We used to go to Kebab Factory (KF) once a month or so for their lunch buffet but we stopped going last year because the food just did not change enough and was not great quality.
The other day, we went to our first Tanjore(T) buffet (Eliot St in Harvard Square.) My overall feeling is that the T food is better than KF and ~ $1 higher ($10). You certainly will want to pick and choose, but the deal is still a significant one. Were I living on a strict budget, this would be where i would have my daily meal. The food is not greasy (it is often greasy at KF, with pools of oil) and the spicing varies dish to dish. The owner is present and a very nice relaxed fellow. (<You want a freshly cooked dosa? No worries- I'll bring you some.>). He had a partner when he owned 3 places (including Rangoli and ___ in Brookline, beginning some 20 years ago) but he's down to the easier life of one place now, and no partner. But I'm guessing he lost his original chef, as the food is def not as good as it was for many years. sigh. Their tika masala sauce has taken a dive in flavor and richness; KF's is much better. There was another surprise: while T's samosa filling is good and complex, the potato dosa filling was the blandest i've ever had.
But the other dishes were very good. Physical set up, seating and ambience are much better than KF, where it is tightly packed and awkward. As usual, Buffet items change daily though many dishes are a constant.
Today's Tanjore buffet:
Chicken Tika Masala
Potato in Tika Masala
Tandoor Chicken- on and off bone
Eggplant w/ chickpeas and Potatoes
Masala Dosa- on buffet and made to order
Kheer- cardamom rice pudding
'Halva' made w/ flour, sugar, ghee
KF typical buffet:
Chicken Tika Masala
Tandoor chicken w/ onions and peppers
Shrimp do piaza
fried chicken wings
eggplant or okra
plain naan served fresh at table
FWIW, I don't think Indians would be pleased with either buffet; I wouldn't be surprised if they said that they were raised with home food considerably more sophisticated and better prepared than these efforts. But there are plenty of people who do enjoy these buffets ( and they certainly are cheap.) I'm hoping others will chip in with any other Indian buffets they have tried in Boston.
I still haven't gone to the Somerville Indian buffet on Highland? but I think I passed on it after a CH described it and it sounded pretty identical to KF. I had heard some very good things about the Indian place on the second floor of the Galleria but I don't know if they have re-opened and if they even have a lunch buffet.