On one of my last weekdays off of the summer I set out to conquer a twenty mile bike ride. This ride was unlike the others I took this summer because it would be along main roads and through trailer parks rather than winding in the woods. I had gone about seven miles when I blew out my tire. I flipped the bike and tried to perform some mouth to mouth techniques but the back just kept falling flat. A closer inspection revealed the culprit, my tire had been cross checked by a nail. I called J-Fur who was on an interview at the time and left her a message. Then I began walking. One mile. Two miles. Three miles. I had almost walked the entire distance to the University when J-Fur pulled up alongside me. I threw the bike in her car and followed her, hot and sweaty, into a dissertation meeting. Afterwards we decided to get lunch at Cilantro Indian Cuisine.
That was the long way of saying, I didn’t mean to wind up at Cilantro on this particular day.
It had been years since I last ate Cilantro’s Lunch Buffet. Back in the day it was this huge affair, with all kinds of different vegetarian samplings. It was hot. How hot? Let’s just say that wasn’t ghee in some of those dishes, that’s how hot the buffet made me feel. Samosas, naan, gobhi manchurian, dal, vegetable fritters, your say it in Indian and it was probably on that buffet.
On this day, three years later, I noticed right away that things had changed. What was once a ginormous feast had now been relegated to a corner office vending machine. It was so small and unimpressive that I almost ordered something from the menu. Still, with at least six vegetarian dishes on their bar, I decided that it was worth the fat bill for the buffet. If nothing else, I could try a little bit of everything (except dessert, that stuff was bad).
One of the highlights of the meal was the chickpeas and spinach. Seeing as it was a combination of two of my favorite foods, it would’ve been hard to leave me either disappointed or impressed. But the latter is just what the dish did. The spinach was creamy and buttery and the chickpeas were perfectly cooked.
Next up was the gobhi manchurian, a crispy cauliflower with sweet and sour sauce. The sauce was slightly sweet, not overly done, with beautifully textured cauliflower. It was either battered or cooked to the point that it took on an almost battered feel.
I didn’t really care for the moong dal which was spicy lentils in a curry sauce or the mixed veggie fritters. The fritters were just too much starch, especially the battered potatoes and the veggies didn’t stand out much. They needed some kind of sauce to enhance their flavors.
The final buffet item I spent a lot of time with was the bombay aloo. This consisted of creamy potatoes with a kick of spice at the end. Much better than the veggie fritters but not quite as impressive as the gobhi manchurian.
I’ve had a number of great meals at Cilantro. Once I got over my initial disappointment of a smaller buffet, I was able to enjoy (some of) the food on this occasion as well. Still, the buffet is pricey and the few options seem to be not worth the price. I think one is best served skipping the lunch buffet and going with some of the a la carte dinners the restaurant has to offer (unless they’ve changed those too…).
I went Indian to the sounds of Israeli rock trio Vaadat Charigim. The band’s new single “Odisea” is a sonic guitar experience that reminds me of cloudy, reverb-huffing, krautrock. I wish I could tell you more about the band but my Hebrew is a bit shaky.