When the front doors open and the angle and breeze are just right, the subtle but unmistakable aroma of garam masala floods the strip mall at Delmar Boulevard and Interstate 170 like one of those plug-in atomizers set to "India." (Somebody needs to get on the stick and invent that.) House of India is the senior-citizen siren of St. Louis Indian cuisine, luring diners to its tastefully decorated dining room, time and again, for seventeen years. You want to believe that a better lunch buffet exists in St. Louis — maybe someplace closer to your office — but it doesn't. At $7.95, HOI's lunch buffet is unbeatable in price, freshness and variety. Once you've loaded your plate with creamy vegetable korma, red tandoori meats straight out of the (clay) oven, doughy naan and a rice pudding that will make you believe in, well, rice pudding, you'll know your trek to the western reaches of U. City was worth it. If you need to take your buffet eats to go, House of India charges a flat rate of $5 per pound — a generous and unique option for the true power luncher. The environs, wine list and proximity to Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe (about eight feet) make House of India an ideal pick for a date night. If you're there for dinner, try lamb vindaloo or chicken karahi — both are chock-full of character and red chiles. Fun fact to bust out on your dining companion on a first date: Vindaloo originated not in India but in Europe; Portuguese explorers brought it to the Goa region sometime around the 16th century. Its name is derived from vinha, the Portuguese word for wine vinegar, which was once the dish's main ingredient. If his or her eyes start to glaze over as you impart this tidbit, this first date ought to be the last. And don't even think of letting the bum in on the glorious secrets of the lunch buffet.
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