An American here in the upper midwest: I've cooked lots of Indian food at home and been to countless Indian restaurants, mostly lunch buffets. But only once or twice have I gone to an Indian restaurant in the evening without any buffet, and I realize that I am unsure what kinds of protocols are normal for Indian dining. I assume there might be differences depending on regions. But my query is quite basic, and I'm asking a question analogous to these points about "Western" dining:
1. Americans generally think of appetizer, maybe a soup or salad course, and then a personal entree, and dessert.
2. Some American dining influenced from Europe might put the salad after the entree, or introduce a cheese course.
But when I'm at an Indian restaurant, it's not clear to me whether courses work the same way. Are samosas "appetizers," for example? Isn't it normal for "entree" items like aloo gobi and rogan josh to be served communally? Also, one of the things I like about buffets is being able to try many different things, whereas dining as a couple makes it seem like you really should just order a couple of main dishes. And I notice all kinds of various chutneys and raitas and raw veggies at lunch buffets, but I always wonder how and when Indians tend to insert these things into the dining.
I understand that restaurateurs are happy to let you do what you like, and when. But I'm curious what Indians typically take to be the most effective process for enjoying all these things.