“Curry - the best comes from India. An imitation is made of one ounce of coriander seeds, two ounces of cayenne, a quarter ounce of cardamom seeds, one ounce salt, two ounces turmeric, one ounce ginger, half an ounce of mace and a third of an ounce of saffron.”
-Charles Ranhofer (Chef at Delmonico’s 1862-95), The Epicurean
The Hillcroft Project: At random, I pick a restaurant on Hillcroft, eat there, and write about it. My Thesis: By randomly choosing restaurants on Hillcroft, I am going to find good food that is exotic and cheap.
Today, I randomly chose a restaurant in a strip center at Hillcroft and the Southwest Freeway called Anand Bhavan. Anand Bhavan serves a vegetarian Indian lunch buffet for $4.95. To quote Barefoot Contessa, "How bad can that be?"
Anand Bhavan is the name of the majestic, ancestral home of the Neru family in India. The Houston restaurant of the same name is a dump in a grungy strip center. Its chairs and tables that look like they were bought second hand from a cheap 1980s fast food restaurant. On the walls are some faded photos of Indian dishes that do not look very appetizing. Even more ominous, at noon on a Wednesday, I am the only customer.
Most of the buffet dishes feature a particular vegetable or bean, such as chick peas, spinach, potatoes, green beans, or lentils. Each dish has a very spicy curry or broth with plenty of exotic flavors. Although I have a high spice tolerance, this food is so spicy that by the end of the meal my eyes are watering, and I need to blow my nose. In fact, if I did blow my nose, no one would hear. The proprietor has gone into the back room, and I am the only person in the restaurant.
My only other reference point for vegetarian Indian food buffet is Madras Pavilion on Kirby near the Southwest Freeway. The dishes at Madras Pavilion and Anand Bhavan are very similar, but there are some differences. Anand Bhavan does not serve dosai (an Indian filled crepe) that comes with the buffet at Madras Pavilion. Anand Bhavan's curries are spicier than Madras Pavilion. Anand Bhavan looks much dingier inside than Madras Pavilion. Anand Bhavan is a lot cheaper; the buffet costs $4.95, but Madras Pavilion's lunch buffet costs around $10. Yet Anand Pavilion has far fewer customers. Today I am the only one.
Why is no one else here? Perhaps there is another place on Hillcroft where I can get even more exotic food for even less money. I must find out where.