The Secret to a Great Indian Buffet

There used to be this Indian place called Bayleaf  The Civee and I would go to that had an amazing lunch buffet. The buffet was great because there was a big selection and the food was always fresh. In fact, when you ordered the buffet, they would bring out a just-cooked plate of tandoori chicken for your table.

The Civee and I would frequently comment that Bayleaf put too much money into their buffet for it to last. Sadly, we were right. Bayleaf closed their Columbus location and moved an hour away. The Columbus restarant was replaced by a similar (but not similar enough) Indian place, the name of which escapes me. We took Hope to the new place and while it was okay (if not on the unnecessarily spicy side), it wasn’t worth the drive.  We thought the days of having a great Indian buffet in town were over.

But yesterday, we checked out this place that opened up in our old neighborhood called Aab. We got there at noon, just as they opened for lunch. They had a big selection, and even though there was no plate of tandoori chicken for each table, the food was fresh. And good.  Even Hope liked a number of the dishes (and the mango lassi we had for her to drink), probably helped by the fact that because it was for a buffet, the food wasn’t that spicy.

I wasn’t the only one who thought the buffet was great.  As I was loading up my plate, I overheard a couple sitting near the buffet discussing how much they liked the food.  The guy said (and I couldn’t make up a line like this): “that tandoori chicken is so fresh, I could spank it.”

I hope he was talking about the chicken.

Despite the odd commentary, he was right, the freshness of the food made it good (which was also probably helped by the fact that we got there just as they opened) and there was also a variety of dishes.

I can’t say we’ll go to the Aab lunch buffet all the time. But it’s nice to know we have a new place to replace an old favorite. And I hope that guy resolved his issues over the chicken.

Lazy Susan, The Dumbwaiter

I recently had a life long dream come true: eating at the “Pope Table” at a Bucca di Beppo.

If you’ve never heard of it, Bucca di Beppo is a chain of Italian restaurants famous for their family-size portions and over-the-top interior decorating. The Columbus location also features the Pope Table, a round table for 10-20 with a bust of a pope atop one of those round serving things, with the table set in an alcove off the main hallway.

It was an experience being at the Pope Table. Perhaps the part of the experience that I’ve gained the most from was correcting my long-held (but wrong) belief that the round serving turntable atop which the pope bust sat is not called a dumbwaiter, but rather, a Lazy Susan.

For years, I believed the serving turntable was the dumbwaiter and the little food elevator was a Lazy Susan. Why? Well in my mind, the following made sense:

  • If the dumb waiter sets your dish down in front of someone else, they just put it on the turntable and spin it to get you your plate.
  • As for the Lazy Susan, it was named after a waitress in a joint where the kitchen and dining room were on seperate floors. Susan was too lazy to go up and down stairs all night.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Well, unfortunately, I was wrong all this time.

But at least I got to eat at the Pope Table.

Best.Restaurant.Ever! (The Return)

If I’m ever on death row and it’s time for me to choose my last meal, I can’t say that I know what I want to eat.  But I do know where I want that meal to come from and who I want to prepare it.

In New Jersey, there’s a Japanese restaurant called Tomo’s Cuisine, chef-ed by a food magician named Tomo.  Back when I was in college, Tomo’s was located in South Orange and the Fat Triathlete and I frequented (and that’s putting it mildly) Tomo’s.  These days, it’s a tad more difficult, what with me living in Ohio and all.

Tomo’s has relocated to Little Falls, and on our trip to New Jersey this past weekend, the Civee, King Classic and myself (sorry, FT) stopped there for dinner on Sunday night.  The location may be different, but Tomo’s hasn’t changed a bit.

The place has six tables.  The other five tables were filled with people I assumed to be Tomo’s Sunday night regulars. Because it’s just Tomo and his server Fin, Tomo gets quite busy multitasking.  Because of this, Tomo has always had a set of rules in place, an older version of which appear below.  The rules are very important, and even though I knew these going in, I was pleasantly surprised to have rule #10 broken for me, as both Tomo and Fin remembered me even though I haven’t been there in eight years.

Anyway, about the food, it was spectacular.  Most people think of Japanese food as sushi.  Tomo can do sushi.  Tomo excels at sushi. But he does so much more than sushi.  In addition to a boatload of sushi, we also had a few appetizers, including a black seaweed salad, an asparagus/corn tempura, broiled conch in a soy/butter sauce and braised (for six hours) ox tail with potatoes and carrots.

As for the sushi, we got an assortment of rolls and nigiri.  Ordered a special surf clam (one of my favorites that I haven’t had anywhere else (or, rather, haven’t had as good anywhere else)), some salmon belly and two types of toro.

Altogether, if I ever get to pick a last meal, I’d want it to be something like that. It was great to go back (even if I had never been to the new place before).  On our way out, I thanked Tomo.  I could have thanked him a lot more, but remembering the rule about Tomo being very busy, I wanted to keep it short.

The unfortunate part about leaving was realizing that I wouldn’t have another meal like this until the next time the Civee and I were in New Jersey.

Now that I think about it, all I have to do is take 71 North, head east on Interstate 80, and it’s a straight shot to Little Falls.

Sure, it’s an eight-hour straight shot, but it’s worth it.

If you’re ever in the area:

Tomo’s Cuisine
113 Rt. 23 in Little Falls.
(Near the Willowbrook Mall.)

I Guess They Don't Get Out That Often

Today, The Civee and I took a mini-road trip to Northwest Ohio. For dinner, we stopped in the city of Bowling Green to eat at a place I’ve eaten a few times before, Samb’s.  While not anything I’d call fancy, it’s a nice quiet place with a varied menu and real good food.

Near our table there was a party of five and unforutnately, The Civee and I heard more of their conversation than we wanted to.  Two of the five were loud talkers,  with most of their comments echoing a common theme.  See if you can pick up on what it was, judging by these choice quotes:

No salad bar? You should see the salad stuff they have at the Golden Corral.

The Golden Corral doesn’t have this much seafood at their buffet.

We don’t have to wait this long for our food at the Golden Corral. (the wait really wasn’t that long.)

You get a bigger piece of meat at the Golden Corral.  (I had no problem with the portion size.)

There were a few other references along these lines.  But I’m guessing the loud talkers don’t really eat at non-buffet establishments all that often.  I”m just glad the food was good and I have a sense of humor.  Otherwise, something like that could have ruined my dinner.

If You're Going to the Ohio State Fair

Do yourselves a favor and get a porkburger (or as they call it, “The Other Burger”).  Easily beats the pants off of corn dogs, turkey legs, ears of corn, funnel cakes or any other type of fair food.

Had to work there again for a few days this year, and it was a bit underwhelming.  There wasn’t a governor going down the giant slide, nor was a woman asking me to get her dying husband into the free Grand Funk concert.

But considering it’s been hot and is supposed to get hotter, I’m glad my fair days are over for this year.

No Soup For King Tom!

No Soup For You!The other day, I was thinking of how to spend my daily “Hour of Me.” I decided to hit up a new place in downtown Columbus, “The Original Soup Man.”

The “Original Soup Man” is a chain started by the real life Soup Nazi, the guy who inspired the classic Seinfeld episode of the same name. The Columbus location just opened recently.  As I walked up, two signs were clear on the outside window, one listing the eight-or-so soups on hand that day, and another listing the rules: Know what you want, order promptly, step to the left and have your money handy.

After reading the outside listing of soups and the rules, I settled on Jambalaya (if it was good enough for Newman, it was good enough for me).  But when I stepped inside the restaurant, things were different.

First of all, for a place designed to hold 30-40 people, it had about 20 employees milling about.  Secondly, there was a menu on the wall that had a lot more than soup. 

The restaurant offered smoothies, sandwiches, salads and yes, soup.  There was this annoying voice in my head saying “soup’s not a meal” and I took a minute, standing by the back of the store to consider getting something in addition to soup.

Hello NewmanWhen I finally settled on a soup and sandwich combo, I stepped up and an employee with a notepad took my order. I was stymied when she asked what kind of bread I wanted it on, and what kind of fruit I wanted.  I eventually figured out what she was asking (again, a lot more complicated than it needs to be for a place specializing in soup) and stepped to the left to await my lunch.

The chicken sandwich was meh.  Entirely forgettable.  The soup, on the other hand, was spectacular.  While I’ve had better jambalaya (it helps that my mother’s side of the family is from Louisiana), the quality and taste of the soup was among the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  I don’t think I expected to get soup that good from a lunchtime restaurant.  Say what you will about the Soup Nazi’s business practices, but the man makes a fine cup of jambalaya.

As I sat there with my empty tray, thinking about how next time, I’ll just go for a bowl (because soup of this quality is a meal), I noticed something was missing.  I didn’t get any fruit.  Was this in retaliation for my slow ordering?  Or was it because I didn’t like the sandwich.  I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m becoming George.

At least they didn’t tell me not to come back for another year.


I’m adventurous when it comes to food. I really like Japanese food- and not just sushi. I’ve been to a lot of good Japanese places and quite a few bad ones.

Back when I was in college, there was a Japanese restaurant about a mile down the wall. During my first year, I avoided it as it had a hole-in-the-wall vibe.

A friend took me there for my birthday sophmore year and I knew that I was wrong to have passed the place by for a whole year. The atmosphere was fun, the chef was entertaining and the food was great. In the years that followed, my friend Bemis and I went to Tomo’s Cuisine so often we probably put his kids through college.

Tomo even once talked us into trying fugu , which wasn’t that bad.

After moving out to Ohio, I got to go back twice. But Tomo’s closed up shop in South Orange in mid-aught-two, and trips back east haven’t been the same.

Well, (and the point of all this) is that he’s back. According to this message board, he’s re-opened up shop in Little Falls. If you’re out there, go- trust me, it’s worth it.

Tomo’s Cuisine II
113 Rt. 23 in Little Falls.
(Near the Willowbrook Mall.)