I had high hopes for Mezbaan. I heard it was good, its near my new home, and the inside is nicely appointed with blue drapes and tablecloths and yellow walls. Bollywood movies are shown on the TVs above the dining area, and server are omnipresent to whisk away dirty plates. Their website describes their cooking as Indian country food from the foothills of the Himalayas to the heart of Punjab.
For $9.99 I feasted on their lunch buffet which includes:
*Tadka Dal (good but forgettable)
Navaratan Korma (I didnt see any nuts which I think is a crucial component of the dish)
Pakora (unidentifiable what was inside)
Hot and Sour Soup
Vegetarian Fried Rice (the menu includes Desi Chinese items)
Aloo Gobi (though mostly cauliflower)
Butter Chicken (see notes above)
Sawa Chole (an intentionally cold chickpea salad)
*Raita (good with cucumber chunks)
*Veggie platter of lettuce, tomatoes (pretty red and tasty), jalapenos, carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers
Gulab Jamun (I was disappointed there was no kheer since Im not a doughnuts in syrup fan)
We arrived at 1:15 and were dismayed that all the food was cold. There appeared to be flames (albeit small ones) underneath all the dishes in the buffet, but they didnt seem to be doing enough. Ive never had food this cold at a buffet.
I can see why a vegetarian would like this place (assuming the cold food doesnt drive them away). There are a lot of veggie dishes, and they were generally better than the meat dishes. Speaking of meat, there were very few meat dishes, and I admit I didnt try the Tandoori Chicken after too many experiences with it being dried out at buffets. The Chicken Curry and the Butter Chicken were big disappointments. These dishes were made with dark meat (which is okay if its good, but this wasnt), and the sauces were way too congealed and oily. In fact the oiliness of the Butter Chicken scared the boyfriend who kept his distance from it. After trying it I can tell you, he was smart. I kept thinking, Wheres the Chicken Tikka Masala? because I was in such dire need of some good chicken and some good dippin sauce for my naan.
Speaking of naan, the naan was fantastic. It arrives at the table instead of getting cold and dried out in the buffet like some places. I suspect that the naan is made ahead of time and then reheated, which I know I probably shouldnt like. I dont know if it always arrives like this, but it came to our table a little buttery, freshly griddled and reheated, and incredibly delicious. I was eating it by itself. It was by far one of the best things Ive eaten all year. As a disclaimer, the boyfriend thinks Im overstating it (he thinks it was just average naan), but I thought it was amazing.
But sadly, in this case good naan does not a good Indian lunch buffet make.
Katyas Ranking of Bay Area Indian Lunch Buffets
(I might be forgetting some)
1) Passage to India (Mtn View)
2) Priya (Berkeley)
3) Mayuri (Santa Clara)
4) Mehak (Berkeley)
5) Sargam (Walnut Creek)
6) Maharaja?. (Mtn View on Castro St., cant remember name but its not Sues)
7) Tandoori Mahal (San Francisco)
8) Khana Peena (Berkeley)
9) Rajib? (Richmond Cant find it online; might be closed)
10) Swarna (Walnut Creek)
11) Mezbaan (Santa Clara)
12) India Palace (Berkeley)
13) Nawab (San Mateo Good to order off menu; terrible buffet)
14) Raj (Oakland)
I once ate at the buffet at Swagat (Mtn View) I cant remember it well enough to rank.
3939 Rivermark Village ( Montague & Agnew)
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Lunch 11:30-3:00, Dinner 5:30-10:00
Wine, cocktails, and beer served