Masalas: 7301 W 91st St – CLOSED

 Posted by at 4:27 am
Jan 102009
 

Don’t even try to go here on a Sunday afternoon unless you have time. The place is packed with whatever the Hindu equivalent of the “after church crowd” is. I’m telling you, it’s stuffed to the gills with Indian families hitting the buffet en masse. During the week it’s a somewhat different affair, though still largely patronized by Indians. It doesn’t take a genius to know that this is a very, very good sign.

Johnson County is full of good Indian restaurants. I’m not going to venture a guess as to why JoCo seems to have better Indian grub than the city proper, but rest assured it is true. KC has Taj Mahal on Wornall, Korma Sutra in Westport and that place on 39th street that no one I know has ever been to (any place I’m missing?). JoCo has Paradise India, India Palace, Ruchi, Touch of Asia (!), Kabob & Curry and now Masalas, which could be the nicest of them all. This is not a low-brow Indian buffet, but rather a very classy looking establishment with decor that knocks the socks off any other place in the vicinity.

Masalas

For those who haven’t seen it, Masalas is located in the old Ohana Grill building right in front of Whole Foods. It takes up half the building; the other half is clearly under renovation. Since Masalas’ windows are tinted, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought it wasn’t open yet. You can’t see inside at all, so when you approach the doorway and draw aside the heavy curtains it is like entering a secret little world. A secret world that everyone knows about, because this place is doing very good business so far.

The buffet is tucked away in the corner. Dishes are presented in fancy, shiny silver chafing dishes. Several cooks work behind a counter curiously labeled “Masala Factory.” I don’t think the choice here is much larger than any other buffet, but it does seem like there are more vegetarian options. The usual suspects appear: Tandoori chicken, pakorahs, Dal Makhani, Aloo Ghobi, Chicken Tikka Masala, a couple soups, the usual chutneys, two kinds of rice, fruit and other desserts. There was a strange chicken dish that looked just like a Chinese stir-fry that I didn’t even try. No samosas that day either.

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One odd omission on the buffet was Naan, the delicious fluffy bread that is a staple of Indian cuisine. I went back to my table and the server immediately brought out a large basket of freshly baked naan. They do this at Taj Mahal too, and it really makes a huge difference to have it freshly baked.

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I tried a number of dishes and I’ll try to remember what was what. The tandoori chicken was excellent-the only comparable tandoori appears on the India Palace buffet. Chana masala, a delicious chick pea dish was actually surprisingly spicy. I had two helpings. The sweet corn and spinach was also excellent. The ubiquitous butter chicken was way too rich for my taste, and I couldn’t finish it. I had some chicken dish (can’t recall the name) where the meat was all hacked and shredded to hell. Naturally I had high hopes, but it wasn’t all that flavorful. I remember some of the food being a tad on the sweet side. Undoubtedly the high point of the meal was the goat curry. Mind you there is a little gristle and bone to content with, but it is worth the effort to experience the slightly spicy, tangy gravy with a touch of anise flavor.

In general, this is a very good lunch buffet. The service was excellent too. When I came back from a second trip to the buffet, my dirty plate had been cleared, and I had a re-fill and a new napkin. The buffet will set you back $10, a drink another $2, but I really think it is worth the price. If the lunchtime crowds persist, it may become a slight annoyance given the availability of other quality Indian buffets in the area. But anyone who likes Indian food should try Masalas.

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Yelp

India Palace: 9918 W 87th St (OPKS)

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Nov 132007
 

Carrying on the fine tradition of the Indian lunch buffet, India Palace does not disappoint. The place is veritably hopping during lunch hour, but I can’t imagine you would ever have to wait unless you were with a large group.

The buffet itself is about on par with Taj Mahal on Wornall. In other words, very good but don’t eat too much unless you want to belch tikka masala fumes for two days. Actually belching will be the least of your problems.

The restaurant itself is not fancy, and kind of ugly. Vinyl booths, industrial carpet, drop ceiling, etc. But don;t come for the decor, come for the food. The assortment at the buffet is quite impressive for its modest size, and includes everything you could want: samosas, pakoras, vegetables, chicken, lamb, beef, nan, rice, and a variety of deserts, including those weird little doughnut balls soaked in sugar syrup. There’s also a dispenser full of free chai!

I tried everything and everything I had was good except for the chicken samosa. Usually these are vegetarian appetizers filled with a mixture of potato, carrots and spices. The chicken in this samosa was choped to a gritty, fine consistency, and unaccompanied by any friends with better mouthfeel.

Service was really a nonfactor because of the buffet aspect, but the folks were friendly as they seated us and took our money. Speaking of the latter I think the buffet runs 9 bucks–I can’t remember exactly. I’m always on the lookout for good Indian food. Taj Mahal is pretty solid, as is Korma Sutra which has the disadvantage of really odd decor and proximity to drunken westport hooligans on the weekends. I would not travel out to JoCo from KC just to go to India Palace, but if you live or work out that way, it worth a stop for lunch.

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Tikka House: City Market

 Posted by at 8:58 pm
Jun 122007
 

It’s amazing how similar this place is to the Habashi House a few doors down. While ostensibly an “Indian” restaurant, Tikka House pays homage to the Mediterranean region in its humble offerings. It’s mostly lunch-type fare as you can imagine, with several types of Shawarma and curry sandwiches, sides like cucumber salad, rice, tahini salad. The food is about comparable to Habashi too, in terms of price, taste and speed.

The staff is incredibly friendly–and it’s amazing how much of a difference this makes. I’ll eat swill if they don’t treat me like a jerk. With the notable exception of Arthur Bryants. They could spit on my food right in front of me and I’d still eat it and like it.

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