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The Indian Buffet
It’s a classic strategy for thriftsters: Fill up at an Indian lunch buffet and you can probably skip dinner. Think they’re all the same? Here are six different ways to get your saag on.
1. The Restaurant: Akash, 24 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 723-1300, akashindia.net
The Basics: “The authentic cuisine of Northern India” on a rolling heated buffet cart (with sneeze shield!) in a cavernous, high-ceilinged room.
On Offer: The usual suspects—creamy casserole dishes, both meat-based (chicken makhani, chicken curry) and vegetarian (dal makhani, aloo saag, mushroom makhani), onion pakoras, naan, a bottomless vat of raita and assorted chutneys.
Going Back for Seconds: The tandoori chicken is hot pink and succulent—truly excellent. Also good: the chana masala (savory, saucy chickpeas) and the ever-so-slightly sweet vegetarian cabbage. If you like sinus-clearing heat, slather your naan with onion chutney.
2. The Restaurant: Indian Bistro, 8460 Beechmont Ave., Anderson Twp., (513) 474-7500
The Basics: A spread of atypical Indian dishes in a nondescript strip mall.
On Offer: In addition to Indian standards, on our visit the buffet included goat curry, palak pakora (spinach fritters), and the puffy fried bread called bhatura.
Going Back for Seconds: Save room for dessert! The array includes gulab jamun—ricotta balls soaked in sugar syrup—and kheer, a thin rice pudding.
3. The Restaurant: Amol India, 354 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 961-3600
The Basics: Since 1996, locked in a feud with its neighbor Ambar (Family rivalry? Stolen chef? Parking drama?); the interior isn’t much to look at, but that’s not why you’re here.
On Offer: Gajar matar aloo (spicy carrots, potatoes, and peas); mushroom matar (fresh mushrooms and peas in tomato curry); chana masala (spiced garbanzos in a thin tomato sauce); chicken vindaloo and tandoori chicken.
Going Back for Seconds: Chicken tikka masala is the star of this show: moist tandoori chicken and green peppers swim in a rich cream sauce pungent with curry. We liked the spicy gajar matar aloo better than the three-alarm chicken vindaloo. The ubiquitous saag paneer was just OK. And skip the beef meatballs and channa masala, both made bland for buffet diners.
4. The Restaurant: Shaan Indian Cuisine, 3880 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park, (513) 533-3100
The Basics: An assortment of hearty and healthy Indian dishes paired with the soothing sounds of Indian music.
On Offer: In addition to the expected naan, curries, and tandoori selections, Shaan offers a creamy, yogurt-based Punjabi curry.
Going Back for Seconds: The cabbage masala and vegetable pakora are worth multiple trips, assuming you don’t fill up too quickly on the addictive bhatura. The chicken tikka masala deserves a plate of its own.
5. The Restaurant: New Krishna Restaurant, 11974 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville, (513) 769-6266
The Basics: Abundant selections, unusual hot and cold dishes, and free wi-fi draw lunchtime crowds from local businesses.
On Offer: On our visit the rotating line-up included, among others, fiery hot chili chicken, mild vegetarian navratan korma, and savory, onion-y lamb do piaza.
Going Back for Seconds: There are always specialty sweets, but don’t miss the refreshing mango fruit chaat. Then check out menus posted for the popular weekend brunch buffets.
6. The Restaurant: Amma’s Kitchen, 7633 Reading Rd., Roselawn, (513) 821-2021
Price: $8.99 ($10.99 on weekends)
The Basics: Friendly staff serve vegetarian (and kosher) fare from Southern India: diverse sauces that are simpler than Northern cuisine.
On Offer: Puh-lenty—two soups, salad, multiple mains and sides, several bread and rice options, including the flying-saucer shaped rice idli. There’s also dessert, like the Fanta-orange kesari. Wednesdays feature a vegan buffet.
Going Back for Seconds: The spiced medu vada doughnut demands attention, but leave some room for the dal fry. Bangin’.