Mango Lassi

India Palace, 4534 N. Lindbergh Boulevard, 314-731-3333

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The best food is Indian food, it is true. Okay, the Japanese do it pretty well, and you can't knock the French. Italians, yes, and Spanish, too, can cook. The Brits, not so much, but the Indians who live in the Isles sure do cook a mean curry. Which brings us back to India and its food, which (did we mention?) is the best food in the world, especially served in a buffet, and especially then if your diet is mainly vegetarian, because you can't really go wrong. You've got the creamy and the veggie and the cheesy and the bready and the delicate flavors of clove and cardamom. If you're lucky on a Sunday at noon on the top floor of the Bridgeton Howard Johnson's, where India Palace makes some of the best Indian in town (although we equally adore House of India at Delmar and 170), the place'll be offering vegetable korma, the best dish of the best cuisine in the best Indian-food-originating country on the best Earth in the galaxy.

If you're smart, or do what jerks in free weeklies suggest, you'll go ahead and spring for a mango lassi next time you do the Indian food thing, because the Palace's lassis are especially rich with ripe mango, yogurt and a touch of sugar. Theirs, and all other versions, depend most urgently on the freshness and ripeness of the mango, of course. You can't make a good lassi with a bad mango, but that's of no concern here, because this mango is exquisite. Admittedly, a mango lassi in Americaspeak sounds much less sophisticated: A lassi is basically a smoothie. So you can make this orange gem at home, but that would remove the fun of requesting one from the legion of stealth Indian servers who glide through the dining room honoring requests such as yours.

If you're new to St. Louis or Indian food, make a beeline. India Palace overlooks the airport, and from its top-floor perch, you can watch planes land and hopefully not crash, though if you're a Bridgeton resident, you may want to stay away, because every glance out the window is a reminder that, even though Lambert is deadsville, they're still continuing with the runway expansion that took your home away from you. They're still spending 1.3 kajillion dollars on unnecessary runways when not three miles away people are cold and hungry in Pine Lawn. So be forewarned, Bridgetonians.

The one danger in the buffet-and-lassi combo, however, is the sheer volume of food and pleasure available for your consumption. Keep sucking on the lassi, which is rich and thick, and it will consume space you may have been saving for those exquisite honeyballs the Palace serves. But if you consider the pleasure of a mango lassi to be equal to that received via the savory buffet offerings, you'll make room, and a touch of overbloated expansion will give way to the sweet, sweet aftertaste of a Sunday afternoon well spent.

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