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Archive for the ‘Buffet Battle’ Category

Awadh: An Addendum to Indian Buffet Battle & An Education in Pani Puri

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 14, 2018

What first brought me to Awadh was a pressing need to find an easy access public bathroom at Carriage Place Shopping Center because at I really had to pee. It being a Monday, Awadh was not open (that is changing soon) but the $8.99 Lunch Buffet sign put the restaurant high on my radar for a later, less pressing trip after I finished one of the lower level needs on Maslow’s pyramid. In the past, I spent a lot of time at the movie theater and restaurants of Carriage Place located near the Northeast corner of Bethel Road and Sawmill. Today, I mainly go to the area to donate blood, but, I had a new opportunity to drive the length of the Carriage Place Shopping Center (with a lot of focus) and see everything that has changed over the years – many of the restaurants have moved on and some new but familiar faces like Fitzy’s Diner have become part of the landscape.

I dropped into to Awadh the next day with pretty low expectations. The name of the space is a bit confusing. While the main signage says Awadh, there are numerous posters on the windows suggesting it may be called TGIXpress as well. One migh think it is a bar due to one large poster that is selling beer specials. The spot is small, seating 40 to 50 with some creativity and does feel “new” which is appropriate, it has only been open five months. I was greeted warmly by a very friendly hostess and I was followed in by two regular customers who were known by name and beverage preference upon arrival. I excused myself to the bathroom when I entered (this time in a less pressing manner than the day before) and by the time I returned, there was a plate with warm, fresh samosa waiting for me. The hostess mentioned this comes with the buffet and the the kitchen wants to make sure these are always as fresh and warm as possible for customers upon arrival.

Settling in, I spied ten entrée dishes available to sample as well as naan and Bhature (a puffier, slighty sweet bread), a bit of salad, chutneys, and two desserts offered at the buffet. The offerings during my visit were: Asian Style Noodles with cabbage and vegetables, Chili Potatoes, Cauliflower Potato Curry, Saag Paneer, Chicken Pea Curry (noted as Chole), Basmati Rice, Chicken Tika Masala, Chicken Biryani, Goat Curry and Tandoori Chicken.

Each dish was well labeled, looking appetizing and fresh. Entree were set up in smaller batches in the holding table so they could be rotated quickly. I found each of the dishes to be good. My favorite was the Chicken Biryani which featured whole chicken wings.

My memorable experience of this trip occurred when I made my last run to the buffet. The hostess had checked on me many times and seemed to enjoy my many questions about the business and food. She may have admired my dedication to research as I thoroughly tested out each dish. I had fallen off her radar for just a few moments which allowed the next faux pas to happen since I was unsupervised. The photo below shows how to not put together a Pani Puri. In my defense, oddly, this is not a dish I have had before, which is saying a lot since I am a long time fan of Indian cuisine.

The hostess noted my erroneous attempt and kindly walked over to me before I returned to my table. She quietly and discreetly asked me if I had Pani Puri before. I said no and looking at what I had in my dish and her look at it, I realized I had missed the mark by a mile. She then politely showed me how to construct it properly – breaking the delicate little ball of hollow, fried puri and filling it and then surrounding it with everything I had not topped it with. I was a good learning moment for me and a good opportunity for me to help her with finding the right English words to use as she struggled to walk me through some of the steps of purveying puri to my plate. I like an opportunity to learn during my meal and I was very impressed with how the hostess graciously guided me down the right path.

Jumping back to the buffet battle series from 2016, the Indian Edition, following the buffet battle format here are my initial ratings of Awadh as I make an addendum.

Value 5
Quality 4
Quantity 4.25
Highlight: friendly and attentive service and a clear desire to continue to improve the business and grow new customers
Kid Friendly Quotient 4 (some booths are kid friendly and CMH Griffin and I can pop in easily since his school is just around the corner).

Other bits of knowledge you may find helpful. Awadh is a region in Northern / North Central India. Pani puri is a common street snack in several regions on Nepal and India. It is presented as a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavored water, tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion or chickpeas. My bill came to $9.66 with tax (my beverage was water). It was a good value for both the experience and the quality of food offered.


TGIXpress Bistro & Bar – Awadh India Restaurant
awadhindiarestaurant.com

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Morone’s Italian Villa: Buffet Battle – Pizza (Addendum)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 17, 2016

IMG_5126

This is a late entry to the Buffet Battle – Pizza, Series.

Morone’s Italian Villa
Bethel Centre
1490 Bethel Rd
(614) 457-7444

My connection to Morone’s goes back to my high school days in the area. Morone’s was a little more fancy than the other pizza places in North Columbus, so if you were heading out with a group – Morone’s was a big deal. I recall in high school eating carry out Morone’s Pizza (sausage and pepperoni) at a friend’s house many Saturday nights and looking forward to it week after week. The last time I could recall dining there was 1991? But as fate would have it, I wrote about it in 2007 when I tried their French Fry Pizza at an evening buffet. (I did not figure this out until I got home and started writing this).

The lunch buffet is offered Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm. In addition to pizza, there is a salad bar featuring mixed salad, tomatoes, cheese, three dressings, cottage cheese, chocolate pudding, two pasta salads, cole slaw and a few other things for a total of nine items. There are also two pastas, a soup (that is hard to reach unless you go to the opposite side of the station), and some toasted Italian bread.

The pizza I tried was a bit fluffier, airy and more doughy that most other Columbus pizza places. There was a bit of char of the crust ring which had some crispness. The pepperoni seems like a slightly cheaper grade – but did have the curl I like to look for. The sauce was lightly applied to the dough and seemed a bit generic. The potato pizza I tried was a bit daring and added diversity to the offerings. The price for all of this with a beverage included was $9.69.


(Scale of 1-5)

Value 4
Quality 3.5
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 3.25
Kid friendly Quotient 4


The food, especially the pizza did not taste like I remembered it (in 2007 or 1985 to 1991). While chatting with one of the cooks (when I still thought I had not been there since the 1990’s,) he mentioned he worked at Morone’s in the 1990’s but left and since that time, there had been three different owners until the present. So that explained the disparity between my memories and my dining experience at the buffet.

IMG_5125

Morone's Italian Villa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Buffet Battle: Indian

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 25, 2016

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.

amul

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.

Aab India
1470 Grandview Ave, Grandview

Value 3.5
Quality 4
Quantity 4
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

Value 5
Quality 5
Quantity 4.5
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)
Polaris
8631 Sancus Blvd (moving to: 8380 High Street Columbus

Value 3.5
Quality 4.5
Quantity 4
Highlight: Variety of dishes
Kid Friendly Quotient 2 (crowded, chaotic space)

It appears this location may be moving to High Street at some point in the future. Currently it is 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.


Kohinoor Indian Cuisine -> CLOSED
76 Powell Rd, Lewis Center

Value 4.5
Quality 4.25
Quantity 4
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.


Layla’s Kitchen
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.

Buffet: 0


New India Restaurant
5226 Bethel Center Mall, Columbus (near Philville)

Value 5
Quality 3.99
Quantity 4
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

195 E Campus View Blvd (Crosswoods) -> CLOSED

Value 4.75
Quality 4.75
Quantity 4.75
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. (Note they did get a real sign in Fall 2016). 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.

chaat

The winner of Buffet Battle India is Amul India!

Amul India Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Please note my November 2018 addition to this list Awadh.

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Buffet Battle: Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 27, 2016

pizza buffet

The Buffet Battle Series begins with Pizza. Each buffet listed is available Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm or close to it.

Three buffets were tested rigorously and these are the results. Ratings are on a 5 point scale. Since Pizza is the primary food at each spot, it gets an added criteria for this installment of the series.

Ange’s Pizza
Beechwold Center
4511 N High St
614 784-9000

Ange’s has a long history in Columbus dating back to 1953 and it might surprise readers in that there are 8 locations. I’m not sure if all locations offer a buffet or if there are differences in buffets at the different sites. If there are let me know.

The buffet here is fairly barebones – one or two pizzas, a cut up stromboli and a small metal bowl with a salad mix and packets of salad dressing on the side. Staff interaction is minimal. The eating area is small and cafeteria like with minimal seating and devoid of any atmosphere or character. The buffet also includes a beverage via styrofoam cup. The sign says the buffet is $7.49 after tax the total price is $8.03.


Value 3.75
Quality 3.75
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 4
Kid friendly Quotient 2.75


This location is hard to find buried behind a Panera in a strip mall that is hard to enter and exit. This seems to effect the number of people who try the buffet and thus may effect the volume of items offered and subdue any staff excitement about the buffet.

Massey’s Pizza
BEECHCROFT/RT. 161
1951 E. Dublin-Granville Rd.
614 888-0022

Massey’s is also a long time player in Columbus pizza, the original owners were among a small group of early pizza pioneers in Columbus. Massey’s grew into a large empire which collapsed and has been rebuilding in the last decade. I was surprised to see there are eleven local locations as well as one in South Carolina. This is one of the oldest Massey’s locations and is smaller and more austere than most of the new sites.

This buffet included a variety of pizzas, a pasta dish (spaghetti), a mixed salad, a pasta salad, small slices of subs all served via styrofoam plate with a beverage in a styrofoam cup for 7.99. Here you pay first when entering and then eat away. Although the site is busy with carry out orders the staff do make an effort to keep the food stations filled.

The eating area is low on ambiance with several small beat up tables and chairs. It is also noisy from a TV and the acoustics of an old building. My favorite items were the small sections of bite size cut subs, perfectly cooked with great flavor, I went back more often for these than the pizza.


Value 4.25
Quality 4.25
Quantity 4.5
Pizza Grade 4.5
Kid friendly Quotient 2.5


Iacono’s Pizza and Restaurant
4452 Kenny Rd Columbus
614 451-0234

While Massey’s tag line is the Cadillac of pizzas, Iacono’s has earned that moniker for their buffet. Two years ago it was $8.75, until 6 weeks ago it was $9.75 now that we are firmly in 2016 it is now $10.77. That price may scare off some but the value is hard to beat. The buffet features a full salad bar including a variety of house made dressings, cottage cheese, pudding, macaroni salad, potato salad and bacon bits, home made soup, two to three full pizzas which are typically served in half styles so a total of 6 varieties are usually available. The staff often ask what type of pizza you like and typically you will see that as a new selection while you are eating. A dessert pizza (a mix of apples and cinnamon). A beverage is included and staff are aggressive in making sure your cup is not half empty. The space is large with many tables and some half booth / table seating along one wall. There are several high chairs available and if you need to find a place far from the madding crowd, you can find it. The in house music is not overly loud and typically features the best of the 1970’s.


Value 4
Quality 4.75
Quantity 5
Pizza Grade 4.75
Kid friendly Quotient 5


While this buffet is the most expensive, you definitely get what you pay for and for this the whole is as great as the sum of the parts….and the pizza.

And thus ends the first Buffet Battle, Iaconos wins.

(Note: I added another spot to this list August 2016 -> Morone’s

(Note: I did try Verdi. Their buffet is horrible so the only thing to mention about that buffet is don’t waste your time, it is a rip off for 10.21 although billed as $7.75. Thumbs down on value, quality, quantity and pizza grade.)

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Buffet Battle: The Series

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 14, 2016

buffet 2

It is easy to malign and maybe have some true contempt for the concept of the buffet. The buffet is a symbol of American excess and gluttony. Often it is a guarantee for both poor quality food and ingredients. It is easy to see a buffet sign and keep on driving by.

However for the right food with the right attitude a buffet can easily exceed expectations while offering good food and value. The best example of a great buffet (which is long gone) is the Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta lunch buffet (circa 2000), most weekdays one could walk in for all you could eat pastas and pizzas (at least three of each). The food was fresh and I was more than happy to flex my work schedule so I could enjoy it at least once a month. A place (still open) that really does a great job with the buffet concept is the Mon Ami Restaurant and Winery in Port Clinton Ohio. People are known to drive hours for the experience. I’ve tried it and thought is was a steal for the price – especially for fresh seafood and meat dishes. So we know it can be done well.

The concept of a buffet is not that far removed from Chipotle, Piada, Fusian and etc., which are essentially assembling food to order. What many people don’t recognize is often the concept of buffet at many restaurants is only a matter of where you food is served – in front of you or in the same containers behind the doors of the kitchen. In the case of Ethic foods, a buffet can be a wonderful first contact with a new culture in a setting that allows a variety of foods to assist with the beginning of a culinary journey.

An additional bonus that buffets offer, they can be child care friendly. Now with the addition of CMH Griffin to may days I am often looking for a place where I can take a car seat filled with an energetic baby boy and sit down for a decent lunch that is fast, filling and not expensive but also situated so I have a good spot for him and I can make a quick exit if he has a melt down.

Hence the Buffet Battle Series. I have been scouting Columbus for six months trying to find places that might be series worthy and now that I have a critical mass of material, let the series begin!

These are the criteria, ranked on a 5 point scale.

Quantity
Quality
Value
Ambiance / Amenities
Kid Friendly Quotient

Having surveyed the offerings of our fair city the first three battles will be: Pizza, Indian and Chinese food. The Pizza Buffet Battle post is coming soon. If you have contestants for Indian, Chinese or another buffet category, let me know.

Posted in Buffet Battle, culinary misadventure | Tagged: | 10 Comments »