Sri Krishna Vilas feels like two restaurants. At lunchtime, the Indian restaurant is a chaotic and crowded buffet-only experience catering to mostly office workers. During the mellower evenings, the restaurant offers an expanded menu of appetizers, vegetables and meat dishes. Its dining space is split down the middle by the long buffet line, and during daylight hours the brightly lit and generically designed right side looks and feels like a cafeteria compared to the more exotic, windowless left side.
The trick to enjoying Sri Krishna Vilas’ lunch buffet ($9.95) is figuring out how to navigate it. The curry items are the best choices. They hold up better on the line as the various meats grow more tender in the warm gravy and soak in its spices. Kadai goat, small, bone-in pieces of fatty, tender goat in spicy tomato gravy, entices. Butter chicken, smothered in rich cream sauce, is fall-apart tender. Steamed basmati rice perfumed with cardamom and speckled with chopped cilantro pairs well with the rich curries.
Unfortunately, the buffet’s naan and fried items have shorter shelf lives. Spinach pakora, diced spinach dipped in gram (chickpea flour) batter and fried, quickly turns dense and almost jaw-breaking. Vada doughnuts, also made with gram flour, pack plenty of cardamom flavor but are dense and cold. Puffy naan wilts on the buffet, and multiple attempts to request fresh baskets are not understood by floor attendants who I soon realize are just there to refresh beverages and bus buffet plates. Stalking food runners for naan and vada replenishment is more effective. Fresher batches arrive marginally warmer and are softer in texture.
Dinnertime offers better ambience, but the food and service is inconsistent. On one visit, stale sheets of complementary papadum (roasted lentil/chickpea flatbread) are brought to the table. On another, I don’t get any at all. Baskets of naan that come with entrees are warm but tough to chew. After multiple requests, an additional order of butter naan ($1.95) arrives hot, puffy and melts in the mouth. A cold and limp four-foot long paper dosa (rice/lentil crepe, $7.95) rolled into a gigantic hollow tube disappoints if it weren’t for a hearty sambar (vegetable) stew served alongside. Break off pieces of the dosa and dip into the warm sambar for a comforting meal.
As on the lunch buffet, the curries are the highlights at dinner. Served in a pretty boat-shaped dish, gongura goat curry ($12.95) is a favorite. Bone-in goat meat is slow-cooked in thick gravy fused with cardamom, chiles and gongura leaves. The leaves impart a sour flavor that mellows nicely into a sweet and fruity profile. Chettinadu chicken curry ($10.95) is another favorite. Chunks of boneless chicken and bitter curry leaves are cooked in cream sauce generously spiced with red chiles. A few bites later, my head is drenched with perspiration. Baigan bhartha ($10.95), a vegetarian-friendly dish made with mashed eggplant and sautéed onions, elicits sounds of pleasure from me and my dining companions. I quickly swab hot butter naan through it to soak in its musky coriander flavor.
If you are in the area, the buffet at Sri Krishna Vilas makes a decent lunch option for the price. But inconsistencies in the restaurant’s service and food — curries notwithstanding — makes dinner a hit or miss experience.SRI KRISHNA VILAS
Food: Spicy meat and vegetarian fare from southern and northern IndiaService: Inconsistent at dinner, chaotic with communication barriers during lunch Best dishes: Gongura goat curry, Chettinadu chicken curry, baigan bhartha Vegetarian selections: Many dosas (crepes) made with lentil/rice flour, rice cakes, lentil and chickpea curries Price range: $-$$ Credit cards: All major Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays Children: Yes Parking: In lot Reservations:No Wheelchair access:Yes Smoking: No Noise level: High during lunch, low during dinner Patio: No Takeout: Yes