Oak Tree Rd
Flavors of India Mt Laurel Review
Flavors of India
3111 Route 38
Mt Laurel, NJ 08054
Other New Jersey Indian Restaurants
Flavors of India Mt Laurel NJ: Spiceless Travesty
After a deeply disappointing meal at Flavors of India in Mt. Laurel, on our way out we paused for a moment before the small statue of Hindu god Ganesh at the entrance.
Then with bowed head and utmost devotion we beseeched the elephant-headed diety to forgive the sinners holed up inside the restaurant's kitchen for tarnishing the reputation of Indian cuisine.
Sporting a name like "Flavors of India" and then dishing out a spiceless array of curries is a cruel joke to play on eager diners.
Reminds us of Nazis forcing their Jewish prisoners to write to their relatives overseas inviting them over to 'wonderful' Germany and when the innocents arrived they were gassed or deployed as slave labor (source: William Shirer: Rise and Fall of the Third Reich).
Ganesh, Forgive the Flavors of India Sinners
Located in one of the countless, soulless strip malls dotting the highways and bylanes of New Jersey, Flavors of India screams its amateur standing in every possible manner.
Although the restaurant has been open for nearly two months, it still bears only a cloth/plastic banner heralding its birth.
Mon dieu, the silver is kept directly on the table exposed to the chemicals used to clean tables between meals.
Above all, the charlatans seem completely foreign to the notion of using chillies in Indian cooking.
New EntrantSandwiched between Andrews Federal Credit Union and a Goodwill Donation Center in the Larchmont Commons Shopping Center, Flavors of India is a recent addition to the Indian culinary landscape of South Jersey.
After an explosive growth in Central and North Jersey, it's now the turn of South Jersey to play host to Indian restaurants. Over the last six months, at least four new Indian restaurants have come up in South Jersey.
On a recent foggy morning, we braved our way through the cold mist to Flavors of India nourishing hopes of spicy, flavorful Indian food.
If the restaurant is called Flavors of India, we told ourselves, it can't but be good. Ha ha, ha, shows how naively trusting we can be!
Flavors of India is a spacious place with both booths and open tables. As with most Indian restaurants, the decor is pedestrian with the usual bunch of dull paintings of Indian women hanging on the walls.
A balding Indian waiter was loudly yakking away on the phone when we stepped in.
The same waiter informed us that lunch buffet was ready and we could start immediately. Heeding his suggestion, we embarked upon the buffet odyssey, a journey that quickly took us on a rocky path strewn with numerous potholes.
The $13.95 buffet spread was generous and included Chaats, appetizers, pickles, Chutneys, vegetarian and non-veg curries, four rice items, Naan bread and two desserts.
Alas, if only the quality of food at at Flavors of India had kept pace with the quantity.
AppetizersOur buffet crawl started with Pesarattu and we slowly chugged our way through Mysore Bonda, Chicken Tikki and Alu Papdi Chaat before alighting at Samosa Chaat.
We were delighted to see Pesarattu, an Andhra specialty not frequently offered at Indian buffets.
Alas, it was not whole Pesarattu but small pieces.
We've had Pesarattu on several occasions both in India and at some New Jersey Indian restaurants.
Prepared with Green Gram Dal or Moong Dal, Pesarattu is not as crisp as Dosa but a yummy and spicy treat since Ginger and Green Chillies are added while making the batter.
But the Pesarattu pieces at Flavors of India were hard and packed only a mild flavor of Ginger and Green Chillies.
Pesarattu Pieces (left), Alu Papdi Chaat (top),
Chicken Tikki (right), Mysore Bonda (middle)
In our opinion, the Pesarattu pieces were hard because they were dumped into the buffet station where it sat bearing a forlorn look. Pesarattu, like its cousin Masala Dosa, is best when served hot from the pan.
The small round Mysore Bonda balls were cold and rubbery and found no favor with our discerning tastebuds. They tasted as if they were prepared in the Pleistocene era.
Chicken Tikki suffered from a surfeit of salt suggesting a kitchen struggling with the basics.
On a chilly winter day, the coold Alu Papdi Chaat easily provoked our wrath.
Samosa with Channa Masala
Samosa Chaat was a mess.
The partially cooked, salty Potato curry stuffing in the Samosa and the accompanying overcooked, tasteless Channa Masala only served to compound our misery.
Also, the Samosa Chaat just included Samosas and Channa Masala curry but did not come with other standard sides like chopped Onions and Cilantro and Red Chilli Garlic and Green Chilli sauces.
Pickles, Chutneys and SambarThe sides for appetizers included Ginger and Tomato Pickles, Green and Coconut Chutneys and Sambar.
Coconut Chutney was so horrid that it quickly reduced us to tears.
It was cold and showed scant evidence that salt and Green Chillies went into its preparation.
Was our misery never to end?
As we bewailed our fate, we wondered how inept an Indian restaurant must be if it can't get even commonplace items like Coconut Chutney right.
Ginger Pickle (top right), Tomato Pickle (middle right),
Coconut Chutney (bottom right), Green Chutney (bottom middle)
Green Chutney was alright, although not as spicy as it ought to be.
Tomato pickle was a wee bit salty and gave out a subtle flavor of Tomatoes.
The sole saving grace of Flavors of India's Pickles and Chutneys sides was the Ginger Pickle. The slightly sweetish pickle packed a subtle Ginger flavor but was still a treat.
Sambar was nothing but well cooked vegetables added to reddish color warm water.
It was lacking badly in Tamarind and the magical flavor of Sambar spices like Dhania. The only plus of the Sambar was that it had plenty of vegetables like Squash, Carrot etc.
Chicken ItemsSorely disappointed with our appetizers round, we trekked on to the entrees and started with the Chicken dishes.
Chicken Biryani, Tandoori Chicken
As is our wont, we gravitated in a drooling state toward Chicken Biryani first.
A wildly popular rice dish, a flavorful, spicy Chicken Biryani is known to transport diners into euphoric heights of ecstasy.
Alas, ecstasy was not what we encountered but a head-on collision with travesty.
Flavors of India's Chicken Biryani was an offensive insult to paying diners.
Sure, the Chicken Biryani was prepared with well textured Basmati rice and Chicken (with bone).
But the Chicken Biryani was not in the least bit spicy nor flavorful.
Did Flavors of India run out of chillies? Or was it a strategic decision on the kitchen's part to tone down the spices to broaden the restaurant's appeal to Americans who find it hard to handle spicy food? We have no way of knowing the answer.
It was one of the blandest Biryanis we've had the misfortune to consume. To make matters worse, some of the Chicken pieces in the Biryani were badly burnt (see above picture).
Tandoori Chicken was barely warm, looked ugly with black burnt marks and tasted hopelessly ordinary. As we never tire of telling, the secret of a good Tandoori Chicken is in the marination. And that's where most Indian restaurants skid badly.
Chicken Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala proved stiff rivals to Chicken Biryani in the high disappointment quotient.
Chicken Tikka Masala (top)
Chicken Tikka Masala failed to brighten our spirits given that the Chicken pieces were hard.
Chicken Curry on Rice
Little did we know that a worse fate was to befall us soon!
Chicken Curry, a spicy Indian delight, morphed into a spiceless monstrosity in the inept hands of the dilettantes in Flavors of India's kitchen.
Shaking our heads at the cruel ordeal we were being subject to, we fell into a despondent swooon.
Eureka! Now we grasped the meaning of the phrase, Man is Wolf to Man.
Vegetable Fried RiceNestling langorously by the Chicken items was Vegetable Fried Rice.
At least, the label said it was Vegetable Fried Rice.
Vegetable Fried Rice with Egg
But the inclusion of Egg in the Vegetable Fried Rice made us wonder if the Chicken items had made improper incestuous overtures to their vegetarian sibling.
Besides egg, Vegetable Fried Rice included Green Onion and Red Bell Peppers.
The Vegetable-Egg Fried Rice was one of the few redeeming elements of a depressing meal. But strict vegetarians would be aghast to see liberal use of Egg in Vegetable Fried Rice.
Vegetarian ItemsSaag Paneer, Mix (sic) Vegetables, Dal Makhani and Malai Kofta were part of the vegetarian spread.
One problem common to all the vegetarian curries was they were lukewarm. And we were not in the mood for lukewarm stuff on a cold winter day.
Paneer cubes in Saag Paneer tasted fresh but something had gone wrong with the Saag as parts of it tasted salty. It seemed like the salt had not been mixed thoroughly.
Saag Paneer (top left), Mix Vegetable Curry (top right)
Dal Makhani (bottom left) Malai Kofta (bottom right)
Mix Vegetable curry was a mélange of Beans, Carrots and Potato. But the slightly sweetish taste of Mix Vegetable did not yield any joy.
Dal Makhani was a depravity we wouldn't wish on any human or animal. Devoid of any seasoning, it tasted like finely boiled lentils with some Tomato pieces flung into it.
For us, Dal Makhani is the litmus test of an Indian restaurant's capabilities. A place that can't get the simple Dal Makhani right is bound to struggle with more complex fare.
Mercifully, Malai Kofta provided a measure of relief amidst the drought of pleasing items. Although the Kofta ball was not firm, it was still palatable.
The underlying gravy was not creamy enough to be labeled as Malai Kofta.
Plain rice was barely warm. While we had no issues with the texture of the rice we found it a tad oily.
Yogurt Rice was cold and tasteless.
Naan BreadNaan bread came piping hot to the table. The basket included four well roasted, tasty slices.
Though the Naan bread was good, we did not enjoy it as most of the entrees turned out to be spiceless travesties.
DessertsGajar Halwa and Rice Pudding were the desserts of the day.
The warm Gajar Halwa was superb, had a nice texture and just the right amount of sugar and ghee. If ever we retrace our way back to Flavors of India, it'd be only to gorge on this divine dessert.
We also liked the Almonds toppings and the absence of raw Carrot flavor.
Let it be noted that few Indian restaurants get Gajar Halwa right. Far too often at Indian restaurants, the Gajar Halwa packs a raw, detestable flavor.
Rice Pudding tasted like finely cooked rice hastily tossed into barely-sweet condensed milk.
Polite ServiceService was mostly attentive and polite.
The balding desi waiter stopped his loud phone conversation and seated us promptly.
In a nice touch, he even inquired whether we want our water with ice or without ice.
Except in one instance, used plates were removed after checking with us and water glasses refilled without any prompting.
But our bald waiter was also a funny bloke. He enthusiastically asked us, How is the food? As we were groping for a polite answer, he saved us the trouble by adding: Good, right? Dining plates, dessert and sambar cups were clean and did not have any chips.
Poor Table HygieneIf you are finicky about hygiene, Flavors of India is not for you.
We found poor table hygiene and witnessed distressing unhygienic practices in the dining hall.
Poor Table Hygiene
A good restaurant does not leave the silver directly on the table.
Usually restaurant tables are wiped with a cloth after spraying cleaning chemicals. When the silver is left directly on the table, they invariably pick up some of the fumes from the cleaning chemicals.
We watched the balding desi waiter cleaning an adjacent table by spraying cleaning chemicals and leaving the silver on the table immediately.
Another distressing aspect was letting diners carry their used plates to the buffet station for second helpings.
A desi diner carried his used plate for a second helping. The tall waiter with the pony-tail made no attempt to stop the diner although he noticed it.
Unlike mainstream American buffet restaurants like Old Country Buffet, there were no signboards at Flavors of India urging diners to carry fresh plates for each visit to the buffet station.
Letting diners carry used plates to the buffet station for second helpings is not good hygiene. We hope the New Jersey Department of Health takes note of these unhygienic dining room practices.
Flavors of India Rating - Extremely DisappointingWe walked in hungering for the magical flavors of Indian cuisine but Flavors of India turned out to be a parody of the real thing.
For much of the food we tasted here ended up to be a spiceless travesty.
By dumbing down on the spices, Flavors of India is doing a mighty disservice to Indians and, at the same time, depriving Americans of fine Indian cuisine. - © Sagar.com
Other Mt Laurel area Indian RestaurantsTaste of India Burlington - Good Food & Lousy Service
Monsoon Mt Laurel - Below Average Food & Ugly Service