After the meteoric fall of Minerva in Fairfax, the market for Indian food in our house was wide open.  Ok, ok – maybe not.  After all, my mother was coming down more frequently – hello grandmotherhood – and so with it came the goodies.  But what happens when she is gone and the frozen reminders are consumed?  Cook it yourself??  Well, there IS that – and for genuinely good South Indian cooking that is usually the best option.  That said, whenever we try South Indian – it comes out good, but like listening to a cover band, it is hard not to dream about the real thing.  According to Tyler Cowen, Karaikudi in Chantilly IS that real thing, and so when I read that – I go with interest.

Sometimes, when I go to places with this kind of buildup, it’s hard not to actually be a gross disappointment.  Furthermore, we went for the lunch buffet – which is usually not the best test for a restaurant.  But somehow, it worked.  My knowledge of Chettinad cooking is limited, but I know the spices and heat are a big part of it.  The rasam and the goat bone soup were both very fiery but had depth – it is not just an endurance test for my esophagus.  The okra poriyal was different than what I was used to, with more sesame seeds – but still excellent flavor.  The curd rice was well done, even if a bit more yogurty than I am used to.

Of course, this being a buffet, you also get the normal Indian restaurant staples – but these were done remarkably well.  The Malabar Fish Curry was outstanding – where the sauce had the creaminess without being heavy or cloying, with perfectly cooked fish.  The Chicken Vindaloo was solid as was the Egg Curry.  The goat biryani was also a welcome change.  Let’s put it this way, for a $9 buffet meal, there is more than enough here to inspire me to try more.


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