Update: This restaurant has moved to 1460 Hertel Ave!
1460 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202
(716) 768-4426 | FACEBOOK
Dine-in, Carryout & Delivery 7 days a week
New to downtown’s Theater District is the Chennai Express India Restaurant. Don’t let the express part throw you off – it’s not a quick order, franchise type joint. There is plenty of comfortable seating in this modest dining establishment right across from Shea’s Performing Arts, and next door to District. The decor is stark with a pinch of elegant and a dash of India that includes white table clothes, covered chairs, and traditional Indian music.
Our waiter explained that their food is south Indian while most/all other Indian restaurants in town are north Indian. The difference, he explained, is in the spices and the Dosas that are much more common in the southern cuisine.
We hear that bigger menus are on their way. This was only their second week open, though that didn’t seem to show in the food quality or service.
I can’t say I’m any type of expert when it comes to Indian food, but I have a pretty firm grasp on what tastes good. This definitely qualifies. Chennai Express offers a long list of traditional dishes and house-made sauces including my all time favorite, tamarind.
If you’re a fan of good food, Indian or any other, stop in soon. This food is fresh and made to order with your choice of heat. I have no doubt lines will be forming before too long. Should that be the case you might want to take advantage of their take out or free (downtown) delivery.
We stopped in this week for lunch and ordered more than enough for a double date. Except there were only two of us. And it wasn’t a date. But anyways, we tried a lot of food. A lot of delicious food.
After sipping on a warm cup of Masala chai, a spiced Indian tea with milk, we started with the Chennai sampler($6.95), an assortment of dishes from the appetizer list. Included was a fried lentil doughnut (vada), a spring roll (vegetable), fried fritters made with chicken and spices (chicken pakora), fried pastry stuffed with potato and peas (Samosa) and onion, spinach and chickpea flour fritters (pakora). The dish came accompanied with a tamarind chutney sauce and a mint sauce typically used for the Samosa and the spring roll (if I remember correctly?), and ketchup for some of the others – an American thing. But hey if it tastes good, it’s not wrong. In this case though you don’t need the ketchup, because tamarind tastes good on everything, and the mint sauce is a refreshing change of pace.
If I had to pick a favorite from the sampler, I’d go with the Pakora. It was a delightfully crispy melody of fried onions and chickpea flour. Although it’s hard for me to speak to the differences of flavor in each item, they tasted as though each was made using a different mix of spices. The samosa was another obvious favorite with the crunchy outer layer and the warm, dense insides.
Next we moved on to the Lamb Biryani ($13.95), an aromatic rice flavored with cubes of tender lamb and broccoli, fragrant with saffron and garnished with cashews. This beautiful bowl of rice came with a large side of Dahi, a plain homemade yogurt sauce with cucumber and carrots, and a side of a mix of spicy pickled something. It was good, but can be spicy if you test your luck. We ordered everything medium with a couple hot sauces on the side. This was my favorite dish of the meal. Something about the rice spoke to me. It could have been the light and fluffy texture of the long grain rice, or the lamb mixed in, oozing flavor for the rice to soak up, but I’m leaning towards the power of saffron. It was subtle, but made all the difference. The lamb chunks were certainly tender and perfectly seasoned. The rice was peppered with small bits of vegetables and topped with a variety of veggies that added to the overall appeal of the dish – especially the almost raw red onion.
The Tamarind Rice ($6.95), a South Indian rice cooked with tamarind and spices also came with a side of Dahi and Pickel, and was absolutely delicious in it’s nutty aroma and simple presentation. The spices used add tons of flavor without overpowering the dish. Pour the runny Dahi over the rice. It ends better than you can imagine. The sprinkle of cilantro over the top is a welcome touch of flavor.
Dosas, of which Chennai Express has many, are rice and lentil crepes served with sambar, a mixed vegetable soup with Indian spices, coconut chutney and tomato chutney. The enormous, crispy dosa is meant to be pulled apart and dipped into your choice of satisfying sauce. With the help of our server, we ordered the Mushroom masala dosa ($7.50) with mushroom and potato filling and two add ons – cheese and spinach. The crepe was crispy and flavorful, especially after dipping. I liked it best in the sambar.
For dessert, our server was kind enough to surprise us with a taste of the honey balls as he called them, or what I suspect is the Gulab Jamun ($3.50) on the menu. They are milk balls deep fried with warm sugar syrup and are unique and delicious. Don’t skip dessert. It’s a bad life choice.
Our server was excellent -extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and excited to educate us. What more can you ask for.