Do you have a favorite cuisine? Joel’s favorite is Indian. Mine is Thai… but for me, Indian is a close, CLOSE second. It’s safe to say we have been fans of Indian cuisine for many moons. Back when we lived in Houston, we had an incredible Indian restaurant within half a mile of our house — it was pretty pricey so we only went for special occasions, but boy was it tasty! Since moving to Connecticut we have discovered a few gems that have our undying devotion.
We have our favorite local Indian spots, but every now and it is a ton of fun to try out some new-to-us places. Joel recently heard good things about the lunch buffet at Zaika in North Haven, so we have been wanting to get there for some time. When he came across a coupon in the town newsletter, we took it as a sign that we should most definitely give it a try. :)
It was easy to get there, but the location wasn’t exactly prime. It’s situated just off the highway in what I’d describe as the “industrial” section of North Haven. Not the most trendy of locales, but this didn’t faze us too much. We have discovered many amazing restaurants in random spots so we didn’t let the location dampen our enthusiasm.
We were seated immediately upon arrival. There were a few other groups in the restaurant, but it wasn’t super busy. The atmosphere was that of a typical lunch place, nothing super fancy, and a few business-looking folks out on lunch breaks.
We had the choice of either offering off the menu (which was pretty tempting) or choosing the buffet. We chose the buffet. But as a sidenote, there were plenty of reasonably-priced lunch specials on the menu, which I’d be more than happy to sample next time. Also, I’m pretty interested in the lamb specials for next time!
We had our hearts set on the lunch buffet this time around, and I tell you what… it did not disappoint. We’ve been to buffets where the selection is much sparser, but this was not the case at Zaika! The offerings included tandoori chicken, chili chicken, chicken marsala, saag paneer, vegetarian noodles, rice, naan, soup, and a couple dessert options. I personally would have loved to see a beef, fish, lamb, or tofu dish in the lineup, but the selection was still pretty stellar as it was.
I had never had “chili chicken” before, but it was absolutely delicious. In my opinion, it was the surprise standout dish of the meal! The chicken was lightly breaded, the sauce was perfection, and I appreciated the mix of veggies!
Joel has been a loyal fan of saag paneer for as long as I’ve known him. Because of his deep love for saag paneer, it is a critical part of every Indian meal we have. Over the years, I have grown to love it too. Now Indian cuisine doesn’t feel “complete” unless saag paneer makes an appearance! :) Don’t let the less-than-flattering photo fool you, it is delicious.
I opted out of the vegetarian noodles as I filled up on plenty of other dishes, but it certainly looked delicious. I like that Zaika included a couple vegetarian alternatives in the buffet lineup. Between the noodles, saag paneer, naan, and rice pudding dessert, there were a decent number of vegetarian options available.
The service throughout our meal also great. Our server was friendly and efficient. She made sure to keep our water glasses filled, and quickly cleared any used or unneeded dishes/utensils from the table.
The manager also went around checking on customers and lightly chatting with regulars. He was personable, and made everyone feel welcome. We actually realized partway through the meal that our coupon was for dinner, not lunch (oops)! We felt bad, but the manager was awesome and said he’d be happy to apply it anyway. He gets extra points for customer service despite our goof.
Both Joel and I thoroughly liked everything we tried, with one exception — the chicken tikka. While the sauce was undeniably yummy, but we both felt as though the chicken was a little dry. It wasn’t a deal-breaker though, because there were multiple other amazing chicken dishes on offer. My favorite dish of the meal turned out to be the chili chicken. This was a bit of a surprise favorite — I hadn’t even heard of chili chicken prior to the meal, and certainly hadn’t expected to like it so much. I even went back for more!
Who doesn’t love a good naan? It’s one of those staples that almost always makes an appearance alongside other Indian dishes. Lots of Indian restaurants make interesting varieties of naan, like garlic naan, cheese naan, etc… but funnily enough my favorite has always been plain naan.
The naan at Zaika was decent — not the best, but not bad. I like when naan is fluffy and soft, so for me it was a tad too dense. But hey, I’ll cut them a break. I can imagine it’s not easy keeping naan fresh and fluffy while it’s sitting out at a buffet. And of course it still tasted great!
We were both too full to consider even a single bite of the rice pudding dessert, so I suppose we’ll have to wait until next time to sample it. I’m sure it’ll be great.
In general, I’d say the lunch buffet is well worth the $11.99 price tag. As I’m sure is the case at most places, many single entrees are at higher price points than that. The nice thing about the buffet is getting to sample multiple dishes, and of course the bonus is getting however many refills you want. All in all, we immensely enjoyed our lunch buffet experience at Zaika and will happily return for a repeat visit.
What is your favorite dish or type of food? What restaurant did you eat at most recently? Are you a fan of Indian food?