Just had the $3.99 lunch buffet at the Indian Supermarket at Shattuck Square, between Copy Central and Viceroy on University Ave in Berkeley and thought I'd report back to the Downtown Berkeley chowhounds.
All the dishes were mildly spiced and appeared to be prepared from decent quality items (even though the lunch and dinner buffet is only $3.99). There are two small tables streetside, and six tables inside. It was pretty busy at noon, all the tables were full, some were being shared. They also sell juice, sodas, samosas and tandoori wraps separately. No decor to speak of except severeal Ballywood-like posters of a male-female pair (in each photo, the female is way, way out of the league of the male). Also several aisles of Indian groceries to help break up the trips back to the buffet. Bus your own table. One plastic plate. Three paper napkins. Small cups for water (serve yourself from the cooler).
There were ten items:
A biryani/pilaf item that did not appear to be made with basmati rice. It was clumpy and pretty oily. No tint of saffron or much flavor. C
Tandoori chicken: Juicy, thoroughly cooked pieces of leg and thigh. Requisite fire truck red. Pieces were well-charred, giving a good "taste of the tandoori" if that is a legitimate term. B
Saag paneer: Watery and almost flavorless. The spinach appeared to be frozen spinach and there were no cubes of cheese to be found. B-
Channa masala: Decent. Chickpeas were tender but not mushy. Slices of uncooked white onion provide nice textural and flavor contrast. The sauce looked like it might have oozed out of the Exxon Valdez, very thick layer of orangish ghee that coated my plate and my utensils. B
Mixed vegetable korma: Mostly korma sauce, a few random fragments of cauliflower, green beans, and smaller fragments of unidentifiable vegetable matter. The texture of the cauliflower and green beans were nice, still a little al dente. B-
Potatoes: What looked like alloo gobhi but all alloo and no gobhi. Maybe all the gobhi went into the korma. My friend called it "Indian home fries." Russet potatoes cut into quarters, tossed in a spice mixture. It was served at what seemed like room temperature. C
Naan: The texture was sort of lacking "good chew." It kind of broke up in your mouth rather than putting up a fight. Texture was almost like a hybrid between naan and bisquick pancakes. Naan is pretty tasty no matter how bad it is though. B
Indian Hush Puppies?: Golf ball sized pieces of savory dough fried to a golden brown. Taste a lot like the long, tubular Chinese doughnuts, but with a hint of curry taste. Just a tad bit on the greasy side. Might be better fresh out of the hot fat. Very interesting and maybe worth the price of admission alone. A-
Salad: An uninspired hodge podge of wilting iceberg lettuce and red cabbage. Looked quasi-fresh, as if it was prepared within the last three or four hours. Didn't try it.
Fruit?: I think there was some sliced oranges next to the salad, but the salad was so pitiful looking, I didn't look to long in that direction. I'm pretty sure it was sliced oranges.
Overall, unspectacular Indian fare. Better than nearby Curry N Hurry and Viceroy (although I think they share the same kitchen with Viceroy, you can see Viceroy's upstairs tables and chairs through the back of the store). Best things going for it are the Indian hush puppies and the low price. India Palace easily has the best buffet in the area, fresh naan, chai, changing daily buffet, excellent service, tasty dahl special, chicken tikka masala, vegetable korma, etc. but is almost twice the price. I think it's worth it, but this place would be good when you need a good, quick Indian fix.