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Great Indian food, killer desserts, fit for a Maharaja

October 2011

On a cold, blustery, rainy autumn night, we arrived at Buffet Maharaja with high expectations. Happily we can report they were met— even surpassed.

It had been a while since we had dropped by to feast from the well-stocked tables at this all-you-can-eat Indian buffet and we were astounded by the quality of the food and the warmth and comfort of the finely appointed eatery on René-Lévesque. The freshness and care taken in preparing the vast variety of dishes is without comparison on the local scene. Add to its classics a new sweet table, prepared by a renowned Bangla Deshi sweets master and you have what surely is a treasure in the city’s culinary scene.

The first thing we did was walk around to “case the joint” so we could see what was there and plan our repast so as not to overeat. The concept should be treated as an opportunity to taste, savour and enjoy slowly, not to gorge.

For starters, Barbara focused on the large variety of vegetarian options, sampling the dal (lentil soup), which was delicately flavoured with turmeric, while I went for its cousin, the curry-flavoured Mulligatawny soup, made with chicken broth. Both delighted our taste buds. We sampled the fried vegetable pakoras, veggie samosas and onion bhaji, heightening the experience with hot, sweet-and-sour tamarind sauces and/or mango chutney. We were offered a freshly baked nan of our choice—delectable.

We were now ready for the main event, Barbara heading to the vegetarian section while I went to the meat and poultry section, where there also are a few seafood and fish dishes.

A superb cook, when she has the time, Barbara loved the spicy chick peas, insisting that I sample the dish, which I did and immediately concurred. The saag spinach was very fresh, not mushy or overcooked, and you could make out tiny pieces of leaf. The mixed veggies and green beans and potato also met her criteria of retaining shape and texture and not overpowering, spice-wise.

I started with the seafood—giant breaded and fried scallops tasted fresh and moist. Large garlic shrimps and grilled shrimp jekka on a skewer were equally delectable. As the reader will have noticed, we passed on the various rice dishes to leave room for maximum sampling. I loved the beef vindaloo, which was kept moderate on the hotness scale. I wrapped them in freshly baked nan breads, plain and with vegetables. Yummy. The hot sauce to accompany the chicken tikka on skewers was also kept to a moderate scale, these moist morsels a delight to devour. The lamb saag, cooked slowly, was savoured slowly to better experience various layers of flavouring.

I then realized I had missed a whole section and had to pass on the curries, butter chicken and chicken korma, sampling instead the tandoori chicken, which had that distinctive colour and was tasty and fun to eat.

There was a large and varied salad bar but it was time to move on to the desserts. We ignored the Western desserts, deciding instead to sample the Indian ones, based on homemade cottage cheese and prepared by the buffet’s newest cook, Osman Ahamed, said by restaurant management to be a world-famous dessert chef. We found out why, as we devoured these small balls of varied colours, flavours and textures, never too sweet, a soothing and even sensuous antidote to the spicy food we had just consumed. We drank Coke ($2.95) and ended with pots of Indian tea ($2).

Service was attentive and friendly throughout. What’s amazing about this dining experience is the relatively low price, $16.99 Monday to Wednesdays, $18.99 Thursday to Sunday. Drinks and service are extra. The 60-plus set gets 25% off Wednesdays.

There is free parking off Mackay St. behind the restaurant for up about 12 cars, while the charge is $4 in the adjoining lot, behind the Bar-B Barn.

Buffet Maharaja 1481 René Lévesque W. 514-934-0655



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