Tucked between A-Ri-Rang and Cravings on Wright Street in Campustown, Ambar India Restaurant is a great spot for a satisfying meal. If you didn’t know already, Ambar’s lunch buffet is back open with a variety of Indian cuisine from the restaurant’s menu. The buffet is all-you-can-eat from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Though I’d heard tell of this buffet, I’d not yet tried it myself — until yesterday.
I skipped the menu and my usual order of chicken curry with garlic naan to order Ambar India’s lunch buffet ($14.99). The little restaurant does not have a very large spread, but there was plenty available to make a filling lunch.
From naan to curry to dessert, there was definitely lots to taste. The buffet began with tandoori chicken. Under white onion and pepper slices, bone-in chicken had a marinade of yogurt, herbs, and spices.
Next were two popular dishes: chicken curry and chicken tikka masala. My friend and Arts Editor Serenity loves Ambar’s chicken tikka masala, the clay-pot roasted chicken in a creamy tomato sauce. I’d not had Ambar’s version before, so the buffet was a good opportunity to scoop some onto my rice. After one bite, I totally get why she likes it.
The spiciest thing on the buffet was this chili chicken, a dish from the Indo-Chinese part of Ambar India’s menu. The battered, fried chicken was tossed in a spicy sauce with cooked onions and bell peppers.
Lentil-lovers will enjoy Ambar’s lunch buffet’s dal makhani. In terms of vegetarian options on the buffet, I spotted meat-free dishes like paneer tikka masala and aloo channa (potatoes and chickpeas) in addition to papad, naan, rice, and gulab jamun dessert. There was also a smaller spread of cold items: fruit salad, lettuce, green chutney, raita, tomato slices, and limes.
I wanted to try a bit of everything, but I quickly realized that it wouldn’t all fit on one plate, so I pivoted to a chicken-forward helping: chili chicken, chicken curry (my favorite), vegetable pakora, chicken tikka masala, rice, naan, tandoori chicken, paneer tikka masala, aloo channa, and dal makhani plus a crispy papad on top.
The chicken curry was as delicious as it always is, though less spicy than when I’ve ordered off the menu. The bright red tandoori chicken was savory and so easy to pick off the bones. The earthy dal makhani had three kinds of lentils with a nice tomato taste, and I really liked the starchy saffron potatoes. That aloo channa absorbed all the sauces just as well as warm naan and steamed rice, making for a delicious medley of Indian flavors. The papad added a nice, crispy textural contrast to all the soft food. The chili chicken was wonderfully spicy with yummy ginger and garlic flavors, but the batter had softened some. Same with the veggie pakora; the buffet-style had taken its toll because the fried coating wasn’t crunchy.
That said, I did manage to go for seconds, but the photos are appallingly unaesthetic, but I assure you the second plate was a satisfying feast, too.
All in all, was the food as good as when it’s cooked to order? No, but that’s the life of a buffet eater. What Ambar India’s lunch buffet lacked in crispiness and spiciness, it had in spades with convenience. Being able to eat a plate of various Indian dishes (portioned exactly to one’s liking) as fast as one can plate? That’s definitely what would make this buffet appetizing for a hungry Campustown person in a hurry.
Ambar India Restaurant
605 W Wright St
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m., daily