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Madras Palace - Southern Indian with Buffet and Northern Dishes on Bureau Drive in Gaithersburg - Closed

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Madras Palace probably deserves its own thread by now. Time and again we still get a hankering for some south Indian vegetarian cuisine, and MP remains our go-to. Early Sunday evening however, I was surprised that they were pushing a buffet. The dining room was still quiet at not-yet-6 PM, so we ordered off the menu instead. I don't know if they were unprepared to cook, but there seemed to be a startup lag, as the first thing to emerge was perhaps the oiliest plate of papadum I've had in a while. Not yet up to temperature, we thought, and braced for disappointment. Fortunately, things continued to improve.

The only remaining glitch was that the vada in my sambar vada was a little undercooked and doughy. But the sambar here continues to be thick and rich and spicy, with only the curious omission of pieces of drumstick. I should ask about that next time. The dosai continue to be perfect every time. My paneer dosa arrived arranged in two pieces; I'd swear that they'd made it as large as a paper dosa before cutting it in half, but it was crisp and nongreasy. Gubeen's customary saag paneer was unusually good this time, perhaps the best we've had in the area in months, without having had all of the fresh spinach flavor cooked out of it. Portions were more generous than we had remembered, as well. My dosa came with another container of sambar, and the coconut chutney. Her saag came with a small dish of flavorful but slightly watery dal, and a few choice bits of pungent mango pickle.

I'm a little worried when a kitchen switches into buffet-maintenance mode, but as long as they can knock out a la carte mains with consistency, we'll be back.

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We had a wonderful meal here Friday night. The buffet stations weren't up at 6:30pm - which was fine. We ordered from the menu and enjoyed every bite.

In full disclosure, I don't know Indian food at all. But I can say a few things definitively:

1. Nothing was greasy, mushy or heavy or anything but fresh and delicious.

2. The service was excellent. We didn't really know what to do (is this a dip, or soup?...) but got patient help at every turn.

3. Portions were generous and when we ate the leftovers the next day - just as enjoyable.

The meals weren't very spicy, some not at all. Maybe they went easy on us and honestly, I appreciate that. I know some equate spicy with authentic...and I get that (crabs can't be spiced enough for me, enough to make mere mortals gag) but for neophytes like my family, we got to really enjoy the ingredients vs. the spices.

This is right behind Saagar and with all this good Indian food in my vicinity, it is time I learned more.

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