Sukhadia’s Indian Buffet (or… The Search for a New Rangole)

Ever since Rangole closed last month I have been searching for an under $10 Indian Buffet in Midtown.  After weeks of searching (and asking for suggestions) I have come up with the conclusion that it just doesn’t exist.  There is one on 9th Ave. and one on 2nd Ave., but these are both out of my eating range… And while I have been known to travel very far distances for the face stuffing that only a buffet can provide, my goal is to find a cheap Indian Buffet in Midtown proper.  There is no question that there are some great Indian buffets in Midtown if you are willing to fork over $15+ bucks… but I’m not quite at that level of desperation. 

But, I am still a little bit desperate- so with no $10 buffets left, I decided to up my price to $10.95 and check out Sukhadia’s, a Vegetarian Indian Buffet on 45th btw. 5th & 6th Ave.  Now, I am not an Indian food expert, and I am not exactly sure what kind of Indian food Sukhadia serves- but I can say this… if you are looking for Tandoori Chicken, or some sort of Tikka Masala with Naan- you are going to be very disappointed.  In fact, if you are looking for meat at all, or even any of the standard Northern Indian dishes you find at most American Indian restaurants, you are going to be disappointed.  I believe the cuisine is mostly from the area of Rājasthān, but you can find Northern and Southern Indian food at the restaurant, in addition to Jain dishes (a religion/philosophy from Ancient India whose followers are vegetarian).

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You show up at an Indian Buffet, and it costs $10.95 and they got no meat, it’s going to make you say “Yo Goober! Where’s the meat?”  Well, here’s my theory…  With most Indian Buffets, you get what you pay for.  If a buffet costs $15 or more, chances are it’s going to be of decent quality.  Pay $9 (i.e. Rangole), and there may be meat dishes, but the curry it’s covered in is probably going to be watery- and the veggie dishes are usually crap too.  If you are charging $11, and serving NO meat, than you are probably going to take extra special care to make sure that your veggie dishes are pretty tasty.  So, as much as I love lamb, and beef and Tandoori Chicken- I headed over to this Vegetarian Indian buffet to fork over my $11 and check it out.

What they had, a picture of my first plate and the +/- after the jump…

Sukhadia is what I would call a “small scale” buffet.  In addition to rice, there are only four main dishes.  My favorite of the four was the Kadai Paneer, cubes of cheese simmered in a mildly spicy curry cream sauce.  It was really delicious, and the highlight of the buffet.  The big chunks of cheese are the closest thing to meat you are going to get.  There was also Hydrabadi Baigan (a really nice Eggplant dish with huge chunks of eggplant), aloo gobi (spicy potatoes) and a beans dish.  I’m pretty sure they switch it up every day, so these particular dishes may not be there the day you go (I was there on a Thursday).  There were also three kinds of bread (paratha, a vegetable stuffed pancake type of thing and a bread stuffed with sweet lentils), salad and yogurt dip.  Here’s what my first plate looked like:

 

Flickr has this really cool thing where you can break down parts of a picture.  Click on the picture above to see a breakdown of all the items on the plate.

Sukhadia is also a sweet shop.  They have a huge case of different Indian sweets and cookies in the front of store that you can take to go.  One of the cool things about the buffet is they put a few sweets out for you to enjoy as part of the $10.95 all you can eat.  I got to try three…  of the two I remember, one was an almond/date hard cookie type of thing, and the other was a yellow ball of something drenched in some sort of honey or syrup.  The buffet also had Gulab Jamun- the deep fried cheese and flour balls soaked in warm sweet syrup that you find at alot of Indian buffets.  They also have a hot carafe of Masala Tea that comes with the buffet, this delicious milky tea that was really awesome with dessert at the end of the meal.

Despite it being a small buffet, and the food being interesting and tasty, the service was pretty bad.  You practically have to seat yourself, and there is only one poor guy there to act as waiter, server and the replacer of dishes on the buffet.  When I was there, a few of things had been finished and were not replaced, and some of the breads had gone cold.  But, if you get lucky, and hit the buffet early- or at just the right time, you might not have a problem. 

The other issue is the price.  If $10.95 is too steep for you, they do have a take out counter (right in front of the cook at the front of the restaurant, so the food actually looked at little fresher).  The food in the front is $5.99/lb and you can take it to go, or eat at one of the little tables in the front of the restaurant.  I feel like weighing my food always gets me into financial trouble- but as you leave, part of you always wonders whether or not you could have gotten plenty of food at that station, and kept the price of your meal under $10.95 plus tax and tip.  I love buffets, so I didn’t waste too much of time worry about that (and Indian food seems like it would be pretty heavy on that $6/lb scale, don’t you think?).  There is also a “Chat corner” where you can order various Sandwiches, pooris, chat and samosas.

All in all I would recommend it, but only if you know what you’re getting into.  Small buffet, no meat and not the typical Indian dishes you’re used to… but the stuff they have is definitely tasty.  If you want the naan and tandoori chicken, in buffet form, you might have to fork over the $14.95.

THE + (What someone who likes this place will say)

  • Delicious vegetarian Indian food, in Buffet form
  • If an $11 buffet is not worth it to you, they do offer their food in by the lb. form to go and a nice menu of Vegetarian dishes you can order in the main dining room
  • Despite only having four main dishes, the selection of different breads, pancakes, and Indian sweets gives you a great variety

THE – (What someone who doesn’t like this place will say)

  • There’s no meat
  • It’s $10.95, and there’s no meat
  • I don’t recognize any of the dishes on the menu.  Where’s the tandoori chicken, and chicken tikka masala?
  • It’s too small, and the service sucks.  Some of the breads were cold, and it took a long time for them to replace dishes on the buffet.  (Plus you might even stand there for a few minutes before anybody even notices you want to be seated)

Sukhadia’s Indian Vegetarian Gourmet, 17 W. 45th St. (btw. 5&6th), 212-395-7300

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