Maanas offers quality and quantity at its lunchtime smorgasbord.
Asking me to choose my favorite Indian buffet is like asking me to pick my favorite Van Halen record.
Ain't gonna happen.
Fortunately, in the culinary wilderness of Lewis Center, another Indian buffet has opened near my office.
While I generally lament buffets because of my propensity to overeat, there's room for the occasional smorgasbord-diving in my diet. The latest all-you-can-eat afternoon adventure is at Maanas, a clean, open and white tablecloth restaurant just off the beaten path at 1335 Cameron Ave., just off of Polaris Parkway.
The lunch buffet ($9.99 weekdays, $10.99 weekends) is a treasure, with polished, silver-domed serving vessels as far as the eye can see.
Let's start with two essentials: The naan, an Indian flatbread, is crispy, not soft and doughy, and the basmati rice is flaky, tender and moist.
One criticism is that the buffet tends to be a little too chicken-oriented. Some lamb and goat would really help diversify the lineup.
Good tandoori chicken is an absolute must and Maanas does not disappoint. Hued dusky red, the poultry is smoky but far from dry. The Manchurian option features nuggets of deep-fried chicken, lightly sauced compared to other versions, with a volley of tangy, sweet and hot. Alas, more chicken, but worth a bite is the chicken chatinad, as is the ubiquitous chicken tikka masala.
There's a good meat-to-vegetarian ratio, though dishes from the latter were infrequently sampled. Very enjoyable were the crunchy pakoras and the medu wada, crispy little savory donuts. It was nice to see masala dosa make the roster one day, but the Indian crepes (stuffed with curried potato) weren't quite as crispy as I like. Another highlight was the whole hardboiled eggs bathed in curry (depending on whether you consider eggs to be part of a vegetarian diet).
Already a fan of Bayleaf and Cuisine of India, two other Polaris eateries, I refuse to place them in order of preference. Let's just say Maanas stacks up nicely against the competitors.