Tucked away in the University Mall, behind the Davis Graduate, is a little gem new to the Davis restaurant scene. Namaste Nepal, a restaurant specializing in Nepalese and Indian cuisine, may have a modest exterior but don’t be too quick to judge.
As a newbie to Nepalese and Indian cuisine scene, I wasn’t too sure what to expect when my sister and I sat down for a lunch buffet one afternoon but I was pleasantly surprised.
Our waitress was quick to seat us and took off with our drink orders after pointing out the buffet, which did look disappointingly small at first glance. There is one buffet section set up for cold and raw food including vegetables, sauces and desserts as well as another area for hot dishes.
Now, I have to confess my experience with buffets in the past have been either pretty generic a la Sizzlers and Fresh Choice, or a la my mother’s office party celebrations, which never had enough lumpia and included way too much karaoke.
So as I picked up my plate at the start of the buffet line I did have a little apprehension. However, I wanted to get this review done.
All the food was appropriately labeled and not having too much of a strategy, I picked up small samples of foods that looked interesting including the chicken tandoori and goat meat.
The first bite of tandoori bread, naan, with chicken tikka masala cooked in a tomato and herb sauce was a very good introduction to the taste of Nepalese and Indian foods for someone who has never had much of either.
The chicken was not chewy or stringy and the sauce was light and creamy. But the real treat was the naan, which looks to me like a fluffy tortilla.
The naan was really the highlight of the meal, and I probably wasn’t the only one with that opinion because as my sister and I went to get seconds the naan was all gone.
It was swiftly replaced, however, with a new, fresh and warm batch from the kitchen, conveniently located next to the buffet, by a quick-stepped employee who was in and out and back in the kitchen in a matter of seconds.
With a fresh of supply of naan, right out of the clay pot, I found that I no longer really needed my fork to eat. Well, I mean, besides for the vegetable dishes. The vegetable korma, a cashew nut-based flavored curry, was again light and surprisingly refreshing while the vegetable fried rice was a little dry for my tastes.
But I did use the naan to dip into many of the sauces and meat dishes, including the goat meat. When I told my sister it had a melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture, she looked grossed out and didn’t touch it. So you’ll just have to take my word for it and go try the goat meat for yourself.
On the other hand, the gulab jamun, a type of dessert delicacy stuffed with pistachio and green cardamom seed, was really soggy, like wet bread, and was not my cup of tea.
Overall, the dishes that I tried at the lunch buffet were light and not too overwhelmingly spicy. The flavors were great and a quick look over their menu shows that not only are dinner prices affordable, with many vegetarian options, but that they offer a variety of naan.
They have different varieties of naan, including garlic and cilantro, naan stuffed with cherries and raisins and naan with onion, cauliflower, potatoes or spinach. I will most likely be getting my naan fix at Namaste in the future.
Namaste Nepal also offers to-go orders and delivery (free for orders over $30). A sign outside their door says that the lunch buffet discounts for students ($7.99 with student ID) will last until Nov. 31.
The only bit of cautionary advice I can think of to give is not to take the spoonful of breath freshener, a blend of some kind of herbs and sugar coated candies that look like nerds, sitting on the beautiful granite counter near the cash register. Trust me, it is really, really strong.
In the end, Namaste’s lunch buffet had great service – the waitress refilled our glasses almost right away – and tasty food for a reasonable price. I left with a full stomach, no dent in my wallet and a smile and wave from the guy at the front counter. What more can you ask for?
JESSY WEI can be reached at email@example.com.