Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding" and Tandoor

Buffets are the speed dating of the food world. For 9.95 and an hour of your time, one can sample many of the dishes offered by the restaurant, albeit a little dry and suspended at room temperature. Perhaps you give the daters a call, or you see them a month down the line, maybe you just sell their names to telemarketers. In these hard times its not as unrespectable as it once was.

Hans and Mendez, in search of a little late afternoon delight went to Tandoor a.k.a. The Clay Oven. At one time the building Tandoor now occupies was a free standing diner. The unsucessful diner days leave only present architecture like the Mughals, or Brits. Not even one bag of forgoten frozen french fries remains in Tandoor's walk-in cooler. The chefs are extra careful in their presentation of lamb dishes to avoid confusion with gyros and other sandwiches featured on the "Greek Specialties" section of a typical diner menu.

Upon entering, the cleanliness and organization of the restaurant struck the two adventure-bloggers immediately. The beautifully framed picutres caught their atention next. Then their eyes caught the ornately carved wooden divider seperating the side dining room from the buffet spread. It may also be an aid to find the restrooms. There are mirrors on the wall and plates ready on the table. The comunication between diner and waiter is already assumed. "Water is fine," responds the still standing patron eyeing the buffet hot plates. We were the lone diners in the restuarant until three stragglers came in hours past what is considered a 'normal' lunch hour. In years to come they (and us) will be attendants of 'Early Bird Specials,' 'Bargain Blow Outs,' and reduced rate 'Glory Holes.' They reminded Hans of a certain movie theatre patron from "Annie Hall" who taught McLuchan. The movie theatre patron commented that buffets, as a principle, are "indulgent".
The dishes are creamy; you have your masalas and
 palaks. The food appears as a formless mush of forrest colors on the plate after scooping it out. Like speed dating we gobbled as much as we could in the short span of time alotted to us. The Tandoor chicken reminds Mendez of Jamaican jerk. The appearance could not be more different, but the delicate smokey taste is identical. Both the kidney bean palak and a vegetable roll were excellent. Other colorful mush contained cheese cubes, lamb, and chicken.

The problem with Tandoor's buffet is the food feels interchangable. Similiar colors, consistencies, and in some cases, even taste would confuse the most gifted buffet Sahib in identifying specific dishes. To confuse the diner further the item tags in front of the individual hot plates were out of order. Not that names matter to those unfamiliar with the food or language.

One cannot begin to describe, identify, define, or imagine the great sub-continent of India on these simple cyber pages. Centuries of conquerors and influence melded with cultural borrowings and mashing have rendered India a delightful chutney.

On the other hand, the buffet in its simplicity can be fully imagined. What is a buffet other than sinful gluttony? A conquest of pleasure regardless to consequence of waistline or airborne illness? A race to either the emergency room or fiery torment? Nay. Rethink your progression of thought, nibbler: The buffet is the most ordained of eating styles. Japanese styled barefooted floor seating ignores both hard working carpenter and cobbler, unfairly favoring the broom weaver. Family style smörgåsbords, with their passing of dishes with dripping sauces and unguided spoons have made victims of Oxfords and table cloths alike. Where alternate eating styles are waste: the buffet is thrift. In the dominant Asian buffets of New Haven, the all-you-can-eat option is less expensive than the finite single plate. If cleanliness is Godliness, then to scrape and clean one plate is not enough. Cleanliness must be extended to several plates, courses, and even warm metal serving vessels.

Most importantly, one must eat for the Indians who cannot. Eat and taste using our common English tongue, Sahib, the buffet is to live.

Tandoor
The Clay Oven
1226 Chapel Street
(203) 776-3854

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