Jack of all flavors, master of none. That's what I feel about all-you-can-eat buffets.. I end up gorging on everything indiscriminately, with complete disregard for what would have been the choicest picks on the à la carte menu, all for some lowly price that usually doesn't justify my having wasted a precious mealtime opportunity on stuffing my face with an incongruous assortment of mediocre-tasting dishes.
So why I picked a Punjabi buffet for Sunday brunch in Hyderabad is a mystery.
Maybe it was because of the many positive reviews I'd read online. It was one of those things that you don't really want to try, but then, like hurriedly walking past a streetside performance as you're trying to get from point A to point B, the gathering crowd and thumping music gets the better of you and forces you to take a quick peek.
And so I took a peek at what Angeethi had to offer. Though 'peek' may be an understatement considering how much I'd stuffed myself that afternoon. More like a full-blown HD video. Paired with a Bose surround sound system. And at the end of it all, despite all my qualms about buffet-style meals, Angeethi did a right about turn on me and my bearish skepticism. Rather than feeling overstuffed on mediocre, mundane dishes towards the end of my meal, I actually left (still overstuffed) having consumed some pretty high quality stuff.
In true consulting fashion (old habits die hard, especially when you were paid to cultivate them), let me bullet point out what I'd expected to get, and why Angeethi proved me wrong. I'm going to be super-systematic and do this in a parallel 'While I expected XXX'...'I was pleasantly surprised by/at YYY.' (If you see this in Bob-the-consultant's presentation at your next meeting, you know where the framework came from.) Without further ado:
- While I expected a crowded restaurant with a long line of people elbowing their way to the buffet table, I was pleasantly surprised at how peaceful the restaurant was (maybe because we reached early? but even at the peak of lunchtime rush hour, there was no rowdy line)
- ...to be unimpressed with the interiors...by Angeethi's well-designed rustic decor, North Indian village-like ambiance, and soft (but sufficient) lighting. Made it feel like a tranquil haven away from the hustle and bustle of Banjara down below.
- ...a half-assed starters act...by a pretty extensive spread of chaat and fancy salad mixes (including a Mexican salad, and even a Russian one. Though if there's chaat on the table, I'll waste no precious tum space on salad, no matter how fancy.) The spinach pakoda chaat (spinach leaves battered and deep-fried, then doused with yogurt, chutneys and crispy deep fried dough vermicilli or sev) was so irresistably good that each crunchy spinach bite makes you involuntarily burst out into a Popeye-like chuckle.)
- ...to get the same old chicken tikka masala and saag paneer (shrek-sized YAWN.) and to not be wow-ed by any of them...at how Angeethi did some of the cliched dishes with commendable culinary flair. The standard dal makhani was absolutely delicious, with creamy whole black lentils spiked with buttery ghee and warm spices (thereby totally justifying its online rave reviews.) The smokey chicken kababs, peppery phool seekhs (skewered kababs made out of ground up cauliflower), and tomato-powered pav bhaji were equally delightful. And the saag paneer was...well, how creative can one get with saag paneer? Yaaawn.
- ...to have some mundane rice concoction that I usually stroll past in most buffet settings...by the flavor-busting biryanis, both the vegetarian one with spiced cauliflower and potatoes and especially the meat one, with tender chunks of juicy mutton. Worth noting that the side of burani raita (garlicky yogurt chutney) paired wonderfully with the mutton biryani, really toning the spice levels down a notch for us spice-fearing wimps and packing a strong garlic punch in every bite. (Wrigleys for dessert people?)
- ...to have the usual excessively sugary gulab jamuns for dessert...by the well, I wasn't pleasantly surprised here actually. As expected, they did have excessively sugary desserts, like gulab jamuns (who'd have guessed.), jalebis (fried strands of...well, whatdya know, sugar.), rasmalai (found the paneer balls a tad bit rubbery), rich milky phirni (similar to kheer, though more watery in consistency) and even-more rich shahi tukda (sugar-drenched pieces of bread that are deep-fried and dunked in creamy sweet milk. Just what your cardiologist recommended.)
Worth noting that this place even had a dedicated paan stall inside the restaurant, as well as a mini village fair on the balcony outside, where they had someone spinning clay pots on a wheel, another making lakh (or lacquered) bangles out of tree resin, and a third piping out henna designs. And their service was super attentive - balloons for the kids, hot naans/rotis for each table, friendly servers and roti-makers (who stopped everything in their open-faced kitchen to flip naans for us pesky food photographers). The perfect Sunday brunch excursion for families...
I wouldn't go so far as to claim that Angeethi served up one of the best meals I've had in Hyderabad. I've definitely had way more inspiring and taste-bud exhilirating food journeys in this city. Rather, the restaurant certainly exceeded my expectations (which were pretty low to begin with)...were I living in the city, I'd probably drop by every three or four months for a belt-popping overdose of Angeethi's spinach chaat, daal makhani, mutton biryani, and whatever else I can pile up on my plate on a hungry Sunday afternoon.
Phone: +91 (40) 66252941
701, Reliance Classic, 1, Near Care Hospital Above Barista, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, India