Perhaps the best thing to happen to McAurther Road since they built five Sleepys on one block. Spice India (2407 Mickley Ave in Whitehall) came with a lot of build up; there were speculations and theories, and a lot of general excitement that the Raj Palace was finally revamped or replaced. As it turns out, the latter was true, and Spice India turned out to be a worthy rival indeed. Now the Raj Palace was a little bit before my time, I had only eaten there once, and I didn’t know how deep my love for Indian food actually was. Once Spice India opened, however, I was hooked. My boyfriend-at-the-time and I ate there for the Saturday lunch buffet every single week for over a year. And if you’re thinking “Seriously, the same restaurant every week, what are you like 85 years old? Doesn’t that get a little mundane?” the answer is: heck no! Spice India completely changes up their buffet each week. Maybe even every day, I’m not sure (I’m not hardcore enough to go multiple times a week. Though if I lived closer I absolutely would). So every week there is something new, exciting, and delicious to try. This past Saturday was particularly on, with the buffet featuring Gobi Matar (curried cauliflower and peas), Beans Masala, Sarson Ka Saag (which I thought was spinach but actually I think it’s mustard greens), Paneer Tiki Masala (cheese cubes in a delicious tomato-y sauce) and Vegetable Rice. They also had plain Jasmine; usually the buffet includes 2 different kinds of rice.
To the right of all the veggie dishes there are always 3 or 4 meat options, on which I can’t really comment as I’m a registered Vegetarian Who Eats Seafood Occasionally, but my carnivorous friends assure me the meat dishes taste just fine.
Then to the right of the meat dishes there are 2 huge woks set up, usually one for veggies and one for meat. This week’s Veggie Wok featured curried sweet potatoes, which were absolutely to die for. I believe this was the first time I’ve ever seen sweet potatoes at an Indian buffet. Holy crap were they good, and the accompaniment of fresh poori made the Sweet Potato Wok the star of the afternoon in my opinion. Now alllll the way to the right of everything is the little dessert table, which this week featured Gajjar Halwa (fantastic carrot pudding), fruit custard, and some insane cubes of pulled lentil fragments, which Josh and I call Disintegrators, because they melt the instant they touch your tongue. I have no idea what the correct name is for these melting cubes. But wait wait, back to the real food:
To the left of the main dishes there is a huge table full of salad components, condiments and chutneys. And there’s always 2 little trays full of fried goodness, usually veggie pakoras, wadas or samosas.
So, as I usually do, I filled my plate with every single veggie options available, and top it all off with some mango chutney. The naan (which the super-nice servers bring you several minutes after you’re seated) and the poori are perfect for stuffing with any combination of the above dishes.
Some weeks, Spice India is just good, some weeks it’s exceptional. And some weeks it is so unbelievably exceptional that I stuff myself beyond all normal capacity, and am fated to spend the rest of the day laying on the couch completely immobile, watching TiVo’ed Family Guy episodes. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the restaurant from people who have eaten there once or twice, finding the food that particular day a little less than piping hot, or the selection nothing extraordinarily impressive. To this I respond: give it another chance. Maybe Spice India isn’t as dully consistent as some other Indian restaurants in the area, but without their daring variety, we’d never have those earth shattering, eat-so-much-you-want-to-die days. I appreciate their willingness to experiment with a brand new menu each week, and I am more than willing to let them slide when they serve a dish that’s a slight miss. Chances are the next week’s buffet will make up for it.
Oh but if you think we’re done eating now, you’re wrong (silly you!). My friend and I had planned on Vegan Treats after lunch, and Vegan Treats it was. Regardless of how full we felt, we were determined. After a heated debate, we decided on (clockwise from the top) the Oreo cake, a Peanut Butter Cup Brownie, and the Chocolate S’more Cheesecake.
I honestly don’t know why I even attempt eating Vegan Treats cheesecakes, they’re so incredibly dense and decadent that I can’t handle them. We didn’t do too bad though, considering we just ate our weight in Indian food. As always, the VT desserts were out-of-this-world good, with the Oreo cake probably being my favorite. Light, moist, and fluffy; the perfect post-buffet dessert. Next time though, I think I’ll separate the Indian buffet and Vegan Treats trips. That was just a bit too much food, even for me!