Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've never met a buffet I didn't like

Disclaimer: I didn't much care for the $10 T-Bone Buffet at the now-defunct New Frontier Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. But such cases are rare (pun intended!).

The Economical Epicurean's culinary pursuits are not limited to the domestic. I remember reading an article reprinted from the Christian Science Monitor that claimed that the prices of groceries inflate at much quicker and higher rates than do the costs of entrees at restaurants. Of course, if you eat mostly vegetarian food at home and try to avoid buying produce out of season, it's invariably more economical to dine in. But there are certain cuisines that, I am convinced, are cheaper and more satisfying to enjoy at a restaurant. The two that come to mind here are Indian food and sushi. In the case of Indian, the spices are expensive and can be hard to find while the cooking can be terribly time-consuming; unless you make Indian food often, it might not be worth it to buy cardamom pods or tamarind.** In the case of sushi, fish is expensive enough in the grocery stores; once you factor in the "sushi-grade" requirement (which, in grocery stores, usually falls well below restaurant standards), it costs a fortune.

Overall, I think it's much more rewarding to go out for these kinds of foods. And where can you get more bang for your buck than at a buffet? Admittedly, buffets often feature the restaurant's homelier selections, which become extra homely after hours of sitting out on hotplates. But the following buffets offer delicious dishes that would be far more expensive to make at home. And they're all lunch buffets, which means you stuff your face early in the day, still can't bear the thought of food when dinnertime comes, and ultimately avoid that dangerous "late-night" eating.

The best part? Nothing remotely reminiscent of the tire-flavored "Vegas Strip Steak Special" on these buffet tables.

**Disclaimer #2: my spice rack contains two somewhat costly Indian staples, garam masala and ground turmeric, which I often use to flavor chickpeas, potatoes, and stews. But it would probably be expensive and time-consuming to make, say, an authentic Lamb Vindaloo at home.

4904 Fairmont Ave, Bethesda
Every day from 11:30am-2:30pm
$10.95 weekdays, $12.95 weekends

A few dollars pricier than your typical Indian all-you-can-eat, and justifiably so: this is The Mother of the lunch buffet. Highlights include the palak paneer (homemade cheese cubes cooked in a spinach sauce), chicken tikka, and lamb curry. Beautiful presentation and serene setting.

1341 University Blvd, Langley Park
Weekdays from 11:30am-2pm

The wait staff comes in extremes -- aloof or over-eager -- but the goat curry makes it worth it. A satisfying study break for the slaves of McKeldin Library.

8046 New Hampshire Ave, Langley Park
Weekdays from 11:30am-2pm

Fantastic vegetarian buffet; also a good escape from the library. I find the ambiance underwhelming but the food excellent. Don't think that just because it's vegetarian it's going to be low-fat -- you won't be able to stay away from the pakora (lentils fried in pastry) and dosas (fried crepes filled with spicy vegetables).

134 Congressional Lane, Rockville
Weekdays from 11:30am-2pm

Great selection of sushi and rolls at a great value. Friendly and attentive staff. Nothing out of the ordinary (it's a buffet, remember), but always satisfying. I'm a sushi novice, so don't take my word for it, but my sushi aficionado cousins and uncle frequent this place, too.

Any more suggestions? If you know of a great buffet, send the details my way! I'll continue to update this list as my waistline continues to expand.

Me and Mike Sanders enjoying his Christmas Party buffet!***

***The above picture was shamelessly stolen from fatchicksinpartyhats.com

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey, what happened to the picture??

I can see your feet, beanbag!!