In the area of vegetarian South Indian cuisine, the best restaurants are few and far between. In DC indeed, it has been Minerva and everything else. In previous jaunts, we have had chances to test alternatives at Saravana Palace, Woodlands in Takoma Park and Saran. While Saran was actually fairly good, none of them have touched Minerva for quality. So, with another candidate teed up in the Fairfax area, how does Fairfax’s Woodlands entry stack up?
We went for lunch, and as is often the case in these places, the main entry was a lunch buffet. The price point was solid, your typical $15 a person or so after tax and tip. There was a very representative list of South Indian and more mainstream American-Punjab, as well as some Indian Chinese and Chaat. Now, a few caveats are in place here. First, we went there at 2PM, towards the end of the lunch shift – so the food might not have been pristine in quality. Second, it is a buffet – so there are some limitations on greatness. That being said, a buffet at its core is a list – so below are the notes on the items:
- Rasam: Hot and sour, as advertised. Tamarind, pepper was there, but not much depth of anything else.
- Sambhar: See above. It was hard to tell what the vegetable core was for these things.
- Masala Dosa: This was not in the buffet but given on the house. The dosa was well made, but the masala was bland. The turmeric yellow was there, but otherwise seasoning was lacking.
- Bhisa Bhela Bath: The rice dish was good, though the eggplant was a bit wet.
- Spinach and Corn (Palak): A bit salty, weird given the blandness of other items. But not too bad.
- Pav Bhaji: The masala was underseasoned a bit again, and the bread was the wrong choice, too crusty. A soft bread always works better to sop up the masala.
- Beans poriyal: Dry stir fried beans. This was probably the best dish on the buffet.
Overall, this was not a bad meal by any means – I would call it solid average, maybe fringe. Minerva is still easily the best in the area – but this is a decent alternative.