A few weeks ago, I was waiting in the check-out line (which consisted of two of us) at my local Indian grocery (India Gate) when I struck up a conversation with a gentleman about which Indian restaurant in Plano was his favorite. He mentioned several, but he said that his favorite is Chettinaad Palace, located on the west side of Central Expressway (75), between Parker and Park in Plano.
This week, I finally got a chance to try the place -- twice -- both times for the lunch buffet ($7.95 weekdays and $9.95 weekends). Yes, I know that buffets are not the best way to judge a restaurant's food, but this buffet was so good that I decided I would post about it before trying their a la carte dinners and thalis.
Chettinaad (according to the restaurant's website www.chettinaadpalace.com) is a region in the Tamil-Nadu state in Southeast India. The food is not the run-of-the-mill "generic" North Indian food found in many of the Indian restaurants in the DFW area. To be sure, many of the "usual suspects" -- tandooris, chicken tikka masala, vindaloo -- are listed on the menu, and I am sure they are all competent preparations. But the food here includes regional specialties that really shine...13 varieties of dosas, for example, and vegetable curries like Chettinaad Kara Kulambu made with okra or eggplant. The Chettinaad preparations seem to highlight a different set of spices from those commonly found in North Indian dishes: curry leaves and bay leaves, for example, along with star anise, and coconut in varied forms. While the flavors are assertive -- you can definitely pick out the flavors of individual spices -- the seasonings aren't as pervasive as in many North Indian dishes. Also, the use of chilis and cayenne pepper seems to be very restrained. Even the dishes described as "spicy" are not in the same range as, say, an average rogan josh at North Indian restaurants
On both of my visits this week, there was a very large assortment of dishes on the buffet. The offerings start with sambar; proceed through steamed rice patties and (today, Sunday) lentil donuts for dipping; followed by at least six different vegetable dishes; then, naan, white rice and a vegetable biryani; and finishing with four meat/chicken/fish dishes. Today's meat dishes included curried goat liver, which I think must be one of the prime reasons Chettinaad is a heavily vegetarian region of the country. : ) (To be fair, I didn't try it. To be candid, I don't think I ever will!) There is a good assortment of chutneys, pickles and raita on the buffet, as well, and there were two desserts today -- mango ice cream and a whipped cream with citrus flavors. In addition to the food on the steam table, each diner is offered a freshly prepared dosa -- a thin, crispy crepe folded over a potato and onion filling. In my opinion, the dosa alone is worth the price of the buffet.
The restaurant is nicely, if simply, decorated. On the Thursday we were there, our water glasses were filled often and plates were removed promptly. At Sunday lunch, the restaurant was much more crowded (completely full around 2 p.m.) and busing was understandably slower. Service was friendly and polite at both lunches. The lunchtime crowd during the week seems to be a mix of Indians and non-Indians from offices in the area. The Sunday crowd was almost entirely Indian families or groups of friends. My wife and I were the only non-Indian diners when we ate there today.
Chettinaad Palace doesn't have a liquor license, but permits diners to bring their own beer and wine.
My favorite Indian restaurant in Plano is still Sitar, but Chettinaad Palace is a very close second. I'll be back to try the dinner menu soon.
2205 N. Central Expressway (near the Original Pancake House and next to the unfortunate Cafe de France on the southbound service road)
Plano, TX 75075
NOTE: RESTAURANT IS CLOSED ON TUESDAYS