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San Mateo’s Nawab: Highly Raita-d for Dinner, but Lunch Buffet? Aloo-ser

katya | Aug 2, 200509:46 PM

I finally tried the Nawab Indian lunch buffet. I’d previously eaten off the menu at Nawab and pronounced them to have the best Indian food on the Peninsula, and declared that while they didn’t make any unusual dishes, all the Indian standards were cooked more than competently. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I make a lot of formal proclamations about Indian food.)

But had I eaten at Nawab’s buffet first, I would never have returned to order entrees.

Reasons Nawab’s Buffet Sucks Donkey Balls

1. The buffet pickings are slim. There’s not nearly the same spread as at other buffets. And it’s offered daily for $7.99. For that price (a buck above most buffets) I expect more dishes.

2. I judge Indian buffets by my favorite dish, the plebian crowd pleaser, chicken tikka masala (CTM) or the dish most like it (usually chicken makhani). Unfortunately Nawab didn’t serve the stellar CTM I’ve had from the dinner menu, and instead put out chicken makhani that had an odd smoky flavor. The boyfriend had a bite of something hard in it that he had to spit out.

3. I only took two plates of food. At most buffets I get at least three. The way that works is:
Plate One: A sampling of what’s presented
Plate Two: Veggies and raita to cleanse the palate
Plate Three: Best of Plate One, plus dessert and anything else people rave about that I didn’t get for original Plate One.

I didn’t even want to get Plate III (a.k.a. the best hits of Plate One). I’ve only ever done that at one other buffet (my lowest rated buffet).

One Kind of Good Thing About Nawab

For the first time instead of plain naan brought hot to the table, they presented hot garlic naan. That was a nice touch, except that it was really thin and not puffy or chewy at all. It still had that good garlic naan taste though.

This Is What I Ate

Vegetable biryani
Chana masala (tomato-y but good)
Vegetable pakora (mashed veggie patty but dry)
Vegetable masala (with cauliflower and zucchini)
Black bean dal
Chicken curry (so tender it fell apart at the touch of a fork; probably the best dish there)
Khadi pakora (unappetizingly sour)
Platter of fresh vegetables including cucumbers, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, carrots
Raita (good)
Mango custard (why must every Indian buffet put canned fruit cocktail in this? otherwise good)

This Is What I Didn’t Try

Tandoori chicken
Fish pakora
Chutneys, cold garbanzo bean salad, watermelon
Gulab jamun

I’m telling you though, go back for dinner! They also have an Entertainment Guide coupon.

I noticed when I was at Nawab for dinner a week and a half ago that instead of having a dollar bill behind the counter as ostensibly the first dollar the restaurant made, they had a $50 bill. I was impressed by the restaurant’s balls (yes, the restaurant’s balls) to have it next to the front door with only a piece of tape holding one end of it in place. We noted sadly on our buffet visit that only a sliver of the bill was left under the tape, and apparently someone had taken off with the rest.


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., can’t remember name but it’s not Sue’s)
7) Tandoori Mahal (San Francisco)
8) Khana Peena (Berkeley)
9) Rajib? (Richmond – Can’t find it online; might be closed)
10) Swarna (Walnut Creek)
11) India Palace (Berkeley)
12) Nawab (San Mateo)
13) Raj (Oakland)

I once ate at the buffet at Swagat (Mtn View) – I can’t remember it well enough to rank.

5 S. Ellsworth Ave. (at Baldwin)
San Mateo, CA 94401
Daily lunch buffet; Open daily for dinner after 5 p.m. (no hours posted online)


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