By Mary D. Scourtes
In her bestseller, “Eat, Love, Pray,’’ author Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel dialogue provoked food for thought. Many found her descriptive journey into self-discovery helpful, even healing, but her self righteous attitude got to me. Best memory though is a great line that I’ll write across my hand before my next visit to a buffet: “I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”
I’m in sweat pants today while last night’s dining companions flaunt bikinis because I lose control at all-you-can-eat places. Make the menu Indian and I’m a sucker for mystic-sounding vadas, aloos and dosa dishes. I dreamed I was on a budget trip to the Indian subcontinent when visiting Mayuri Indian restaurant in Temple Terrace. The simple décor here has boring walls, Pizza-Hut like red chairs, bottles of beer and other booze with big price tags on each one, tables that need bussing, and a lot of noise. This could be Anywhere Cuisine.
A whiff of the aromas, however, from its dollar-stretching lunch and dinner buffet shouts India. Its foods are far from anything I have created and if you don’t mind some gristle, there is a substantial meal here for $10.95 ($8.95 for lunch). Pick a seat near one of the TVs and you catch some Bollywood style, intercontinental entertainment.
Mayuri means peacock, the country’s national bird, which is a metaphor for the pride of India. Peacocks denote good stuff if you’re into symbolism. The reference loses something when you see humble, public cafeteria-style, salad bar islands.
On to the pluses: a respectable chicken curry was among the tastiest selections. So was the “fish fry,” which is a big pan filled with cubes of catfish soaked in yogurt, deep-fried and bathed in a bright red spice sauce. A goat curry is spicy, not gamey, but full of huge bones. Coincidentally it’s listed as “goat curry with bones.’’ Enuf said.
I spied lamb Vindaloo, and four other lamb menu items, but none made the buffet. There are good soups: an onion and tomato soup perky with peppers and a feisty lentil. A huge pepper pot relish is not for the faint-hearted and several chutneys take on cooling fruits and veggies.
A man perched behind a pass-through window makes masala dosa, a rice crêpe folded over some soft vegetables The ubiquitous naan, a favorite part of an Indian meal, arrived fresh from the oven.
Vegetarians can enjoy the spinach palak paneer with cottage cheese, leafy spinach, garlic and onions. Baraga baingan involves mashed eggplant in a floral brown curry. Mild green peppers in a light batter were easy to enjoy.
The basmati rice biryani, flecked with vegetable bits, had more appeal than the chicken biryani. Earlier buffet goers had left few pieces of paltry poultry. One masala, chock full of shiny hard cooked egg halves, held slippery oil puddles.
The finale was watermelon and cantaloupe cubes, milk balls with syrup, some sort of yellow pudding with almonds and soft serve ice cream. Mango lovers will find the yogurt drink, lassi.
If you’re not turned on by a buffet (lunch and dinner during the week and dinner only on weekends), the menu is lengthy and the cook even throws in Chinese chow mein to this mostly Indian menu.
Mayuri Indian Restaurant
8447 North 56th St., Temple Terrace
Buffet Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ($8.95); S-S. 11:30- to 3 p.m. $10.95), 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., F-Sun. ($10.95).
Credit cards: AE, DC, M, V, Discover
Hold the garlic: India is largely vegetarian and religious beliefs dictate what a person can eat. Islam forbids its followers from eating pork and Hindus do not eat beef. Followers of the Jain faith abstain from all meats and avoid garlic. More about the basics of their regional cuisine.
Drinks on them: You can make your own mango lassi as Jamie Oliver, with yogurt, mango pulp, milk and cardamom seeds in mango lassi. Recipe
Still fresh at 25: Happy birthday Maryann Ferenc and Marty Blitz. I’ve enjoyed fabulous lunches, dinners, wine events, weddings, book launchings, and just about every other celebration at Tampa’s Mise en Place. Now it is time for you to sparkle at your first Quarter Century birthday. Put 25 candles on the cake and check out the party on July 29, from 8 to midnight; the cost is $89 at the door, cheaper in advance. Mise’s Big Bash includes wines from Wind Gap, Bedrock, Calera, Ramey, Paul Hobbs and Patz & Hall, cocktails created just for the event; fun food; and multiple live music acts. Get reservations.