Indian buffets let you eat cheaply and well, offering a variety of meat and meatless dishes full of textures and spice. Our five favorites follow. They’re all-you-can-eat, oft-changing, and just plain good. By Jessica Allen.
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Chola, in east midtown, offers the buffet to end all buffets. You get all you want of meat dishes like creamy chicken korma and lamb with mustard seeds, coconut, and onions, veggie staples like dal, okra and spinach, two kinds of rice (pilau and biryani), snacks like idli and mini fried lentil donuts known as medhu vada, and a dessert. In addition, chaat, naan, and tandori chicken will be brought to your table. Leave here hungry? Pshaw. We’re pretty sure it can’t be done.
When it comes to Jackson Heights, many people favor Jackson Diner. No doubt it’s an institution and well-deserving of its popularity, but we prefer Delhi Heights. Fewer crowds, for one, more choices, for another. And for a third: big bright windows that look out onto one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. Depending on the day, the buffet may boast butter chicken, chicken kebabs, potato balls, vegetarian manchurian meatballs, and biryani.
Owned by the same group as Chola, Dhaba serves a similarly super spread every day at lunch, with a focus on specialities of the Punjab. This means meat and more meat, such as goat curry and murgh bharta (chicken and eggplant), as well as saag paneer (spinach and cheese), alo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), biryani, samosa chaat, naan and roti, and—here’s what really sold us—both milky, creamy rasmalai and sweet, dense halwa for dessert.
Unlike the other restaurants on this list, Tiffin Wallah specializes in the cuisine of Southern Indian. Its vegetarian delights include uttapam (rice and lentil pancakes packed with peas, onions, or tomatoes), dosas (fried lentil crepes stuffed with potatoes or other mixtures), fried cauliflower florets, yellow dal, baigan bharta (eggplant, tomato, and onion), and chana saag (chickpeas and spinach in a cream sauce). See for yourself at the weekday lunch buffet.
Among the offerings at this popular Indian buffet in Astoria are alo matar (potatoes and peas), dal, palak paneer (spinach and cheese), tomatoey chicken tikka masala, lamb curry, and vegetable pakoras (deep fried disks of onions, potatoes, cauliflower, and other vegetables). The naan—the buttery, chewy, pillowy, fluffy naan—earns particular raves for its aforementioned qualities. Everything served at Namaste is certified halal.