Flatiron Lunch: Chal Chilli has a Mixed Bag Lunch Buffet
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
Chal Chilli is a recent addition to the Curry Hill area, but instead of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi, they have a tag line of “Thai fusion with a blend of south Asian Spices.” I thought Singapura delivered great non-Indian food in the area, so was hopeful for Chal Chilli.
On a menu I picked up, I saw an $8.95 all you can eat lunch buffet. And this was the sandwich board listing all of the buffet dishes the day I went, so if you are picky, you could walk by and see if they are serving anything of interest to you.
In theory, the buffet lasts from 11:00 am -3:30 pm, but when I went around 2:30pm one day, the containers were slim if not empty. They tried to convince me to order off the regular menu citing that it would take the same amount of time, but I wasn’t falling for it.
While they went to prepare the few items no longer available on the buffet (masala tofu, pad thai and dumplings), I started to partially fill my to-go container (leaving some room since I didn’t know if I would have to squeeze in the dishes coming directly from the kitchen as well.)
I ended up cleaning out the fish curry (granted there wasn’t much there anyway, and I probably wouldn’t have taken more because I had some concerns about fish that had been sitting out.) I also took chicken chili pepper and roast vegetables.
Then they brought me a small container to take items from the salad bar, which, it should be noted, had some awesome sauces.
Then came my container with buffet items not actually on the buffet. I also asked for a container for the dessert, mango rice pudding. Lastly, I put a piece of fry bread in a napkin. Did you get all that? For $8.95.
If I had to rank all of the dishes, in order of my preference. It would look like this:
1. Fish red curry. I loved the flavor, especially the lemongrass, but I could have done without chunks of lemongrass. I should have taken more of this spicy deliciousness.
2. Chicken chili pepper. While not the most interesting of recipes, this was well executed.
3. Steamed vegetable dumplings. These were filled with potato and some veggies, so I would say they were a little simple. But they were good, and better with hot sauces from salad bar.
4. Masala tofu. While I understand that masala just means mixed, but this dish confused me with fried tofu with sweet sauce and sesame seeds. It was actually good, just surprising.
5. Roasted veggies. I took such a small amount thinking it would be meh, but they looked much more boring than they tasted. They included lotus root, so props on that. What you can’t tell until you start eating is that there is something spicy covering these veggies, which was pleasantly surprising.
6. The fry bread had been sitting out for a little while, but it held on to enough crisp for my liking. The greasy saltiness created a great combo with the fish curry.
7. Veggie pad Thai. Isn’t it frustrating that the item I got the most of was one of the worst? Annoying for sure. It was so boring that I didn’t even eat it when having the leftovers.
8. Mango rice pudding. Okay no. I am not sure what is happening to this potentially amazing dish, but it tasted like cleaning fluid. I had to choke down two bites to make sure that there wasn’t something wrong with the first bite. Nope. Terrible.
So, in all, the food at Chal Chilli was all over the place – definitely hit or miss. The good thing with buffets is you can try a little of everything and get more of only what is good. This doesn’t really work for take-out, but I had enough for two full meals, without having to eat more of things I didn’t like. In terms of the multiple containers of food I got, I am not sure if this is a normal thing or if it was because it was late during the lunch hour. There might be some strategy to coming late and getting lots of food, but there is also a balance to be had with getting there earlier when the food is fresher. I am honestly not sure of the best strategy.
THE + (What people who like this place will say)
- Four containers of food and fry bread for $8.95. Alternatively, all you can eat buffet for $8.95.
- Fish curry is an under-represented dish.
- This is a pretty extensive buffet with soups, salads, dumplings, etc.
THE – (What people who don’t like this place will say)
- Buffets are best when there is a high turnover of the food, which Chal Chilli does not seem to have.
- The food is hit or miss.
- I don’t think they found the right fusion point of Thai with south Asian spices.
Chal Chilli, 124 Lexington Avenue btwn 28th and 29th Streets, (212) 532-0232