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[TAMPA] Jai Ho (Report)


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[TAMPA] Jai Ho (Report)

tvdxer | Jun 13, 2009 07:37 PM

There are Indian restaurants, and then there are Indian restaurants. Some seek to please adventurous Western palates with the standard down-spiced Indian and Anglicized Pseudo-Indian dishes. Nothing necessarily wrong with this: after all, who doesn't like chicken tikka masala or being able to take your heat-averse relatives or friends to an "Indian" buffet?

The other class is less visible, often situated in humble, even decaying strip malls. Their decor is simpler, sometimes non-existent. The clientele at these restaurants is primarily South Asian, and there are fewer concessions to the Western palate.

Jai Ho fits the second category. And perhaps that's why the best lunch buffet I ever had was there.

The trip over was an adventure in itself, taking the Bull Runner to the University Mall and walking its length, and then crossing Fowler Ave to its strip mall, which is the same as "Pita Pit", "Saigon", Jimmy John's, and "Apna Bazaar". Each of the stores at the strip mall had the address number clearly signed; and where I expected to see "Mirch Masala" I instead saw "Jai Ho." My waiter or the host told me that "Mirch Masala" was "way back", and they had since switched ownership or changed their name at least twice.

Once inside the nicely-furnished (but with a caveat; read ahead) dining room, not a single non-South Asian-looking customer was in sight. Except me, which I thought was encouraging: surely this place targets South Asians with authentic food.

And the food was excellent. This was definitely the spiciest Indian buffet I have been to. Though I should say that the food was not excessively spicy, but much hotter than you would expect from a buffet. The choices included "chicken curry", "goat curry", "amritsari chhole" (similar to chana masala, except fancier), aloo gobi, pakora, sambar, some korma, chili chicken, and a few others I can't remember. All were excellent: entree-quality. The staple grains - naan and rice - were also provided, as were the desserts of mango pudding and (IIRC) either payasam or sevvaya (basically kheer (rice pudding) with vermicelli noodles). The buffet was simply excellent, and at $8.95 it was fairly priced.

Though I found one thing to complain about, and that is where I was seated. This restaurant has really "wide" benches - even manually pulling the table up to me my curry and rice had to travel an excessive distance to my mouth. Not only does this feel kind of awkward, but it also makes keeping the curry off your clothes (always a battle) more difficult.

A few weeks later I went to the same restaurant and ordered mysore masala dosa ($4.95) for take-out. The dosa was large enough to fill me up, and when they say "topped with RED HOT chili chutney" in the menu, they mean it! Even for my tastes it was too hot. But a great value considering that it included two other chutneys (tomato, I believe, and what seemed like mint-coconut) as well as sambar, which made for a nice post-dosa soup.

Jai Ho is also in the same strip mall as Apna Bazaar, an Indian grocer and butcher with a prodigious selection of frozen / ready-to-eat entrees (the burfi was great, but at $7.95?!), rice, exotic vegetables, and the like.

The address for Jai Ho is 2311 E Fowler Ave, and the number is the same for the old Pure Veg Mirch Masala, which still shows up on Google Maps (the lady at the counter says they're working on it).

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