Food & Drink

Not trying the Treasure Valley’s Indian buffets? You’re missing out

A handsome first plate at Taj Mahal. See if you can spot kofta meatballs and curried okra in the midst of the festivities.
A handsome first plate at Taj Mahal. See if you can spot kofta meatballs and curried okra in the midst of the festivities. For the Statesman

The prospect of eating all the lamb vindaloo you want for just $10 seems impossibly wonderful, but luckily for us, the Treasure Valley’s Indian buffets are very real and very delicious.

Let’s check out some of the highlights from a group of restaurants that might not be on your radar.

Taj Mahal

Amid the striking transformation of the Main and Marketplace building, Taj Mahal has held steady, delivering mountains of food to hungry downtowners day in and day out. You’ll appreciate the hospitality of Taj Mahal’s proprietors, who will happily guide you through the day’s offerings, many of which are organic. Make sure to get a hefty helping of the kofta meatballs and pile up the curried okra without fear — Taj Mahal gets an inspiring performance from the notoriously fussy vegetable.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m, 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Price: $10.59 with tax

Location: 150 N. 8th St

tajmahalboise.com; 208-473-7200

Spice Indian Cuisine

Spice Indian Cuisine, run by the original owners of Madhuban, does fine work in a strip mall off Eagle Road. The calming orange interior will put you in the mood to eat. The palak paneer, cheese cubes in creamy spinach, delivers a smidgen of heat. I was entertained by the mild cudi pakora, which combines the reassuring starchiness of fried dough and the refreshing tang of a yogurt-based sauce. But the lamb vindaloo, tender and rich, was the most impressive dish. Spice also provides a house-made huckleberry ice cream for dessert, crowded with specks of real huckleberry. I wish they sold it by the pint.

Hours: 11 a.m.-3p.m.. Monday-Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Price: $10.60 with tax

Location: 3223 E Louise Drive, Meridian

spiceindiancuisineelouisedr.com; 208-893-9144

Saffron Indian Bar and Grill

Saffron isn’t really a buffet, but it’s a lunch spot worthy of investigation. Hidden inside the Wyndham Garden hotel across the freeway from Boise Airport, in a room that appears to have been designed for complimentary breakfast, Saffron is delivering a tasty lunch menu to Boise diners. If you struggle to manage buffets, you’ll appreciate how Saffron puts your meal together, sauces and all, on a big tray with a clever compartment for each component of the meal. It probably wouldn’t hurt to dim the lights a bit and invest in a little interior decoration, but the room is also part of the fun.\

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Sunday

Price: $9-10

Location: 3300 S Vista Ave, Boise, ID

saffronboiseid.com; 208-342-1268

Masala Bistro

Perched on the edge of Boise Towne Square, Masala Bistro will satisfy your weekday hunger and improve your weekend trip to the mall. You’ll love the hearty chicken curry and the wicked vegetable coconut korma, which is one of the five best Indian dishes in town. The raita here is thinner and the tikka masala is heavy on tomato, but the rice is eternally steaming, fluffy and aromatic, a rare achievement in the harsh, drying confines of a buffet bin. For dessert, light up your senses with a lovely cardamom-infused baklava.

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Price: $10.59 with tax

Location: 8053 Emerald St.

masalabistroboise.com; 208-322-9497

Bombay Grill

Bombay Grill isn’t quite the best Indian buffet in Boise, but it’s very close. The downtown standard can always be relied on for luscious vegetable dishes, vast platters of fiery tandoori chicken and crispy vegetable pakoras, but there are a few parts of the menu where Bombay Grill is simply outpacing the competition. The chicken tikka masala is richer and more complex than anywhere else in town. The chicken in the brothy chicken curry falls apart when you nudge it with a piece of naan. And the butter chicken ... well, the butter chicken at Bombay Grill could change your life. If you haven’t tried it, you should make plans to do so in short order.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Price: $11.65 with tax

Location: 928 W Main St.

bombayboise.com; 208-345-7888

Madhuban

Long considered the best Indian restaurant in Boise, you just can’t deny Madhuban its spot on the buffet throne. Madhuban takes care of business in the curry department, but it really sets itself apart by perfecting the little things. The quality of the chutneys, in particular, is unparalleled. The raita, slightly sweet and packed with carrots and cucumbers, is the best around. The chana chaat, a light and crunchy chickpea salad, is the sort of dish that makes you lie awake and crave in the wee hours. If they keep bringing out platter after platter of piping hot masala dosas — a thin, crispy pancake wrapped around a spiced potato filling — you might never leave.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. every day, 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday

Price: $11.12 with tax

Location: 6930 W State St.

www.madhubanindiancuisine.com; (208) 853-8215

I recommend using your next six lunch breaks to find the restaurant that’s right for you. But be warned, when you traffic in the big-flavor, high-stakes world of buffets, emergency naps come with the territory, and sometimes they happen in your car right outside the restaurant.

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