Masala Wok
9348 34 Avenue
780-490-7200
www.masalawok.ca

Rating: ***1/2
Price range: Low to Mid
Reservations: No
Category: Solo, date, co-worker or social lunch
Time in: 11:55
Time out: 12:25

Its closest competitor — with its endless row of buffet tureens — is right across the parking lot. How could a little restaurant offer a lunch buffet to compete?

At Masala Wok, they manage just fine.

At only $11.99, their shorter buffet table offers cuisine in a league of its own. Indo-Chinese dishes merge the best features of two beloved culinary traditions into meals rich, delicate or sometimes just plain hot!

Deep-fried samosa, pakora and spring rolls are savoured best with the delicate tamarind and mint sauces. Stir-fried hakka noodles with shrimp, chicken and vegetables were a huge hit for the kids, and I sampled Manchurian paneer in gravy: Spicy, though not hot, the Middle Eastern cheese was firm and luscious in its dark red pool.

I consider it my obligation to sample the butter chicken in every East Indian restaurant. It was fantastic — I tore strips of soft naan bread to pinch the tender morsels from the tomato-y sauce.

I considered the sweet Timbit-like gulab juman in syrup or the kheer rice pudding, but was defeated. I would be back for a mango lassi ($3.99) and dessert at another time — now I had to roll myself back to work!