So after that rant, you can see my disgust towards buffet-style restaurants. But this proved me entirely wrong. After a swim that day, my body was exhausted and in serious need of food. I stepped in line expecting the worst, and instead, my nose proved me wrong. I inhaled the scent of curry, remembering recipes I have made in the past with the wondrous mixture of spices: da'al, kitcheri, vegetable curry with coconut milk… I ladled generous amounts of the mustard-colored stews filled with slightly crisp vegetables, the spinach paneer, and the samosas. I was in vegetarian food heaven. I finally gave up to my plate as I had stuffed so much onto it that I was afraid of it falling. (Another reason being that I was embarrassed at the amount of food I would be bringing to the table - and already planning for seconds of the items I missed.)
I sat down on the plastic-upholstered forest-green seat, and began to moan inside at the food going down my throat. The da'al was creamy and somewhat sweet. The spinach paneer had a lovely softness that, when spooned onto the homemade na'an, tasted more velvety, and made me question what the family put into this to make it so smooth and buttery. Speaking of the na'an, it reminded me of my mom's pancakes, browned from the ghee. I am reminded again at my need to make this. The samosas were undoubtedly the best I have ever eaten. They took on their distinct coriander flavor and contrasted every other delicacy with a thick, fried crust that snapped in my mouth as I lovingly chewed. I refreshed my palate with a bright mango lassi. The color implied its freshness as it cooled my mouth, preparing it for another bite of the exquisite food.
I completed the meal with gulab jamun, a fried dessert made by simmering full-fat milk for hours leaving the milk solids, then rolling them into balls and immersing them in a saffron honey syrup. How can that not be good? I tried this with gajar ka halwa: a grated carrot dessert with cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios, almonds, condensed milk, and sometimes vark, an edible gold leaf. I washed all this down with a milky chai tea. It was absolutely impeccable. I was extremely full, but it was worth it for the experience in which I partook. And now I know why Chuck and his friends visit this restaurant for its Tuesday night buffet. Americanized mass-produced food waiting in greasy steam-tables it is not. This food is Indian splendor.