Consistency. Its so important these days. Be consistently bad or consistently good. Don't ever change. Help me live my routine life. When ownership changes at restaurants, I get nervous. Hardly ever does it stay the same. I used to be a patron of Maharaja Palace but it changed owners a year or so back. The old owner got to know us and he was the nicest guy. You could tell the food was made from scratch and the flavors were so much more intense than any of the other Indian places I tried.
I also feel Indian food is way over priced unless you get it in a buffet. Its one of the few foods that holds up in a buffet as well so I do not feel that having it in a serving line diminishes the taste.
I haven't been back until recently. The first thing I noticed was a ton of wait staff on a Saturday afternoon at 11AM. This struck me as strange as this place isn't usually busy in the afternoon. Under the old ownership this place would have parties until 3 AM on the weekends! The waitstaff was there because a party of 80 wanted to come in for lunch and wanted a buffet.
So the fact that Indian people were still drawn to this place was a good sign. As we sat, several other parties came in. All Indian people. I was optimistic!
I was informed that they were going to do things a little differently today. The party of 80 were vegetarians so everything in the buffet was without meat. However they were going to bring the meat out separately for us. SCORE!
Shortly after we sat down they brought out Tandoori Chicken. It was better than I remembered. A stronger "smokey" taste. Tender and moderately juicy. Mild in its taste, yet distinct. They did change the Raita and I didn't like it as before. Not as "cucumbery" and it had more spices in it. I like it blander. The green relish stuff was the same.
They brought out Garlic Naan. Its still awesome. A microlayer of crackery crispness, then soft and chewy beyond that. Great garlic flavor without being over powering. I use it to scoop up everything.
When you plate everything, it looks like a real meal! But with the buffet, you get to try so much stuff.
They brought out "Butter Chicken". Lots of tender morsels of chicken. A faint butter taste. A strong creamy tomato taste. This was my favorite. Its great with the naan. My only complaint is there could have been more chicken in it.
I only took pictures and ate off the right side of the buffet line. The other side was like a salad bar. I can get salad bar stuff anywhere. So I was not going to waste valuable stomach space with salad. However I think they had Indian variations on the salad side and many of you may like that kind of roughage.
The vegetable pakoras were pieces of various vegetables that were dipped in batter and fried. They had a faint taste of Indian spices. Its so hard for me to distinguish Indian spices for me, so forgive me. These were crispy but not greasy. Maybe a little on the chewy side. Probably the one item that does diminish in a buffet rather than fresh. But nevertheless good.
Vegetable Samosas were next. These are pastry that is filled with chickpeas and potatoes and fried. Very close to a Falafel. Looks like a slice of Jimmy Dean Sausage. Crispy outside. creamy and smooth like mashed potatoes on the inside. Only more of a nutty flavor.
The vegetable rice was simply basmatti rice with mixed vegetables (the kind you buy in your grocers freezer and come in a bag). However the rice was fluffy, moist and had that awesome popcorn aroma. Most importantly it tasted great with just the right amount of saltiness.
The Aloo Gobi was awesome. Cauliflower and Potatoes sauteed in mild herbs and spices. Bright yellow in color with a nice curry like taste. Both vegetables had the right amount of "firmness". I didn't try the lentils pictured. But Mrs. Dog said they were excellent.
The Navratan Korma was tasty. It was the same type of "bag" mixed vegetables, but in a creamy sauce that is slightly sweet.
Saag Paneer was creamed spinach with a great spinach taste. Very creamy, but holds up. Nice mild spices and lots and lots of bits of that cheese cube stuff. I love this dish.
For desert they usually have the Gulab Jaman which are fried doughnut hole type things made out of milk cheese balls in a honey syrup. These are the so good. But the party of 80 wanted Gajar Halwa which is mashed carrots in a cheese sauce that is sweetened and mixed with almonds and nuts. So guess what was served. I like this. If you can stand carrot cake, you can eat this. Although it tastes nothing like carrot cake. I really enjoyed it. Mrs. Dog couldn't get past the carrot thing.
The whole bill which includes soft drinks came to $23 for 2 which included the tip. Monday through Friday the buffet is only $6.95 including your drink. This is why I get so bent when people go to places like Nikki's.
Aside from the Raita, everything is as good as it ever was. Very flavorful and made with care and attention to detail. I would highly recomend this place and for the price its a steal considering all the items you can try.
The Maharaja Palace
421 Tustin Ave
Orange, CA 92867