I'm a sucker for a good buffet, and I found one at India House (2501 Cerrillos Road, 471-2651).
In college, my friends and I would get really stoned and head to the mall to eat at Old Country Buffet, aka "The Trough." There, we would shuffle down the mile-long, sneeze-guarded symbol of our dystopian, diabetic future, piling onto our plates sloppy mounds of grey flesh, sodium and trans-fats. Sweatpants were de rigueur; chewing was optional.
As I've grown older (and reduced my recreational drug consumption to embarrassingly low levels), I've developed a more discerning palate. Out with OCB, and in with India House and its completely satisfying $8.95 lunch buffet. It's loaded with tandoori chicken and a dozen saags and curries—half of which are vegetarian-friendly. There are no vegan options on the lunch buffet; however, owner Amrik Dhindsa informed me that he can turn a number of vegetarian dishes on the dinner menu into vegan options by substituting olive oil for ghee.
According to Dhindsa, India House serves Santa Fe's "most authentic and traditional" northern Indian food. Both the lunch buffet and the dinner menu offer classic regional dishes like chicken tikka, daal makhani, various biryanis and a number of tandoori options. Dhindsa's father, who is from the Punjab region of India, opened the restaurant in 1992.
Contrary to local mythology, India House is not affiliated with any of the other Indian restaurants in town.
What I like most about the House's buffet is that all the dishes taste different from one another (the sign of a good Indian restaurant, in my opinion). Yes, most dishes at India House are seasoned with the same coriander, cumin, turmeric and cardamom, but the flavor profile of one dish stands out from that of another. I especially enjoy the basmati; seasoned with spices and aromatics, it's the perfect sauce sponge and tastes damn good on a piece of naan.
Bonus tip for all you lovers out there: the ingredients used to flavor your favorite Indian dishes (garlic, onions and chiles) are shown to increase blood flow to the lingam and yoni. It's true, good vindaloo can lead to even better sex (India, population 1.2 billion), so next time you're looking to spice things up in the bedroom, try spicing things up in the kitchen first. You never know; you might even get around to polishing those long-neglected countertops.
Dhindsa adds that each dish is made from scratch and is prepared fresh, daily. Items on the dinner menu are made to order, and nothing is par-cooked or reheated. This can be a strain on the kitchen during a busy dinner service, but the owners feel that the resulting quality is worth the wait—and most patrons seem to agree.
Fortunately, waiting isn't a problem at lunch. Trays of food constantly stream from the kitchen, and you can have a plate of food in front of you within minutes of walking through the door.
The owners are also working with a number of farmers and ranchers to supply the restaurant with locally-sourced ingredients. The son of a farmer himself, Dhindsa recognizes the benefits of fresh product, and hopes to continue to push the restaurant further in this direction.
If you're on Cerrillos and need a quick, tasty, satisfying lunch on the cheap, this place is hard to beat. The food on the buffet is fresh and varied; and, with a (sort of lame) salad bar and a few fruits and puddings, it makes for a complete meal. It would be nice to see a mixed pickle on the buffet next to the raita and chutneys, but it can be ordered for an additional $2.50.
If you eat too much, as I usually do, be sure to take a small scoop of candied fennel seeds on your way out. I'm told it's good for wind.
At a Glance
Serving: lunch and dinner
Menu: lunch buffet; full Indian menu for dinner
Order up: How long does it take you to walk 30 feet?
Recommendation: Vishnu gives it four thumbs up.