Type of Food: Indian
Location: The corner of Maple Rd. and Livernois Rd. in the plaza with Good Food Company
Overall Rating: ****/5
Service Rating ***/5
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Though slightly far north for some in the Detroit area, Priya Indian Cuisine is a fine place for those looking to whet their appetite with some Indian cuisine. The Priya has been opened since 1996, and while undergoing minor changes remains an appealing destination. Health food fans will find it easy to work the restaurant into their plans, as it is located in the same plaza as Good Food Company, one of metro-Detroit's best health food supermarkets.
Walking in one notices immediately the exotic, but tasteful decor. The walls are covered with dark orange wall paper and the lights are dimmed, but not to the point to give it a dingy feel. There are two separate dining rooms for smokers and non-smokers and the main room has a spacious feel. The walls are covered with beautiful Indian art, which gives it a very authentic feel. The subdued lighting and considered artwork make it an ideal atmosphere for a date, assuming your significant other has an appreciation for foreign food.
Prices are reasonable and range from $7.95 to $14.95 and up. There is a small bar, so if you want drinks, you won't be lost. The real deal is their buffet, available from 11 am to 2:30 pm on weekdays for a mere $7.95. On weekends the buffet runs slightly longer, from 11 am to 3:30 pm and is a dollar more, at $8.95.
Non-alcoholic beverages are reasonably priced at between $1.50 and $3.99. I ordered a Chai tea and was pleasantly surprised at the low price of $1.75. The drink received was slightly less that ceremoniously presented in a standard diner brown coffee mug, but I figure for the low price, you can overlook the delivery method. The Chai was flavorful, but not overwhelming spicy, which is good. It was delivered at a perfect hot, but not burning-your-mouth-hot, temperature. Some may be disappointed that the Chai is not sweetened, after growing used to the sugar-laden "Chai"s of Starbucks and its ilk — but I say, that's what the sugar is on the table for, if you can't handle a real Chai.
The buffet was definitely the star attraction. For first timers, the buffet is a must as it lets you try a wide variety of dishes. This is especially a good thing if you're not super familiar with Indian food. Arranged in the main dining room, it features 15+ hot dishes, so you're sure to find something to like. Companions to the meal include Naan bread (not to be mistaken for pita bread, a common error) and Pakoora crunchy, salty cracker like bread. Other lighter fare to go with the bread include a basic mixed salad, with a selection of yogurt and other dressings. The salad used iceberg lettuce, which I was less than a fan of, but its obviously not the focus of the menu.
The buffet really shines in the hot dishes, which make up the majority of its space. Fear not vegetarians; most of the hot dishes are vegetarian, ones with meat are clearly marked to avoid confusion. I first sampled the Vegetable Biryani. This yellow rice dish was rather mild, though with a hint of spice and featured a saffron flavor, and lima beans. It was was quite tasty. The next dish I tried was Dal Curry. This dish contain lentils spinach and tomatoes. It was rather thin and souplike and tasted like split pea soup. It was a dish that would be unlike to seriously offend even those with delicate stomachs, so might be a good choice for some, but it wasn't terribly unique.
Next I tried the Potato Curry. This thick dish is thick and red and moderately spicy. Of all the dishes that I tried, it was probably the least impressive in my mind as I really was not a fan of the flavor. Next up was the Navartan Koorma. This decadent dish blew away any trace of disappointment from the Potato Curry. Peas never tasted so good, paired with pearl onions, cashews, and golden raisins, swimming in a rich creamy sauce. The dish was very mild, tasted utterly decadent, and would be hard not love. Next up was the Okra Fry. I'm not a huge okra fan, but I was pleasantly suprised. The okra was mixed with grain and was spiced with lots of hot peppers and bay leaves. This was definitely what I'd call a "high heat" dish. The texture and crunch was very interesting, but those with lightweight stomachs might want to steer clear.
Not finished I continued on to the Idli. These curious crumbly polenta-like cakes are "steam cooked" and have a interesting texture that makes up for an unremarkable flavor. Next up was the Vegetable Noodles, which were rather run of the mill lo-mein style noodles. There was rice of course, as well.
The final two main-course dishes I tried were a pair of soups. The first, the Tomato and Tamarind Soup was pleasing it is subtle but distinct spicy flavor. It is a very thin soup with only small bits of tomato mixed in, but is a great accompaniment to heavier dishes like the Koorma. The other soup, the Sambar consist of lentils, tomato, and carrots. It was rather bland, but was decent overall.
The meal was almost finished when I got Rice Kheer (pictured, left). For those unfamiliar with Kheer, you have not truly lived. This pudding made with milk, vermicelli (noodles), tapioca balls, cashews, and golden raisins is simply to die for. While I am the biggest fan of thin soup style kheer, this thicker pudding style kheer, was still enough to put me in Indian food heaven. Don't miss it.
And to my surprise the meal wasn't over. The waiter presented me the choice of various ice creams and frozen yogurts, which are complementary with the buffet. I ordered the mango ice cream. Usually I wouldn't let good food go to waste, particularly when I'm so skinny and look in need of excess calories, however after the full barrage of the buffet, I could stomach more than half the dish of delicious mango ice cream. I hope you fare better than me.
You might have noticed I missed the meat. My appologies. There were three meat dishes, and while I did not eat them, they looked interesting. They were three varieties of chicken, Chicken Vindaloo (boneless with potatoes, in a spicy sauce), Chicken Makhani (tandoori chicken, sauteed in creamy sauce), and finally plain Tandoori Chicken, which was mostly undecorated chicken with a bright red tint from the spicing. I'm sure those of the meat-eating inclination would enjoy these three dishes.
Despite my minor criticism of individual dishes, overall the buffet was delicious. Its hard not to love getting this much good Indian food at such an attractive price. Having been to several local Indian buffets, I have to say, this one is currently on top of my list.
Check it out — you'll be glad you did.