The Chowhound messageboard webpage did not allow me to respond to my original post on "new places to get Indian food in the Trooper/Audubon ... area" so I had to start this new post. (maybe the latest browser is required?)
What Spice Kitchen does very well - providing a very welcoming and warm ambience.
There are no small tables in this restaurant as is the case with almost every other Indian restaurant I have been to, so if you come as a couple or as a single, you will find yourself sitting at a very comfortable table, which is not necessarily the case at other such restaurants. There was very pleasant relaxing Indian music playing in the background at a comfortable decibel level and of an enjoyable nature (no Bollywood music here).
The couple that appeared to operate SK made it clear that they appreciated customers business and checked up on their wellbeing, as well as welcoming them back, something that doesn't occur at every other such restaurant.
Tables consisted of a sturdy cloth covering and upscale silverware. There is a small area in the entrance to hang coats so there is no need to bring coats into the restaurant unless desired. The ambience is a combination of casual, unpretentiousness, and elegance.
The lunch buffet consisted of a variety of dishes one might expect - a variety of vegetarian and chicken dishes, along with a few side dishes, consisting of appetizers, greens, soup, desserts, and tea.
At two visits I noticed that the soups offered were other than those listed on the menu (vegetable and creamy potato soups). The potato soup I had was of a light consistency and agreeable taste. It consisted of a few strands of ginger and onions. It was more tame and thinner than I had anticipated, which is what I prefer for this kind of soup.
The salad bar consisted of nothing other than iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Cucumbers and carrots would have been a welcome addition to the lettuce. The raita had too mild a taste for my preference.
Side dishes included pakoras and onion fritters (along with various chutneys).
A nice touch is that you get a basket of fresh naan brought to your table (choice of garlic or plain). The naan was very good - moist and quite different from what is found at some other restaurants in the area. What was interesting is that this naan stayed moist throughout the time of my meal. I had been told that when naan is allowed to sit out in trays, it dries out. This naan didn't loose its moist quality.
The rice at SK is very good - by very good I mean plain. At Taste of India, the rice seems to have an oil coating, and thus has a heavier feel in the mouth (and in the stomach). Lighter rice is a better compliment to dishes that are heavier in taste and have in themselves a degree of oil content. The main rice was called "Jeera" rice, but impressed me as being nothing other than basmati rice. I did not see nor taste cumin seeds or flavor in this rice. The other rice dish was a vegetable biryani which was very good and full of various vegetables and flavor.
Vegetarian dishes on the day of my visit consisted of chopped okra which had been overfried, similar to what I had found at Bawarchi, Navrattan Korma which was very tasty (although not desirable for anyone watching their cholesterol or desiring a lighter tasting noncream based dish), dal tadka which was mildly flavored, and saag channa which looked like the green puree offered at Chinnar but with a taste more similar to what I expect for this kind of dish. For some reason, the chick peas were missing from the saag. (I thought maybe they had sunk to the bottom of the tray holding the green puree, but alas, no chickpeas!
There were three chicken dishes - tandoori, tikka masala (whose sauce looked more tomato based and thicker than I have seen elsewhere - its appearance guided me to just try the tandoori chicken, along with the fact that I had gotten enough cream based dishes already), and some other chicken variety.
Desserts consisted ofl fresh orange slices (hooray for the presence of fresh fruit!), a mango flavored cream of wheat dish (do not recall the Hindi label) and a mango custard pudding. The cream of wheat dish which was warm was enjoyable although a bit on the heavy side, and the cooler mango custard pudding.was refreshing, although being of a thicker and heavier consistency than what I associate with a pudding.
Tea was available at the buffet table. It took me awhile to realize that the tea was, in fact, chai. It was very rich and full of flavor. (The container of the tea was labeled as "Tea," not "Chai" or "Masala Tea." My guess is that the owner wanted to present items in a way that most non-Indians could understand and be as appealing as possible.)
The day that I was at the restaurant, it was filled to near capacity, and a large group near me ordered off the menu and was brought some dishes that were audibly sizzling. I was amazed at how quickly their dish was prepared.
For folks who want a very comfortable restaurant setting with standard Indian restaurant fare of a north Indian style, Spice Kitchen is a nice addition . Current lunch buffet price is $9.99.
To summarize, what SP does best, at least for the lunch buffet experience is the ambience, customer care, rice, biryani, and naan. My preference regarding the food, itself, is for lighter quality in the main dishes as well as stronger flavor. Folks who are not familiar with Indian cuisine will not experience too exotic a treatment of dishes at SK's lunch buffet.
I'd recommend this place over some other Indian restaurants for them due to the mild nature of the seasonings, somewhat more similar to a Chinnar than to a Royal India, Taste of India, or Bawarchi.
Taste of India
348 N Dupont Hwy, Dover, DE 19901
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