Madras Pavilion Buffet a Survey Course in Indian Fare

Shouldn't the taco-shaped dosai be eaten like its distant Mexican cousin?

Isn't yogurt rice a reliably sweet dish?

No, and no.

A craving for just samosas and curry won't get you through the lunch buffet line with a full plate at Madras Pavilion. The all-vegetarian, all-kosher Indian chain's Richardson location draws crowds with its afternoon spread, offered daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For some, it's traditional, mostly southern Indian comfort food; for us, it was a way to get acquainted with a broader swath of the cuisine.

Madras' buffet provides a friendly setting in which to try lentil donuts or "bagla bhath," suprisingly savory yogurt rice spiked with mustard seeds and garnished with cucumber, for the first time. An unexpected treat is the complementary crepe-like dosai that comes to your table with a buffet trip.

The "spicy" option, offered to us as such, was the masala dosai, a sizable thin rice pancake filled with yellow-curried potato and onion. "How do we eat it?!" our lunchmate wondered aloud. The waiter seemed accessible enough to ask, but he'd disappeared once the table was settled. We began nervously tearing at our dosai after trying at first to lift it like a crispy taco and splitting it in half.

Turns out, said lunchmate discovered, we were almost right: the correct way to eat a masala dosai (known by various spellings) is to rip the rice pancake at the fold, then tear pieces off the outside edge and use those to gather the filling.

The buffet lesson rung up at less than $10. Check out the full menu for 13 kinds of dosai to practice on. 101 S. Coit Road, #359 in Richardson.

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