one of the best nj indian restaurant, Dimple
    provides special south indian food items, chats,ice creams, cold drinks.
    nj indian restaurant

  4. Bombay Food in NJ is genuine Indian food with guarantee that will never be dissatisfied and will keep you returning for more and more.

    bombay food in nj