Quick Asian Lunch II. - The Indian Swedish Table
The race for the Best Budapest Indian Restaurant award is a keenly fought. Salaam Bombay has the upper hand right now, mainly because it's currently the only representative from the subcontinent on the prestigious Chew.hu TOP 33 list. Kis koszos (Lil' scruffy) Shalimar in Dob utca never gives up, and Kashmir in Arany János utca is also a very strong contender. There is no doubt however about which Indian joint has the best business lunch right now: Kashmir beats everyone else so bad that Mahatma Gandhi would probably just look away.
Kashmir has to deliver every day because its home in inner district V has so many Indian restaurants per square meter, that even Birmingham would be proud. Two blocks from Kashmir there is Salaam Bombay (which also has a business lunch), and just around the corner from Kashmir is the popular but very hit-or-miss Kama Sutra (which, surprise-surprise, also has a decently priced lunch offer). As everyone who has an ear for Budapest restaurant gossip knows, Kashmir is run by Allen Diwan, who used to own the Diwan Tandoor on Alkotmány utca, and then started Kama Sutra with some Israeli partners. The Jewish-Indian connection turned out to be a lot bumpier than on the beaches of Goa, so about a year ago Allen went solo again.
For a long time, the business lunch at Kashmir was the thali, the traditional Indian meal consisting of a selection of almost bite-sized portions of different dishes nicely presented in small metallic cups on a large plate. However, the formula was changed a couple of months ago and the midday offer at Kashmir is now an indiai svédasztal, literally an "Indian Swedish table," but actually just a buffet.
There is a choice of small plate (990 forints) or large plate (1390 forints) to heap all you can upon, and even an unlimited servings option is available (1990 forints). The buffet has an ever changing menu, which always features two soups, a couple of curries, dhaal, some naan bread, papadams, rice and maybe even some sweets. This being an Indian restaurant, some of the choices are always vegetarian. And the best thing is that the half a dozen times we tried them, the dishes were on par with what can be had at any of the formal sit-down Indian eateries in Budapest, and some could even match anything that Salaam Bombay or Shalimar can serve up. Wash the whole thing down with a mango lassi, probably the best in town, creamy and definitely not too sweet.
Allen Diwan might be the only person in Hungary who has managed three decent restaurants, so all hats off to him. And with a new Kashmir branch already open in Debrecen, he clearly has some more tricks up his sleeve.
And yeah, we didn't manage to take a decent picture of our own, we are just not good enough at taking snaps for notoriously dark Indian restaurants in the light-free Budapest winter. But at least now you have another reason to go and see for yourselves.