Tandoor Indian Kitchen
406, SW Oak Street
Portland, OR 97204
I grew up in a town with only a few Indian restaurants, but one of them was freaking delicious. It helped that family friends were close to the family that owned it, and that family, from great grandparents to newest babies were always chilling out, quietly, in the front room of the restaurant, paying the patrons no mind. It was quite the greeting when you ditched school, got stoned and then hit their $5 lunch buffet with the munchies.
By the time I left town, the price had risen to $7, and it was always worth it. The servers were father, mother and son. I remember the son being 10 and filling our water glasses; the last time I went back he was taller than me and was, in the words of Cedric the Entertainer, a ‘grown-ass man’. Ghandi-Cuisine of India will forever have a place in my heart. Their food was excellent and the base by which I judge all Stateside Indian (UK indian is off of this chart….waaaaaay off). The Aloo was garlicky, spicy and delicious. All of their dishes had just the right amount of spice, and there was enough variation in the Buffet that you’d see a new dish every visit, but the Aloo Gobi, Saag, Biryani and Masala–not to mention the best damn samosas on the planet– where always hot and fresh. They were always skimpy with the fresh Naan, but meh. I can live with that.
Indian buffets are the best, and frankly the only acceptable form of buffet for me. I dislike the feeding trough mentality (and corneal damage) the Cracker Barrel, Sweet Tomatoes, Golden Corral and Hometown Buffet inflict on my fragile little mind. There is nothing less appetizing than listening to fat kids whine while chewing. nothing
Indian buffets, on the other hand, lack the feedlot sights, smells and sounds. A good one has more than 5 items, but less than 15. Fresh naan, salad and raita are there, as are plenty of items for omnivores and herbivores, preferably more of the latter than the former. Most importantly, perhaps, is the soundtrack. A good Indian Buffet soundtrack is that special kind of late 1990’s Indian techno that gets you chewing to the tempo. The elevated past languid sex or light jogging tempo. Not so fast that you put your face closer to the plate to gain precious seconds, but faster than usual. If you and the Buffet do it right, it’s the greatest lunch you could pay for.
All that drivel reflects my recent visit to Tandoor’s lunch buffet today. The food was well seasoned and all around excellent. I especially enjoyed the Onion Bhaji and the Mushroom Muttar. Tandoor is by far the best Indian food I have had in Portland, and, obviously, the best lunch buffet. I was a bit saddened to see the sysco truck pull up outside for their daily delivery, but you can’t win ’em all. For $7.99 all you can eat (god I hate that term), there’s no complaining allowed. While I don’t go downtown much, when I do, I’m going to Tandoor for lunch.
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