Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Tandoor

Rego Park, NY
718-997-6800

Review by SuSu

Once in a while, something unexpected happens and you end up with a serendipity. We were going to Maurya in Woodhaven for Indian buffet, but they were closed to the public dur to a scheduled banquet. It happens from time to time, since that eatery is so popular among certain groups for that kind of thing. Alas, I had a friend and my mother in tow, and I was really disappointed. My mother wants Indian buffet about twice a year, and I didn't want to disappoint her.

Normally, I would have gone someplace else close by, but I suddenly thought about Tandoor, a place I hadn't been to in many years. It's in the next town over, but I recall it was good and that friends who took me there told me it was very authentic.

Of course, with mom and a boy with me, I wasn't sure if "authentic" was really what they might have been looking for, in the sense that I knew they liked the food at Maurya, which is authentic, but represents a somewhat different style from other Indian restaurants. But since Mom wanted Indian buffet, I crossed my fingers and we went, hoping they'd offer that.

To my great relief, Tandoor did have a lunch buffet, but was it good? It was worth risking for $9.95 per person to find out since mother was set on Indian buffet.

We were seated in front of the glass-walled tandoor oven room and got to watch the two chefs slap out dough, stretch it over a pillow and push it against the tandoor oven. They use wood chunks to heat their ovens, lending a smokey flavor to everything they cook in them, including tandoori chicken and naan. The restaurant apparently does a whole lot of catering and that day they made a mountain of naan. Like most Indian and Chinese places, there is a banquet hall and a brisk party and reception business. So sometimes the restaurant looks empty, but the kitchen is bustling. A little surreal! In fact, the catering is such a big slice of the business that when you ask for a business card, they only offer a catering pamphlet.

The buffet offered the normal variety of dishes, but with a twist. The tandoori chicken was smokey and tender; the saag paneer replaced the ubiquitous cheese with kernals of corn; bhuna chicken, where the spicy south Indian fish dish was presented with pullet; goat vindaloo, made with a bit of coconut cream; basmati rice with cinnamon instead of the normal peas pullao; the alu ghobi was thick with vegetables, rather than swimming in the normal yellow sauce; instead of pakoras, there were well-made chickpea fritters and there were tiny puris. A large array of fresh salad vegetables were presented, as well as fresh fruit. The cooked dishes were fresh, and the cooks left more of the spices whole, so that coriander seeds popped as you chewed, there were fresh bursts of new flavors from one spoonful to the next. It was very good!

What a great stroke of luck to have been forced to come to Tandoor! We went back the following week and the dishes changed a bit; it seems they do not slavishly put out the same stuff every weekend. That can lead to disappointment once in a while, of course ... but also revelations! For less than $10 per person, you can be a little adventurous, and it's delicious. Too bad they only do buffet on Saturday and Sunday lunch ... then again, if they offered it more often, I'd likely be here way too often.


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