Many fine Indian restaurants in Minnesota serve up a lunch buffet, but not all of these smorgasbords are created equal. At some locations, the spread is no more than glorified leftovers from last night's dinner. At Taste of India in St. Louis Park, it's the perfect introduction to a cuisine that's best explored by trying a bit of everything.
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Taste of India has been serving lunch and dinner since 1995 and has garnered a reputation for rich flavorful curries. If you are new to Indian cuisine, this well-stocked buffet is a great way to get your bearings. For $9.99, you'll get a steady selection of entrees that varies enough to keep the frequent visitor intrigued, but stays close enough to the classics to welcome the uninitiated.
Vegetarian dishes are marked as such, as are dishes that qualify as spicy -- though nothing at the buffet exceeds what would be described as medium hot at most restaurants in town. Most Indian buffets place white rice, basmati rice, and a basic naan in the first handful of hot plates. Rejoice if the naan container is empty; you will likely receive some fresh hot naan brought to your table in no time.
On the day we visited we started with Chicken Makhani. This tomato-based chicken dish takes already tender tandoori chicken and surrounds it with delicious Indian spices and a creamy tomato sauce. When ladled atop white rice, the understated tomato flavor left plenty of room for the warm masala, which is a blanket term for a melange of spices frequently used in Indian cuisine. In addition to the makhani we grabbed a bit of naan to dip into the selection of sauces at the end of the buffet. The sauce selection generally includes a variety of chutneys including tamarind and mint as well as a pickled onion spread. A personal favorite of ours is the mint chutney spread on a drumstick of tandoori chicken. The mint chutney works less like a traditional Western mint dressing and more like a strong salt, bringing out the flavor of the chicken.
For vegetarians, Taste of India does not disappoint (though if your group is majority vegetarian, we recommend Gandhi Mahal instead for its larger selection of vegetarian entrees). The matar paneer has petite chunks of paneer (mild Indian cheese) mixed with fresh green peas in a vegetarian gravy-like sauce. In general we found that the meat dishes (including the tender and nicely spiced beef curry) matched best with the white rice while the vegetarian dishes benefited from the more textured basmati rice. The dessert spread is fairly traditional -- creamy rice pudding and milk balls in sweet syrup -- but don't fret about saving room; the sweet treats are not where Taste of India excels. Your best bet for the end of the meal is grabbing some of their sliced fruit to cleanse your palate.
The Taste of India buffet earns extra credit for continuing to serve a menu during their lunch hours. For many eaters, buffet-style dining is a deal-breaker, but here a party can pick and choose whether to have the buffet or order off the menu.
The Taste of India buffet is served seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On weekdays it costs $9.99 and on the weekends, when they serve more entrees, the price bumps up to $11.99.