A well-prepared Indian lunch buffet is a near perfect meal.
Flavorful braised meats, vegetables in rich sauces, spicy pulses, and mounds of steaming rice—the bounty fills plates at easy-to-digest prices. Emperor of India, new to the LynLake neighborhood in May, checks all the boxes.
A row of platters hold bubbling batches of butter chicken, curry chicken, chile beef, creamy saag paneer, chana masala, and tender but not mushy mixed vegetables. Line your plate with yellow, lemon-scented rice or the standard white basmati. Or do as we did, and get both. Buffets were made for this embarassment of riches.
The food is kept piping hot—the sure sign of a well-tended buffet—and the naan seems to be baked fresh in small batches, though that might have been a response to a mostly empty dining room. Perhaps for the same reason, service was remarkably attentive, even eager. Our all-smiles server made sure no discarded plate sat for more than a few moments and no water glass neared the half-full mark without being refreshed.
Save for a paint job and the sitar music, the space isn't much changed from its former incarnates, Prairie Dogs and before that the Gray House. Neither restaurant stuck it out for more than a few years, a result, according to some, of the curse of the 610 Lake Street location. To that we say: Hogwash!
At least we hope it's hogwash. Emperor of India is one of those small businesses we would like to last in the ever-gentrifying greater Uptown area, where a recent dispute between a landlord and Dulono's Pizza (which had a generous lunch buffet of its own) led the pizza joint to shutter its doors after decades in the neihgborhood.
Developers take heed: The amenity of a $10.99 midday feast cannot be overstated.
Emperor of India
610 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
Lunch buffet, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.