I have a love/hate relationship with Indian food. Translated: I love it when it’s in front of me and I hate it when it’s not. I can’t be trusted with determining my own portion-sizes when it comes to this sort of thing, so I decide to simply indulge my inner Indian-food-lovin’ glutton last Friday and check out the lunch buffet at Raja Rani.
My boyfriend and I arrive at the adorable house-turned-restaurant on S. Division at about 1:45 p.m. The place is definitely more full than empty, and there appears to be groups of all sizes scattered about each room. I figure this is a good sign, as is the cloud of warm, earthy aromas that creeps up my nostrils as we make our way past the buffet, telling me that nom-nom time is ahead. Oddly, our server fills our water glasses, and then leaves without a word after we sit…was it something we said? We’re initially not sure how to proceed, but, thankfully, she eventually returns to inform us that, “um, you can just go.” I’m sure she just assumed that we’d been in before and already knew the rules, but I would have appreciated a quick rundown of the usual procedure.
The tables are laden with all sorts of appetizing sights: steaming tureens of colorful curries, a dispenser of neon-hued mango juice, a silver tea-kettle that promises house-made chai. I decide to go hard, surrounding the mound of basmati rice on my plate with sizable globs of palak paneer, navratan korma and chicken curry.
I top my glob-pile with a couple pieces of naan and a samosa (again — going hard) before grabbing a glass of mango juice and heading back to our table.
I dig in. Overall, the food averages out to a solid B+. The palak paneer is spot-on, but the navratan korma is just decent. And while the naan is near perfect in fluffiness, I’m pretty underwhelmed by my serving of chicken curry, which includes a few big chunks of bone — ick — but despite a few lackluster bites, I polish off the contents of my plate with ease and even fit in a couple bits of honey-glazed gulab jamun (delish) and a mug of their chai (double delish) for dessert. And then, magic happens: for the first time in my entire life, I am pleasantly surprised by a check. It turns out that, even with my boyfriend’s second plate at the buffet, additional drinks and dessert, the buffet is still just $9 each. Win, win, win.
Best meal ever? No, but that’s fine. It seems to me that this is a place with hidden gems, and at that price, I can afford to search them out. I’ll be back — though I’ll probably skip the chicken curry next time, opting for a second mug of chai instead.
Address: 400 S. Division St., Ann Arbor, MI
Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m.
Lunch Buffet: Monday – Friday 11:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday: 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.