Friday, March 25, 2005

Another kind of Nirvana

LOCATION: Nirvana Restaurant, 1833 K St. TIME: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." - Douglas Adams EQUIPMENT: Healthy appetite, and $9.95 plus tax & tip

This is my new favorite place for lunch in the area. They serve a vegetarian buffet, with regional specialties from different parts of India depending on the day of the week. (So far I've tried Wednesdays - from Gujarat - and Fridays - from Rajasthan.) The food is delicious, and quite different from standard Americanized-Indian restarant slop.

The hostess - she's the owner, or the owner's wife, or the main chef - is outstandingly proud of their home cooking and regional authenticity, and hovers over the buffet, answering questions about the food. We praised an appetizer consisting of hard-to-identify little nuggets on Rajasthan day, and her cheeks glowed with a mother's fire. "They're made of chickpea flour, and wheat flour, and rice, and cabbages, and spices," she said. On Gujarat day, however, we requested naan, and her eyebrows swiftly drew together. "Naan is not a bread eaten in Gujarat, also not strictly vegetarian - has eggs," she explained (forgivingly: we were ignorant, but at least we wanted to improve ourselves). "In Gujarat they eat little puffy breads, you can see in the buffet. Regional distinction is everything is very tiny and delicate - cute food. Of course maybe they eat thirty of those little breads. But each one has to be cute."

And if you have to wait for a table, there's a couch with a selection of Indian newsmagazines, allowing you to discover that Indian political cartoons are totally adorable.

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