Previously published in the Wichita Eagle:
For many people, Indian food gets a bad rap as a cuisine that is too spicy and intense for their liking even though they have probably never even sampled it. Fortunately, Passage to India offers a way for you to experience the variety and deliciousness of Indian food.
Tucked into a strip mall on the northwest corner of 21st and Woodlawn sits Passage to India, one of the few places in
A Sampling of the Offerings at Pasage to India
town where you can get a full immersion into the culture and food of India. While Passage to India has been in operation since 1994, they have only resided in their current location since late last year. The menu is expansive and can be somewhat overwhelming; especially for those unfamiliar with the cuisine, but the lunch time buffet is a good way to sample many different dishes in one sitting.
On our visit, the buffet was fully stocked with about 10 different dishes plus several sauces and condiments as well as the famous naan bread. Most dishes were curries or rich stews containing beef, chicken, or vegetables. There were also tandoori chicken, fried chickpea balls, and fried potatoes. The name of each dish and a brief description is posted on the buffet to assist in the selection process. Among our favorite dishes were the malai methi chicken, garam masala chicken, chickpea curry, naan bread, and potato pakora. The malai methi chicken was a mild tasting dish, but still had good flavor. Although the cubed chicken breast in the garam masala tasted a bit dry, the spicy curry sauce made up for it. The potato pakora were essentially Indian French fries that are dredged in chickpea flour before frying. The naan flatbread was the perfect way to soak any additional curry sauce left on our plates. In order to ease some the spice from the curries, I recommend the cucumber and yogurt dipping sauce that is available. Some buffets suffer from food that has been sitting out for too long, but we found that everything looked and tasted fresh upon our visit. The buffet was also vegetarian friendly, with several different dishes to choose from.
More Indian Selections
The service and atmosphere at Passage to India was very welcoming. Our server did an excellent job of keeping our water glasses full and the television, tuned to an Indian channel, provided us with modest amounts of entertainment and confusion.
The lunch buffet is offered from 11am to 2:30 pm Tuesday through Sunday, and dinner runs from 5 to 9:30.
The other day I finally had the chance to eat at a restaurant that I have been wanting to try out. I was able to convince my sister and mother to come along for the journey. We went to a place called Zaytun which is located in Brittany Center at 21st and Woodlawn. The sign describes the restaurant as being Mediterranean, Indo, and Pak. During the lunch hours they only offer a buffet, which is what we were interested in trying out. The inside is clean and nicely decorated. Although there were only 10 tables set up for the lunch crowd it appears they have ample space in the back for parties and such.They also have a bar area with some large tea making apparatus. There was a TV hanging above the bar, but instead of showing some Indian soap opera or SportsCenter it just displayed various nature scenes. There was some interesting up tempo music emanating from the dining room that was a bit too loud for a lunch buffet. Perhaps they are just trying to induce some type of hypnotic state in which you cannot stop eating hummus and grape leaves.
As for the food itself, they offered several salad choices, hummus, pita, grape leaves, and various sauces for appetizers. There were about 5-10 main dishes that consisted of many rice dishes, stews, fried potatoes pancakes, and lamb kebabs. I tried to sample just about everything offered and I must say that I was pleased with what I had. The food was light and rather healthy (except for the potato pancakes of course, but you have to indulge yourself every once in a while). My favorite entrees were a rice, lentil, and raisin dish as well as the potato pancakes, and the lamb kebabs. The kebabs were really good and very popular with the patrons. At one point they ran out, but when the next batch was ready the owner or manager personally walked around the tables with a dish of fresh kebabs. I was impressed with that gesture. Most of these dishes I had never tried, including a number of delicious stews. I was impressed with how hearty some of the stews were for not containing any meat. Contrary to many people’s idea of Indian and Pakistani food, none of the dishes I had were that spicy. There was ample amounts of curry used, but it was by no means unbearable.
I was really impressed for the food at Zaytun and would encourage people to check it out. I think if you try out the buffet you will find something that you enjoy, even if that means piling your plate high with hummus and pitas.