If you’ve never tried Indian Food, and are a bit timid about taking the leap, then Maharaja Fine Indian Cuisine, or more specifically, the lunch buffet at Maharaja, is a great way to experience a lot of varied dishes, without having to commit to just one.

Let me say first, that you can’t go wrong with anything you may choose from the Maharaja menu. The food is incredible: fresh, flavorful, authentic Indian cuisine. However, if you aren’t familiar with ordering Indian food, then the menu can be a bit intimidating, even though the descriptions are very thorough. But if you’ve never experienced Indian spices, then there is a chance you just won’t like this food.

That’s what is great about the lunch buffet at Maharaja. Each weekday afternoon, at least five different main entrées, along with breads (roti), appetizers (shurwat), and desserts (mithae) are offered. And the selections change daily, so you could go for an entire week and not have to eat the same thing twice.

I have to say that I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to eating out. Once I find a dish that I love, I will order it all the time. My tried and true order at Maharaja had always been their wonderful Butter Chicken, (Makhni Murge) which is marinated cubes of chicken cooked in butter and a thick tomato cream sauce. Can you say DIVINE? On my last visit to the lunch buffet, I found a new favorite in the Vegetable Korma which that day featured potatoes and cauliflower cooked in a cream sauce and garnished with cashews and other nuts. Also offered that day were Tadka Dal (lentils cooked with spices, ginger, and garlic), Tandoori Chicken (chicken marinated in Indian herbs, spices and yogurt then grilled/baked in the traditional Tandoor clay oven), Chana Masala (chick peas cooked in a tomato and onion gravy flavored with ground spices) as well as appetizers like Vegetable Samosas (mildly spiced crisp patties stuffed with potatoes and peas), and Spinach Pakoras (spinach fritters). As with other Asian cuisines, rice is a staple in this diet and the Basmati rice at Maharaja is simply seasoned and immensely fragrant – the perfect accompaniment to all the menu items.

Don’t forget to round the corner and sample the many different condiments including mango pickles, mint and tamarind chutneys. If you like a lot of heat, then definitely try the spicy pickles (I am still recovering). The desserts that day were a luscious Mango Pudding (thickened with corn starch) that was slightly tart and a wonderful way to refresh the palate, and Kheer (basmati rice pudding) which wasn’t thick like a pudding, but rather rice cooked in cream with almonds. Sweet, creamy, and a touch exotic, it was a just end to a superb lunch.

The service, even though it’s a buffet, is efficient and professional. Our glasses were kept full, the table kept cleared. And what was even more wonderful was the Chef/Owner Jonathan Costa was on hand to explain all the dishes and offer suggestions on what condiments to pair with what foods. His passion and excitement about his food and restaurant was all the inspiration I needed to write this article.

The lunch buffet at Maharaja Fine Indian Cuisine is $7.99 per person and is available seven days per week (Sunday’s price is $8.99) from 11:30am to 2:00pm. Check out their website, click on promotions and you will find a $1 off coupon for the lunch buffet with a beverage.

by Dyan Carison, Charlottesville Restaurant Examiner
Check out my article at Charlottesville Cooking Examiner.