Buffet haters ignore. Austin has stepped up a couple notches for the quality of its indian buffet fare over the past few years with Asiana's opening in S. Austin. They serve a quality lunch lineup for a reasonable price. I love Asiana for what they do well - especially the goat biryani that usually shows up on Tuesday. But Daawat (Parmer and I35, in front of HEB) has sufficiently improved and impressed me and a colleague (grew up in Bombay) to tie or even surpass Asiana. According to him, it's northern-focused with some S. Indian offerings - and is his clear favorite in town. We now typically go to one or the other for lunch once per week. Daawat also serves goat biryani on Tues / Thurs and it's equally outstanding. But their naan is made fresh and brought to the table (best in town, for sure) and they often have gobi manchurian (great version), some type of chicken curry, a far superior version of chili chicken, and their chicken tikka masala is tandoor roasted dark meat versus the comparably dry breast meat served at Asiana. Actually all their chicken dishes are better in this regard than Asiana's. Typically they have a very nice coconut / veg (usually green beans or cabbage), and on the non goat days a tasty chicken biryani. tandoor chicken is excellent. They do lack Asiana's better desert fare, especially the cooling rice pudding / kheer.
For perspective, I'm quite sure I've eaten at least twice at every other competitor in Austin and learned an appreciation for indian food at standouts in the DC metro for 7 years. Honorable mentions that don't compete with the aforementioned for my tastes are:
* # 2 is Chola's - the Asiana folks split off from Chola's and the saag paneer is great at both. Chola's fried bread dessert is sinfully good, and I enjoy their goat curry, and masala fish fillets and chili chicken (usually on weekends only).
* # 3 is Sarovar - a tasty but dirtier and more greasy option earns a distant third. You can often smell cigarette smoke in the dining room, pretty off putting.
* The rest that I've tried but bore (spare me the stouffer's meatballs in curry please) are Clay Pit, Taj Palace, Royal Indian (simply awful), Star of India, Bombay Bistro (though their menu items can be fantastic), Bombay Grill, the now defunked Maharaja cafe, Taj Majal, etc. I'm sure I'm appropriately forgetting others.
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