An Indian buffet, every day
By Justin Rude
Friday, Sept. 16, 2011
Looking for a good midday meal in Falls Church recently, I was directed to a neighborhood favorite that I hadn't visited in more than a decade: Haandi Fine Indian Cuisine. The modest dining room, with a familiar menu of Indian classics, has been occupying the same narrow spot in a strip mall since 1989.
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive. My wife, a Falls Church native, assured me that it was a busy lunch spot before qualifying that with, "but I haven't been there since high school."
I needn't have worried. The restaurant was packed with a mix of office workers and (largely Indian) mothers and their children. The lunch buffet, which is offered daily, featured some of the kitchen's most interesting items. And remarkably, the restaurant didn't feel old. Fresh paint covered the walls, and the furniture was in good repair, the result of a brief closure for a bit of an update earlier this summer.
On the menu: The lunch buffet changes frequently, though the restaurant's butter chicken (murgh makhini), a favorite among the regulars, is a daily anchor. Haandi partner and manager Muhammad Khan explains that "75 percent, maybe more, of our customers are regulars." When you see that many familiar faces, you need to keep them happy. And while at many Indian restaurants this crowd-pleaser is overly sweet and under-seasoned, here the dish - a nice burnt orange, with soft and delicate chunks of chicken - had an evenly spiced, deep flavor.
Look for the restaurant's wok-cooked entrees, which are among the a la carte menu's best options. I was thrilled to find kadhai lamb on the buffet; it floated tender, boneless cubes of lamb, fresh tomatoes and onions in a rich, dark, garlicky sauce. Another favorite was a version of matar paneer that added thick, earthy mushrooms to the farmers cheese, peas and cumin- and masala-rich tomato sauce.
Spice it up: If Haandi has one notable flaw, it's the general lack of real spice in the dishes. Khan told me that the restaurant tones down the food by design but that, when you order from the a la carte menu, the kitchen will add heat to any of the dishes.
For the office: If you plan to carry lunch back to your co-workers, Haandi offers to-go platters for 15 to 20 and 40 to 45 people.