Indian Grill opened in Camillus’ Township 5 just last fall. Their opening was cause for rejoicing among fans of the same owners’ restaurant, Dosa Grill in DeWitt. We are among those fans, so we hoped the new restaurant would be as excellent a source for Indian food.
One of the reasons we love Dosa is that the choices on the lunch buffet are always remarkably fresh, with each dish offering its own set of deep flavors. So we chose to try the lunch buffet on this Friday at Indian Grill to make a good comparison. The results were delightful, if a challenge to describe comprehensively in a brief review.
Indian Grill’s buffet is not quite as comprehensive as the one at Dosa. However, it is large and varied enough to reasonably represent the cuisine.
We started with cold offerings, which include chopped green salad and tandoori chicken salad, a very mild mayonnaise-dressed dish using the red-tinged chicken cooked in a tandoori oven. Also on the cold side, raita (yogurt and cucumber-based cooling sauce) and cold chutneys (mint and onion) are offered to further flavor main dishes. Our favorites include simple onion chutney, usually spicy-hot, though not this time.
When we asked about the unusually mild chutneys and whether any truly hot dishes were offered on the buffet, our server told us “not yet” because the restaurant was so new. When the little chain opens a new place, the cooks keep the food on the buffets mild to occasionally moderately spicy for the sake of those unfamiliar with Indian food.
For spicy-heat-lovers like us, hot sauce was placed on the buffet, and hotter dishes could be ordered from the menu. Each day, one hotter Indo-Chinese dish is included, on this day a chicken-chili with peppers and onions that was fantastic, its smoky spices complementing the moderate heat to make the tender chunks of white chicken delicious.
Hot (temperature) offerings for the day included vegetarian choices–aloo mutter (peas and potatoes in a dry-ish sauce dominated by cumin), cauliflower korma (a very mild creamy sauce), channa saag (chickpeas in spinach cooked down almost to a sauce), and our favorite, dal makhani (lentils in a richly seasoned buttery sauce), which had a bit of heat.
Non-vegetable choices included fish pakora (tender white fish deep-fried in light batter), a mild yellow chicken curry, egg bhurti (eggs scrambled with onions, tomato and spices, especially cumin), tandoori chicken legs, and the expected chicken tikka masala.
Chicken tikka masala, while not strictly Indian (most people believe it was invented by Indian restaurant cooks for British tastes), is almost always present on Indian buffets, probably because of its mild, creamy sweetness. At Indian Grill, it is a good choice for diners who prefer mild flavors.
A thin, delicious vegetable soup made with coconut, white rice with a scattering of mustard seeds, and eggplant pakora were also available.
Naan (tandoori-baked bread disks) are made fresh to order at no charge for plain or garlic varieties served hot from the oven. For $2.95 more, one can request more complex naan, like that made with paneer (mild white cheese). The latter was almost like a pizza.
We also enjoyed a large cup of chai masala ($1.95) made with gentle spices and plenty of cream.
Desserts on the buffet were kheer–the simple loose pudding made with white rice, sugar and milk–and suji halwa–semolina-based dessert, this time with strawberry flavoring, with a texture exactly like a Cream of Wheat. We enjoyed the two together for the contrasting textures.
Regular menu items are available during buffet hours, and ordering that way is a good idea if one wants very spicy-hot food or special items like a biryani (the complex rice dish made with many spices, nuts, dried fruits, meats and other ingredients), though biryanis are on the buffet at dinner on Tuesdays and on Sundays, when the price is a little higher ($13.95).
With such variety–including both well spiced and mild, creamy dishes and sweet desserts–an Indian buffet is a great way to introduce new diners to the cuisine, as well as making lovers of the food happy. At this writing, Indian Grill is still waiting for its beer and wine license, but the recipes are clearly already solid. In a few months, the buffet will introduce a few spicier choices as well.
Interestingly, this little chain offers some of the best service and prettiest interiors in town–not necessarily what we expect in a buffet. Then again, these are also full-service restaurants at all times. However one chooses to dine, it’s great to have good Indian food at a great value for money on this side of town.
The Restaurant: Indian Grill, 200 Township Boulevard, Suite 10, Camillus. 315-991-4344.
Credit cards? Yes
Access to disabled? Yes
Parking: paved lot
Children’s menu: Extensive buffet and regular menu offers plenty of choices appropriate for children.
Vegetarian/special diets: Easy to accommodate from buffet or menu, which offers a gluten-free section.
Hours: Every day 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner, an hour later on Friday and Saturday. Buffet is available for lunch and for dinner on Tuesdays.
Cost: Lunch buffet costs $9.95, Tuesday and Sunday dinner buffet, $13.95. Mains on the regular menu run from $10.95 to $14.95. Our cost for two lunch buffets, chai, tax and a 20 percent tip was $28.40.
By Jane Marmaduke Woodman, email@example.com