This is one of the tougher assignments I have given myself since the dawn of CMH Gourmand. There are over 40 Indian Restaurants in Columbus and at least 1/2 of them offer a regular weekly/daily buffet. The other challenge, I was pretty sure I found my winner at the beginning of my research but I did press on. So instead of listing all of the Indian Buffets sampled I’m opting to list a combination of the best, the best known and those that are off the beaten path or off your radar.
And to make things more manageable in my quest, I took vegetarian only buffets off the exploration list. The winner in that category is Udipi.
Before we begin, a bit of cultural observation. The explosion of Indian restaurants in Columbus in the 21st century is a great thing and may be a surprise to a few people. Pre 2000, there was just a handful of Indian restaurants operating, with the most prominent located in the OSU campus area. Two things have fueled the growth of Indian cuisine – more adventuresome palettes grown by a more diverse citizenry and a large and growing population of Indians in our community (thank you OSU and IT consulting firms). If there was ever a cuisine that was meant to be in buffet format it is Indian food. There is some much to learn, so many flavors and styles, that for many, the buffet is the best introduction to the flavors of India.
1470 Grandview Ave, Grandview
Highlight: Aggressive on refilling your water
Kid Friendly Quotient 1 (crowded space)
Aab is a well-known name in Ohio with other locations in the state. The price for the buffet is $12.35 including tax (I had water on each visit). Ten dishes are offered as well as a small condiment area with two chutneys and two desserts. The layout of the restaurant and the placement of the buffet area is not ideal for customer flow. The place is also very crowded which makes it very loud. I typically eat at the bar. This is the most expensive option for the least amount of variety. They are very good about keeping everything filled and do better than any other place at this task.
Amul India Restaurant
5871 Sawmill Rd, Dublin
Highlight: desserts, variety
Kid Friendly Quotient 4 (space to spread out, high chairs)
Amul impressed me on each visit. The price for the buffet is 8.99 ($9.66 including tax) Monday to Thursday. There are 14 entrée dishes in a line up that changes up frequently. The buffet also features soup, a variety of chaats, 3 to 4 desserts including a house made ice cream and some nice flourishes such as carrots cut into stars and artistic cucumbers. Service is attentive. All of the dishes are well labeled and list core ingredients. The menu is about 1/2 vegetarian and 1/2 carnivore. Ingredients, sauces, etc. taste fresh and flavorful.
The ambiance is good with a mix of booths and tables. There is light background music on which is neither intrusive or annoying. A few highlights. Amul has the best preparation of Tandoori chicken. It is always moist and tender to the bone not dry or over cooked like most buffet Tandoori chicken. I really enjoy the bhatura bread (which I do not find commonly at most places) it has a donut quality to it but is still very light.
The layout is well thought out and efficient which allows customers to flow through quickly by spreading out food in three different stations.
Dakshin Indian Bistro (Also a location in Cleveland)
8631 Sancus Blvd (moving to (?): 8380 High Street Columbus
It appears this location may be moving to High Street at some point in the future. Currently it buried in a strip mall behind Tilted Kilt. The place is non descript on the outside. Walking inside it is a medium-sized space that is fairly chaotic. The host stand is a small podium that blends into the back area and there is such a swirling of staff that is difficult to determine who to connect with to get started with the buffet.
The quality and diversity of the food is good and the layout keeps guests from getting too bunched up. A few items seemed a bit out of place – vegetables with rice noodles, Baby Corn Manchuria and Jamaican Curry Chicken seemed a bit out of the wheelhouse. Also of note – an assortment of musical instruments mount the wall as decoration. A couple oddball notes about this place. They offer a Midnight Biryani on Friday and Saturday until 1 am. They seem to have a connection to Venky’s Spice House. The cost for the buffet was $11.76.
Highlight: Variety of dishes
Kid Friendly Quotient 2 (crowded, chaotic space)
Kohinoor Indian Cuisine
76 Powell Rd, Lewis Center
Highlight: chutneys, tomato rice
Kid Friendly Quotient 3.5 (smaller spaces, loud music)
Kohinoor resides in a building that has been a graveyard for restaurants and I think this restaurant shares a similar future. The buffet was $9.56 or $9.66 (I could not see a price posted anywhere and I could not quite understand my host when he told me the price. There are a total of 15 dishes featured (including dessert) and a small chutney station/cart. The amount of each dish was fairly limited so if there were a lot of people dining at the same time I think there would be availability issues. There is a mix of meat and vegetarian entrees. The vegetarian dishes were all great – very fresh and flavorful with a few I had not encountered before. The meat based entrees were largely – meh, a bit bland and nothing exciting. The music was too loud but sounded like some type of Buddhist meditative chanting. On the flip side the six chutneys I tried were all superior and may be the best in the city for flavor and balance. I hope this restaurant makes it so drop in for the buffet to help keep this place afloat.
4989 Cleveland Ave, Columbus
I heard this place had a buffet but when I visited there was no sign or indication of a buffet past, present or future. Based on the size of the space I do not see how they could do so even if they wanted to. Two things that are worth noting. They have a drive thru pick up window and an outdoor patio.
New India Restaurant
5226 Bethel Center Mall, Columbus (near Philville)
Highlight: buffet management, Chicken Korma
Kid Friendly Quotient 4 (booths are more kid friendly and I forgot to look for kids seats).
To my recollection, this may have been the second Indian Buffet I visited – ever – long, long ago. One claim to fame this restaurant has is placement in what I refer to as the Bethel Road International Food Court – a small area of two retail strips which houses two decent Chinese restaurants, a NY style Pizza by the Slice shop, a Turkish Restaurant, an Italian Restaurant (with a buffet I forgot about) a Gyro / Kabab shop and Los Guachos – all within about 1/4 mile radius. This clocked in as the cheapest of all of the Indian buffets sampled at $8.59. Twelve main dishes are offered so a little less quantity than the typical buffet but I will note that no location is as meticulous with dish management as New India – the staff are constantly monitoring, stirring, etc., each dish. Two dishes that they do very well are Chicken Korma (nice spice) and Chicken Pakora (which tastes like a good fried chicken tender and moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside). Also noted, I rarely see Indians dine here at lunch time but always see Koreans and Chinese I do not no the correlation or causation or meaning of this observation but it is a trend. New Delhi offers the buffet each day of the week which is a bonus.
Persis Karaikudi and Biryani Grill
195 E Campus View Blvd (Crosswoods)
Highlight: friendly service, chaat (station?) see photo below, Tandoori Chicken, Wings
Kid Friendly Quotient 3.75 (booths are more kid friendly and I forgot to look for kids seats).
This space has been home to at least three previous Indian Restaurants and probably even more owners. The sign for the previous restaurant – Chutney’s is still prominent on the building so the paper sign for Persis is easy to miss. Also, don’t try to walk through the door on the right – that is for large parties and special events. Yelp has been very kind to this place in 2016 and my visit supported the praise, this is the best restaurant to service this space in it’s history and I know because I have eaten at every restaurant that has called this address home. The buffet features 19 dishes (on the day I sampled this included three different rice preparations, American Style wings, and a mix of vegetarian and meat heavy dishes). This is also what I call a chaat / samosa station and a dessert/chutney/vegetable section. Altogether there is a lot of variety here. Spicy dishes – were very spicy so be warned if that is not your thing – are marked as such. The Tandoori chicken sampled here was perfect – tender, moist and flavorful. Total price (I had water) was $10.74 which is a good value for what is offered.
The winner of Buffet Battle India is Amul India!