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Mehak review: Indian lunch buffet in Berkeley

Marc Wallace | Jan 4, 200304:48 PM

Tried out the lunch buffet at Mehak yesterday, based on a previous posting (see link below). It was good -- not my favorite, but clean and convenient.

We arrived just before noon, trying to beat the crowd. Still me -- it's (a) holiday season, (b) far from campus, (c) far from the business district. The place was empty, and they were still setting up the buffet!

Of course, the bonus for us was that the buffet food was completely fresh, and we didn't have to worry about grabbing food before anyone else did! I did feel sorry for them, though -- we left around 1pm, and nobody else had come in for the buffet. (three Indian guys did come in, but ordered off the menu)

The buffet was: tandoori chicken, lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, pakoras, a pea and tofu curry, some eggplant curry, and a 'vegetable medley' curry. Also there was salad, two sauces (mint and tamarind), raita, and rice pudding.

Tandoori chicken was less "glow in the dark" red than most, but the meat was tender. Lamb curry got mixed reviews -- the sauce was only okay, but the lamb was well trimmed and succulent. The tikka masala was (I thought) the best I'd had. (disclaimer: I don't really like the tikka masala sauce) Most places seem to use their leftover tandoori meat in the tikka masala, often hoping the grisly bits melt into the sauce. This one used large chunks of high quality chicken meat, clearly (by the way the sauce had absorbed in) not leftovers.

The pakoras were truly outstanding. Instead of the standard "one veggie bit per pakora", this was more of a mix; bits of various vegetables, surrounded with a spicy chana dal mix, and a bit of a curried flavor. Excellent.

The pea and tofu curry was also quite amazing. I only took a bit to taste it -- not being a big fan of peas. However, it had the best curry sauce of all their dishes, and the peas were nicely balanced.

The rice really shone through, too. Seems an odd thing to praise, but I've had good food ruined by sticky or overly flavoured rice. This was an excellent match for their curries. Normally, I get just enough rice so the sauces don't overly intermingle, but when I got seconds, I got extra rice just to eat plain.

Didn't try the eggplant curry, sorry. The 'vegetable medley' curry (odd label, that) wasn't too amazing, either. Usually I like vegetable curries. Maybe it was the green beans that did it. Not sure, but it just tasted bad.

Salad was... salad. Lots of cucumber and tomato slices, sprinkled with coriander. I was disappointed at the "sauces", as I had been hoping for some honest chutneys. Ah, well.

Also disappointing was the bread they brought out. Rather than the naan one normally gets, this was a heavily oiled (or ghee'd?), almost sweet, flat bread of some kind. Not even worth using to soak up sauce (which just slid off it). SO usually eats most of the bread we got, but gave up after a small taste.

$7 per. Oh, and chai is a mere $1 (!), and quite amazing.

All in all -- not my favorite (Swarna in Walnut Creek is), but it's a lot closer to Oakland, not overly crowded, and they were exceptionally friendly. I won't rush back, but it'll go on my list of "every few months" places. Too bad they weren't around when I was living four blocks from there! (sigh)

Sacramento and Dwight, across the street from Breads of India. Free parking a block south; there are usually spots between Derby (3blks) and Blake (1blk), or along any of those streets it's a 2hr zone.


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