By Anne DesBrisay
The onion bhaji passing muster on an Indian buffet is a pretty clear indicator you’re in for a pretty good lunch. A kitchen that gets the bhaji right knows what they’re about.
That doesn’t mean the curries will necessarily be weak if the bhaji are bullets, only that bhaji (and other fried fritters) don’t like a steam tray. I approached the deep fried offerings on Namaste’s weekday noon time spread with my usual trepidation: you can’t tell just by looking at the lumpy brown balls if they’ll hold crispy-soft promise or crack a tooth.
Delighted to report, small batch cooking, replenished throughout my half hour of overeating, meant that the onion bhaji were worthy of second servings. Which I had.
Other dishes slathered on my bed of basmati rice: the tandoor smoked eggplant curry with tomato and onion, fragrant with cinnamon bark; a complex chicken curry more interesting than the butter chicken on offer; a sweet and nubbly dal curry; a shrimp pathia (the shrimp merely conduits for the excellent sweet and sour and slightly spicy sauce); a marvellously tender lamb dhansak with lentils; the mild and fragrant sag paneer (cubes of mild cheese in spinach); commendably moist tandoori chicken; and channa masala. To kick things up or cool things off, chutneys and sauces and (far too sweet) yogurt are offered.
Gulab jamum is a delightful dish to say out loud, and if you like your sweeties sweet, a delightful way to end things. For those who overate, there is ripe melon.
Cost: lunch buffet at Namaste, $10.99.
Open: for lunch, Monday to Friday; daily for dinner.
Namaste Indian Restaurant, 1300 Bank St., 613-733-8424, www.namasteottawa.com.