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Kohinoor Dhaba, North Indian in Crystal City - Low-Quality, Inexpensive Buffet on S. Eads Street

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Wandered into Kohinoor Dhaba today, per the proprietor of Indus Imports in Old Town Alexandria. Just last night, he took his family there for the first time, in search of a place to send customers when they ask (and they always ask) "where should I go for lunch today".

So there I went.

Environment
No frills. I did not realize this would be a buffet situation. But hey, in for a penny, in for a pound, and that pounding was going to be my headache if I did not eat something soon.

The outside of the restaurant carried an inviting aroma, made furher appealing by the warm greeting I received when I opened the door. A prominent, cleanly kept buffet and a few tables dominated the first floor. A more open space and additional tables appeared on the second floor. Self service water, napkins, and plastic flatware were also upstairs, making this a quick, easy, convenient lunch or dinner option for anyone on the go. The bathroom was remarkably tidy for such a small space.

As a solo, famished diner, I found this layout excellent for my chowful needs. Would also be hella fun as a group to start or end a night on the town, with none of the interruptive table service hassles that can be a conversation-killer.

Food
Hat Tips: Marinated (not really pickled) onions, spinach pakora, and goat curry. Especially the curry, gawds that was good goat. The freshly-quartered limes on the buffet are a bright way to punch up the flavor for any of the dishes (plus, Vitamin C in da haus!).

Just Misses: Bund gobi aur matar, the cabbage and peas underseasoned and dominated with oil. Garlic naan appeared beautiful with hallmark char and browned allium, but the quality of the flour prevented anything more than a token addition to the meal. Regular naan comes with the buffet, garlic an additional charge.

Ease of Access
Parking spaces in front of the building seemed reserved for other establishments, so adjacent meters are the way to go. Since I don't mind the trek, I just parked in the neighborhood behind the restaurant and walked the block and a half over.

Upon the entrance, a set of steep stairs awaits, entailing precarious footing. Once inside, the bathroom is also upstairs. The faint of knees should dine elsewhere.

The all-you-can-eat buffet with six entree options and condiments a-plenty was a whopping $8.95. An option for anyone seeking quick-fix Northern Indian, especially on a Saturday morning before the lunch time crowd hits.

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What is the cab drivers tab about? I did a search on "cab" and only found "cabbage" in the post! Is this a place where cab drivers know about and eat? If so, useful!

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What is the cab drivers tab about? I did a search on "cab" and only found "cabbage" in the post! Is this a place where cab drivers know about and eat? If so, useful!

Yes, I was the only non-cab driver patron during my visit. It's an ideal stop-chow-now, out-the-door-in-ten-minutes meal solution, close proximity to 395 and route 1 a further boon for the drivers.

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Buffet stopped April 7. Too bad. I thought it was fantastic - delicious and authentic. Now, the vegetarian meal and non-veg meal, with the gentleman ladling out the portions. Unfortunate. I used to stop by and get the take out buffet for $6.99/lb and it was one of the best deals in town. Not as excited about it any more.

-S

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I have nothing but respect for KMango and Simul in terms of judging what is and isn't good, but their reviews of Kohinoor Dhaba are now four years old.

Several months ago, I ordered from GrubHub, and wanted to try something new. To be exploratory, I searched for the "highest rated" restaurant in South Arlington, and up came Kohinoor Dhaba (it's still the highest-rated restaurant):

Screenshot 2017-08-02 at 8.34.32 AM.png

I ordered over $40 of food from Kohinoor Dhaba, and I can honestly say that every single thing that came was 1) inedible, and 2) thrown into the garbage. I wrote it off as yet another lesson learned, and ended up going out to a restaurant that evening, vowing never to frequent this awful, awful, excuse for a "restaurant" again.

Last week, a friend of mine, who is taking an intensive yoga training class, came home at the end of a long day, and invited me over for dinner. She ordered from her new account on GrubHub.

I got there, and was positively starving - I hadn't eaten anything all day, and it was after 7 PM. She, too, was starving - I asked her what she ordered, and being new to the area, she said, "I can't remember the name of it, but it had really good ratings on GrubHub." I looked at her, and said, "You didn't order from Kohinoor Dhaba, did you?" She said, "That kind of sounds like it," and I replied, despondently, "I can't eat it." She didn't understand why I was so unyielding before the food even arrived. "Trust me," I said, "you're about to find out."

The food arrived, she said, "It's here!" and I called out, "Go ahead and enjoy it," while I sipped on a beer, not having eaten anything all day. I didn't want to see it, but unfortunately, when she opened it up, I smelled it.

After about five minutes of silence, she walked in, and said, "Do you want some naan, or some mango lassi?" I said, "No, I can't."

She ended up trying everything, and had spent over $50. She, too, took one bite of each item, and ended up throwing everything in the garbage, including the naan and the mango lassi. She made us some grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Kohinoor Dhaba has now served me the two worst meals I've had in 2017, which are most likely the two worst Indian meals I've had in the past five years (granted, I've only had a few genuinely horrible Indian meals, as I know where to go, and I avoid the bottom-feeders). 

I urge people to avoid Kohinoor Dhaba at all costs, because if you get conned into believing GrubHub's fake ratings, you, too, will end up, almost literally, throwing your money in the garbage, and you'll need to find a second meal.

This "restaurant" could serve dog food, and it wouldn't matter, because either way the food would be untouched. Save yourself some money, and don't rely on GrubHub's rating system, and stay as far away as possible from Kohinoor Dhaba. 

'It can't be *that* bad,' you're saying to yourself right now, and I'm telling you: It's *that* bad. 

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Damn. I have always enjoyed my food from Kohinoor Dhaba, the buffet has always been excellent (though it has been a few months since I last was in) and their kulfi is fresh and lovely. Very sad to read this. 

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5 minutes ago, Jessica Strelitz said:

Damn. I have always enjoyed my food from Kohinoor Dhaba, the buffet has always been excellent (though it has been a few months since I last was in) and their kulfi is fresh and lovely. Very sad to read this. 

Now I honestly wonder if there are two Kohinoor Dhabas, or two standards of cooking at Kohinoor Dhaba. I let my friend come to her own independent conclusion without trying to dissuade her (she's an excellent cook, and she knows what she's doing) - she was so hungry that she was almost in tears, and I had to console her, saying there was no way she possibly could have known, being new to this area.

Two nights ago, I told her to order from Raaga, and she *loved* it.

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16 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Now I honestly wonder if there are two Kohinoor Dhabas, or two standards of cooking at Kohinoor Dhaba. I let my friend come to her own independent conclusion without trying to dissuade her - she was so hungry that she was almost in tears, and I had to console her, saying there was no way she possibly could have known, being new to this area.

Well, I just did an Indian piece for Arl Mag, so you can send it to your friend with options for the future (if she can overlook the Kohinoor Dhaba mention), Also, I didn't include this because it just changed hands and I wanted to see if things changed, but Saffron is Falls Church is amazing. My go-to for sure.

PSA: Kohinoor Dhaba still has a buffet. The last update above, before yours, Don, indicated it was gone, but I definitely have eaten it several times since 2013. 

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1 hour ago, Jessica Strelitz said:

Well, I just did an Indian piece for Arl Mag, so you can send it to your friend with options for the future (if she can overlook the Kohinoor Dhaba mention), Also, I didn't include this because it just changed hands and I wanted to see if things changed, but Saffron is Falls Church is amazing. My go-to for sure.

PSA: Kohinoor Dhaba still has a buffet. The last update above, before yours, Don, indicated it was gone, but I definitely have eaten it several times since 2013. 

Saffron was amazing before it changed hands, or since?

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3 minutes ago, Marty L. said:

Saffron was amazing before it changed hands, or since?

It JUST changed hands, I always loved it but havent been in the last month or so. 

 

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Kohinoor Dhaba got bad when it first got rid of the "by weight" buffet. First off, as above, it wasn't a good deal any more. Secondly, the quality started failing rapidly. Got it recently for the lady before her shift and she didn't not like it, but didn't ask for more. Plus, when she works overnight, I could give her a prison Nutriloaf and at 3AM, she'd probably say that was delicious, too. When I picked it up, the whole set up was different, had to go to the downstairs, it was totally empty. 

I got a chicken chili app and a goat curry from London Curry the other night, and it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.

Just having been back to Detroit suburbs and Toronto suburbs recently, realizing we don't have very good Indian food AT ALL at the casual level. Detroit suburbs alone have 50+ places are most are above average. Toronto has hundreds and many that are just regional (Gujarati food, Kerala, Hakka, etc.). Have the higher end stuff here that's pretty good, but the mid to low price point here is just meh.  

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Four or so years ago when the owner was just beginning the change of focus (and quality) I tried to get them to rent a space from us in Shaw but my requirement was that it be Indian buffet. He was more interested in the bar aspect and when I shot that down I didn't hear any more from him. The appeal of liquor profit is hard to resist. Back then, granted as an infrequent customer, I got the feeling he was trying transition the bulk of his income and customer base from the very successful buffet to formal dining with alcohol. I took a friend not that long ago for the lunch buffet and I thought it was edible but my friend didn't like it at all. 

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I got delivery the other night just to try it out- I just got chicken tikka and naan.  Simple, but fine, not at all bad or inedible, so not sure if something has changed, seems like it was changing hands before.  I liked that I got a little aloo gobi with it.  I thought the naan had very nice texture.  It wasn't a steal, but I didn't think it was overly expensive either- not huge portions, but not a huge price-tag either, and the naan you got two per order.  I got it because it was close the the house and came quickly.

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Matt and I went to Kohinoor Dhaba on Saturday night because I had watched the Final Table episode on India and was seriously craving butter chicken.  I also got Bangian Bharta.  Hubby got chicken korma (I thought he said rogan josh, but it was definitely korma).  He had never had bangian bharta before and we both really enjoyed it.  Chicken tikka masala hit the essential craving I had been having.  We got parathas, which Matt still craves from our trip to Punjab and two types of naan.  Hubby really liked his korma, but it was very rich, I just had a small bite.  Not that mine wasn't rich, just in a different way.  On a cold snowy night, getting warm Indian food within a few minutes of our house was perfect.  This was his first trip and he was pretty excited to have this place nearby, Ballston you needed to drive a little to decent Indian, and there were ok delivery options, but most of those really weren't Indian per se.  We ordered pretty standard things, but they were good, service was nice even with the snow coming down.  

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