The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 24 August 2007

Indian @ Chola, New York

Indian cuisine is one of Rob's many favourite food to eat, and we may have found an Indian buffet spread that beat our old favourite in Perth. Apparently, Chola is Zagat-rated as one of the top three Indian restaurants in NYC. I wasn't even aware Chola served a buffet lunch when I booked a table for Sunday lunch, however, after being seated, we were asked if we wanted the buffet or order from the menu. Naturally, we wanted to first find out the price of dishes and see if the buffet would work out to be a better value. A brief look at the menu showed that main course dishes were between $15 and $25, which are quite reasonable. I wanted to have a good dining experience here, and thought that perhaps the buffet was not going to provide for that, but when I asked the floor manager which dishes he'd recommend, he said the buffet "is the best". When we asked for the price of the buffet, we thought we'd heard him wrong when he said $13.95 (excl tax) - but when the bill came, sure enough, the buffet deal was cheaper than one main course dish!

It's a nice "fine-dining" restaurant, and 90% of the staff in the restaurant were Indian. The floor manager had a very thick Indian accent, so I have no doubt that the food is authentically prepared. Service was also good. I'm not sure if that was because I took out my camera to take photos of food (after asking for permission, of course), but I really cannot fault the service at Chola. The buffet table was also closely monitored and any nearly-empty containers (for lack of a better word) were always topped up.

The buffet spread included the usual favourites like Lamb Rogan Josh, Madras Chicken, yummy Chicken Biriyani and Gulab Jamun (sweet dumplings which they called cheese dumplings, but back in Perth it's called milk dumplings). There were also numerous dishes that I wasn't familiar with (the Indian names didn't help much either) like Sambhar and Dal Makhani (black lentils). Including all the rice and breads, there were at least 15 hot dishes.

At the table, we were given a few things not available on the buffet table like Tandoori Chicken, grilled naan bread (oh, how I tried so hard not to fill up too much on the naan), Masala Dosa (crepes filled with potatoes and peas - which was delicious, by the way), Indian-spiced crispy munchies and a really yummy chickpea/yoghurt/tomato-ey salad-like dish. We also ordered Mango Lassi which was very tasty in all its mango-ey goodness.

As we all know, Indian food is so rich that it didn't take long for us to fill up quick to the point of bursting. Man, how many times have I said we ought to avoid buffets? The bill came to around $40 (excl tips) - I'd honestly expected to spend more than that for much less food. So why is this better than our experience at Red Turban? There was more variety in the flavour of the dishes - more different types of spices and ingredients were used, and there were also many dishes that we tried for the first time. Oh, and it's also cheaper!

Indeed, all this good eating is responsible for the extra 2kgs I'm carrying around since coming to New York three weeks ago. It's just as well that I've been able to get back into weight training for the first time in the past year - hopefully my body is utilising all this eating to form muscles, not fat!

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