I’ve had Indian Masala—along with Godavari—at the top of the 2020 and 2021 editions of my Twin Cities Indian restaurant rankings but until last weekend we had never eaten in the restaurant. We first ate their food in late 2020—during what we’d then naively thought was the height of the pandemic—and then again as takeout in 2021. On the first occasion I’d gone in to pay and the long-neglected interior had not looked very prepossessing. Once they opened back up I had reports of the dining room having been more or less redone and looking much shinier. I also heard lots of promising reports of the special buffets they’d begun to run. (Most of these reports came to me via Mike McGuinness—the man behind the excellent East Metro Foodies group on Facebook and almost certainly Indian Masala Fan #1.) They now have special vegetarian/vegan buffets during the week and occasional Indian Chinese buffets as well. And on Saturdays and Sundays they put out what they call their Grand Weekend Buffet. Given our high opinion of the food from their regular menu, this seemed like a promising situation and so—having made our return to in-person dining last weekend at Grand Szechuan—we showed up last Saturday to partake of it with a couple of friends. How was it? Read on.
Well, I can confirm two things. First, the interior is now a lot shinier than it was in the dog days of 2020. It seems to have been overhauled completely. There is now one section with regular tables and chairs—this is where larger parties can be accommodated—and one section with attractive booths that can seat parties of four. The decor is minimalist and light on kitschy signifiers of Indianness. Second, the buffet is quite large, if not quite as large as the appellation “Grand” might lead you to expect. This Saturday there was a small street-food section—featuring a chickpea curry covered in various kinds of crispy/crunchy things. Next to it was the vegetarian section which featured some 10 selections—from idlis to mushroom pakoras to veg biryani. This section had a fair number of South Indian selections on it (along with the inevitable saag paneer). The non-veg section—which featured some 9 selections—was, however, rather light on the South Indian fare, with only the mutton and chicken biryanis qualifying.
This latter, I have to admit, was a disappointment. The reason Indian Masala ranks high in our estimation is on account of their non-veg South Indian dishes. They do the North Indian stuff well enough but there’s not so much separation between them and more run of the mill places when it comes to those parts of the menu. Of everything that was on offer in the non-veg section I liked the chicken biryani the best. There was also a home-style chicken curry that was quite tasty but which would have been better with even just a little bit more heat. There was also an Indian Chinese preparation of chilli chicken that I enjoyed.
Oh yes, they also feature a small section where dosas are made fresh. These are plain dosas—i.e there’s no filling—and are competent enough but nothing to really get very excited about. I’d say the same for the desserts. Both the gulab jamuns and the rasgullas were small and cold and hard. The kheer was better—and our younger boy said he quite enjoyed the peach ice cream.
For a closer look at the restaurant and the spread, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for some final thoughts and to see how much it all cost.
Highlights? In addition to the dishes already named above, the following were quite good; the tandoori chicken (even if neon red in colour), the naan, the sambar and the bhindi masala. The saag part of the saag paneer was good but the paneer was indifferent. The only things I did not try were the veg Chettinadu and the broccoli pakoras. It is entirely possible, of course, that as the buffet goes on through the day different dishes are better than others at different points. We got there right after they opened at noon and some things were probably better for it—especially the crisply fried items. If those were not replenished often they could easily sag. Ditto for the naan.
Price? $14.99/head for adults and $8.99/head for kids. Which is rather good value anyway for the selectiona and the generally good quality of the food.
In sum, I would say that this buffet experience was not one with which I’d hope to convince anyone of Indian Masala’s position atop my rankings. But as Indian restaurant buffets go, it was pretty decent. My guess is that the buffet is now aimed at a more mixed crowd. The gent at the cashier’s desk more or less confirmed this for me. I asked if they ever put the South Indian non-veg dishes on the buffet; his response was that they tried it at some weeknight buffets but they weren’t popular. It’s not unlikely that the buffet audience is mostly looking for the more familiar greatest hits. We will stick to the a la carte menu on return visits.
Alright— we finally have dinner reservations at Owamni this Sunday. Really looking forward to that. There’s also a chance we might end up at Godavari on Saturday as we have some stuff to do in Eden Prairie close to lunch time. Those reports will be posted in March.