Every city seems to have a street that is filled with Indian restaurants. In New York there’s 6th St., in Chicago there’s Devon Ave., in Madrid it’s the Chueca neighborhood and Artesia, California is teeming with Indian restaurants and stores.
In Fort Lauderdale you have to head out of the city, to the towns nestled between University Drive and State Road 7, Pembroke Pines, Lauderhill, and Plantation. Pembroke Pines has the biggest concentration of Indian and Southeast Asian residents, so it’s no surprise that it also has the most Indian restaurants.
I tend to prefer dining buffet style at Indian restaurants. It allows you to sample a wide variety of dishes, which is difficult to do unless you’re with a large group. On the buffet at most places you’ll find a variety of cold dishes, such as sliced and/or pickled vegetables, assorted chutneys (tamarind is sweet, the green is a spicy mint-based condiment) and raita (a yogurt sauce).
Many also offer lentil soup and a simple dessert or two; usually carrot or rice pudding and fried dough in syrup known as gulab jamun. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll have mango ice cream. Most buffets will also deliver. Some also bring tandoori chicken and naan (a warm flatbread) to the table.
Many Indian restaurants offer buffet lunches, even if they usually offer only table service in the evening. Buffets are a great option for lunch. There’s no need to wait for your server to deliver the food and have to wolf it down at the last minute. And, as a bonus, the prices are usually cheaper.
17085 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines
The lunch buffet features about a dozen dishes, including channa masala (chickpeas, onions and tomatoes mildly spiced), vegetable saag (mixed vegetables in a pureed creamy spinach sauce) and kadai (mixed vegetables tossed with onions, bell peppers, fenugreek and fresh coriander). These were just a few of the vegetable offerings, as well as a delightful vermicelli noodle dish and jasmine rice. Meat options included, chicken tikka masala (juicy pieces of chicken breast in a creamy tomato and cashew sauce), chicken chutneywala (a spicy curry with mango, mint, ginger and coriander), malabar (goat cooked in coconut curry with onions, potatoes and dry red chiles).
The buffet is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and on
Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. Not only is it the best Indian buffet I’ve found in South Florida, it is the most reasonably priced, ($9.95 weekdays, $14.99 weekends). Bonus points for also being the cleanest restaurant I’ve visited in a long time.
Taste Buds of India
7881 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs
Granted this place is a little farther out than the rest, but if the buffet is anywhere near as good as the food was when we stopped for dinner, you’ll be in for a treat. The vegetable samosa (fried patties stuffed with potatoes and peas) were delicious, even if the serving was a bit skimpy. On the other hand, the portion of lasooni gobi (crispy cauliflower florets tossed in a spicy tomato sauce almost like General Tso’s chicken) was plentiful and filling.
Lamb vindaloo was a perfect example of the spicy curry dish with just the right hint of vinegar and panak paneer (spinach puree with cheese curd) was creamy and rich. Both were served with jasmine rice. Unfortunately the $12.95 buffet is served Saturdays only.
3060 N Andrews, Wilton Manors
Bombay Café’s buffet offers lentil and chicken soups, fresh salad vegetables with assorted chutneys and vegetable pakora (mildly spiced vegetable fritters). The tandoori chicken brought to the table is not only dry and tough; the same portion is delivered whether you have two or four diners. Buffet items include dal makhani (lentils with onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes), chana masala (spicy chick peas), aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes in mildly spiced sauce) and palak paneer (we couldn’t find any cheese in the dish), chicken tikka masala and goat curry. The food is seldom as fresh as it should be, given how busy the place can get, and steam table pans sometimes wait far too long to be replenished.
The lunch buffet is served Sunday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. -3 p.m. ($9.95, week days, $11.95 on Sunday and on Wednesday and Sunday evenings from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
3801 Griffin Rd., Davie
If you prefer your Indian food served without any flavor, this is the place for you. Every dish is so lacking in spice that it could pass for baby food. When I mentioned that the food seemed bland to our server, she replied, “That’s how our customers like it.” WTF? Why eat Indian food if you don’t want spicy? Even after asking my waitress that question and upon seeing a plate of untouched food, she still charged me. She must be right about the customers though, we had to wait nearly 20 minutes for a table and there was a line out the door. The buffet is available lunch times only, 11:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. every day of the week for $9.95.
West to India?
Other places to sample Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine in the University/State Rd. 7 Corridor.
Woodlands, 4816 N University Dr., Lauderhill, 954-749-3221
Ali’s Roti Shop, 303 S. State Rd. 7, Plantation, 954-533-6017
Krishna Vegetarian Cuisine, 8344 W. Oakland Park, Sunrise, 954-747-1299
Joy’s Roti Delight, 1235 N. State Rd. 7, Lauderhill, 954-587-7700
Udupi Café, 2100 N. University Dr., Sunrise, 954-748-5660
India House, 1711 N. University, Plantation, 954-565-5701
Bollywood Biryani, 8270 Griffin Rd., Davie, 954-680-1916
Flavors of India, 2088 N. University, Pembroke Pines, 954-433-4343
Indian Chilies, 4465 N. University, Lauderhill, 954-741-8388
Shalama’s Halal Roti Shop, 1432 N. State Rd. 7, Margate, 954-977-6753
Paradise Indian, 8097 W. Oakland Park, Sunrise, 954-206-4723