We don't expect our favorite Italian, American, Thai, sushi or Bosnian restaurants to serve food buffet-style. But when it comes to Indian food, St. Louisans have become spoiled by lunch buffets and often don't even consider having Indian food for dinner.
"How would I know what to order on the dinner menu?"
"I want to try some of everything!"
You may even find that you like the experience better than the buffet: items on the dinner menu haven't been sitting on the steam table; they are fresh and piping hot. And -- guess what? -- you don't have to get up from the table unless you really want to. (Or if, like me, you have a baby who needs bouncing around the restaurant.)
While I could recommend many worthy Indian restaurants in town, recently opened Haveli (9720 Page Avenue) might be one to try first. The menu at Haveli is lengthy and very descriptive so you know what you are getting. Even Americanized Indian food comes with a clear description: "Cheese garlic nan -- leavened bread stuffed with cheese and baked with garlic." Speaking of that cheese garlic nan, that's definitely a group item. Don't dare try ordering it on a date. I still tasted the garlic a day later. Mmmm!
For those who want guidance beyond the printed menu, our server did a superb job of easing the ordering experience for Indian dinner novices. She walked around the table and took a moment to ask each person in our party if she or he had any questions about the menu. As we placed our orders, she made sure that she understood exactly at what level of spiciness we wanted our food to be and then took the extra, appreciated step of checking back after the food arrived to make sure that the chef had gotten it right. (The chef had.)
All of that being said, I'm definitely heading back to Haveli some time to try the lunch buffet. I want to try some of everything!
Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month.