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Ha-lal Buffet (Dundee)

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Address: Whitehall Street / Dundee

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      10.10.2012 15:06
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      An indian and pizza buffet all done in a Halal way.

      ===A bit of a Picnic===

      If you go down to Dundee today, you better be hungry. Restaurants keep popping up everywhere at the minute. One such restaurant is the Halal Indian buffet. The first time we went was to get over a hangover. It worked rather well. Knowing that we enjoyed the first time, we decided to go again. Mostly we were trying our best to stuff our faces since our new exercise and food regime started the next day.

      ===Where do we go from here?===

      The restaurant is situated on Whitehall Street right next to Jimmy Chungs Chinese buffet. Right outside it you will find a bunch of bus stops so if you don't drive it's incredibly easy to get to it. Its all on ground level so there should be no issues with any disabled access. If you ARE driving, there are plenty of places to park near-by though most of them you will need to pay for. If you like free parking, there's not an awful lot nearby during the day. If you are going at night, then there is a little bit more leeway in where you can park mainly due to the horrid traffic-warden demons being asleep in their bat-cave. The restaurant is open between 12 noon and 10pm so whatever you do, it probably won't be an incredibly late night.

      ===The Interweb site===
      www.halalbuffet.co.uk

      The website for the restaurant is very basic. It looks a bit like a flyer for the restaurant. You can click on bits of it like the sample menu which will give you an idea of what might be on the buffet (they are a take-away as well but the take away menu can be slightly different than what is served). From the website I noticed that if your child is under 5 then they can eat for free and if they are under 16 they will get a discounted price. As I was I.D'd when buying bailies fudge the other day I might try and see if I can't pass for under 16 next time. Might need to shave. Hmm.

      ===What's in a name?===

      You may be wondering exactly what Halal is. Halal is translated as "permissible" and refers to any object or action that is allowed according to Islamic law. When applying the term to food this could mean a few crucial things that might make you think twice about eating here. Personally I'm not easily riled about mostly anything so I get the joy of trying everything. There are however some things to consider.

      The main thing that most have a problem with is that any Halal meat has to be slaughtered according to Islamic law. This means that animals used have their throat cut (wind pipe, arteries and all) but leaving the spinal cord intact. They are then hung up till the blood has drained out. This process is called "Dhabihah". There are studies on both sides of the fence as to how much suffering this causes animals, the main ones that were cited on the pro-neck cutting side (from 1978) were later cast in to doubt by the man that actually done studies by saying the method of (for want of a better phrase) "normal" slaughter was actually malfunctioning, therefore skewing the results when comparing the two methods. It's up to you how you feel on this issue.

      During Dhabihah a prayer is said in the name of God (Allah) as per the Quran. Without going too deeply into this touchy subject, if you are religious you may have a problem eating food that has been slaughtered in the name of a God that isn't "yours". Some non religious people may not want to buy into anything religious at all. If, like myself, you don't really care then munch onwards hungry soldiers.

      As an aside the restaurant does not in any way have any sort of religious atmosphere, just in case you were wondering. I know a few people who thought "Halal" was just the name of the Restaurant rather than a way of doing things and they'd have never have been tipped off by anything in the restaurant.

      The last issue I could see anyone having with Halal food is that certain foods are forbidden. You won't find any pork in this buffet, so if you are on an exclusively pork diet you might not enjoy this (is the fact I'm eating a ham sandwich as I type this ironic in any way?) You won't find a lot of seafood either as anything that doesn't have scales is not allowed (so pretty much anything that walks along the ocean floor on legs, which rings a giant Leviticus shaped bells) Crabs, shrimp, lobsters, prawns all out. Fish in.

      Most importantly of all is that **puts on a booming echo-filled voice**Alcohol. Is. Out. If your world just came crashing down, first of all you may wish to join a group: social drinking is much more fun. Secondly, you won't be able to get any booze of any kind in this place. If this is a problem, walk away. As I've only been in around lunch time the lack of alcohol has never bothered me. It does mean that it may not be the best venue for a party where you want to have a drink though

      ===The Restaurant===

      It's always nice to look nice and the same is true for eateries. The Halal buffet has a very distinct green, black and white colour theme which makes it feel quite informal but also makes the whole place look quite sharp and clean. As soon as you enter you are met with the tills, behind which is the dishwashing area. To the left of the tills and right up to the back of the building is the main seating and buffet area. The kitchen is right behind where the hot-plates are and everything is wide open so you can see exactly what is going on in regards to preparing the food. The back of the restaurant will give you a bit more privacy while you eat, but if you like people watching then you probably won't mind the seats at the front of the restaurant that give you a view of the busy street outside. I don't mind people watching but what I do mind is when those people watch ME and my friends eating. One man was so brazen in his staring at my friends dish (nose up against the window squinting to see better) I ended up having to give him a look that said "Heckskoooooze me, get outta mah face" before he realised how ridiculous he was being. That being said it's still a nice place to eat. It feels a bit more like a café than a restaurant. You will also be serenaded with purely Indian music while eating which is fun. Overall a lovely place!

      ===The Food===

      The great thing about a buffet is that you get to try as much or as little of different foods as you please. The fist time we went I was slightly disappointed with the selection they had. There were only three curries and one was marked as "hot". I'm not one of those people who like to pour fire down their throat so I was a little limited. The second time, however, there was a much larger range of stuff to try. I counted at least 8 different curries ranging from mild, through medium to hot, leaving me with a much larger choice. The dishes are all in self serve hot-plates and it's all very well organised so that the first thing you come to is the the rice, offering Pilau Rice (rainbow rice as I call it) Fried rice and boiled rice. Next to that is chips, poppadoms and other starters, followed by the mains. Heap your plate high and off you pop. Here's a run down of what I tried before they had to wheel me out in my chair:

      ===Chicken Tikka (mild)===

      My staple dish when eating Indian is chicken tikka. As such I've had a million different tikka's from a million different places. The Tikka in the halal buffet was a touch disappointing. It really was mild, but it seemed to lack any real flavour. The sweetness of the dish was almost overpowering. It was definitely edible and I enjoyed it as a small sampler but I don't think I could have managed a whole plate of the stuff. The chicken was perfectly cooked, melting in my mouth. Just the flavour that let it down. Allan's cousin had this dish the first time we went together and she liked it, eating a lot more than I did, so it's all down to personal taste. I'd give it 3 out of 5.

      ===Chicken Korma (mild)===

      Another dish I generally like, but this even as a small portion I found to be not very nice. It didn't taste anything like a Korma I'd had anywhere else. It succeeded where the tikka only hinted in regards to being overpoweringly sweet. I ate one chunk of chick and left the rest as it was making me feel a bit sick. The only good thing I can say about it is that the chicken continued to be the perfect consistency. Not too dry or chewy at all. Allan's cousin also enjoyed this one a lot more so I found myself shoving all my extra korma on to her plate. Overall though, the flavour made me mark it down to 1 out of 5.

      ===Chicken bhuna (medium)===

      This was a nice dish, very tomato-ey and maybe a touch on the tangy side, though full of flavour. "Medium" is sometimes a dangerous word as some restaurants do "Mild" or "Call the fire brigade the whole place is burning down" and their idea of medium is "It's ok, we've only set one person on fire". Thankfully the Halal buffet has hit a very acceptable heat in their medium. Full of flavour and perfectly cooked. The chicken fell apart in my mouth as I ate. I'd give this dish a 4 out of 5. Allan loved it, giving it a full thumbs up. Apparently I'm just fussy!

      ===Chicken Achari (medium)===

      I have found heaven. The Chicken Achari was exactly how I had imagined the Chicken Tikka should have been. Full of flavour, sweet but not overpowering, spicy but not terribly hot. As with the other dishes the chicken was perfectly cooked, falling apart in my mouth leaving me wanting more. As it was a buffet, I can assure you I went back for seconds, 5 out of 5 for this one.

      ===Saag Aloo===

      We were both curious about this one. It's one of the vegetarian options. It's basically new potatoes cooked in a mildly spicy minty sauce. The mint leaves are left in about it. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, the flavour was a very bizarre one but not horrible. Allan really enjoyed it, I was unsure; as such I'll give it a 4 out of 5.

      ===Garlic Nan===

      Though I was slightly disappointed both times that there wasn't a huge selection of Nan on the buffet, I was very impressed with how what was there tasted. The garlic Nan was absolutely delicious, smothered in garlic and just perfect. I scoffed the lot and went back for more. 6 out of 5. I really like garlic.

      ===Plain Nan===

      A bit more boring than the garlic Nan but still freshly made and delicious, a really nice flavour to it. If you've got someone who can't handle a whole lot of flavour with you, then they will probably like this. Due to being boring I'll give it a 4 out of 5 but that's all good.

      ===Vegetable Pakora ===

      I seem to be having a very pakora filled month. My mum has been making some at home to say thank you for helping decorate her house. Then of course came the face stuffing I got with these pakoras. Absolutely delicious, they are medium levels of spicy-ouch-oh-my-mouth but not too much that I couldn't eat about 9 of them. Allan loved them too. 5 out of 5 from us both.

      ===Mushroom Pakora ===

      Basically a whole button mushroom in Pakora batter. Allan hates them since mushrooms and him don't get on. It would be fair to say they are mortal enemies. Apparently the texture is just not acceptable. Myself, on the other hand, loved the mushroom pakoras. Not quite as good as the vegetable ones but not far off it. 4 out of 5.

      ===Chicken Pakora===

      These were a joint favourite of ours. Pieces of chicken in what must be the thinnest coating of batter in the world; you can't even see it but you can feel the crunch when you bite into the pakora. Once you are past that iota of crunchy batter you reach a succulent chicken piece that has a mildly spiced flavour. Bite sized heaven. 5 out of 5.

      If you are with someone who doesn't like curry, there are other things on offer too. The Halal buffet also does pizzas and macaroni cheese. Personally I thought it was a really bizarre combination but Allan loves it. He snarfled his way through slices of pizza and accompanied his curries with a helping of macaroni. He's said a couple of times that it's some of the best macaroni he's had. I guess this would come in handy if you have kids who are a bit fussier about what they want to eat (as kids are likely to do).

      ===The Toilets===

      The toilets have to be clean in places like this otherwise it just makes me doubt the whole thing. Certainly knocks a star off if they aren't up to scratch. Being that it's a fairly new restaurant (less than a year old) the toilets are in great nick. Very up to date, very clean and tidy. The only downside is that you have to traipse all the way downstairs to get to them. I assume there's somewhere else for disabled people to go as they couldn't be expected to do the downstairs hike, though I haven't spotted it. However I'd imagine if you asked the staff they would gladly point the way, which nicely brings me on to my next point!

      ===The Staff===

      Your first experience with the staff at Halal Buffet will be as soon as you walk in the door. You pay before you dine so you simply tell them how many of you there are (usually I count as one) and they either tell you to take carte blanche on the seating if it's quiet or direct you to your nearest suitable seating. I've always found the staff to be very friendly so it makes the experience really nice.

      A buffet with good food is fine, but the waiting service also has to be up to scratch too. The last buffet we went to only allowed you to have one plate. Out-of-house eating etiquette requires that I don't lick my plate clean so I got a little pissy about having sauces from my last course mixing with the current one. Thankfully Halal buffet has a bunch of very friendly staff that come and whizz your plates off to the great washer in the sky, allowing you to pick up another clean one at the hot-plates.

      Overall, the service is smooth and everyone is quite happy to be there. Never once have I seen a waitress / waiter who looked like they'd prefer you do one in this place which is a nice change when compared to other buffets. Kudos on them all.

      ===The prices===

      The website states the prices are between £7.90 and £9.90 depending on the day of the week and the time you go. The dates seem to be incorrect, however, we ended up paying £8.90 each on a Sunday and I even saw the price list on the desk go as high as £11.90 for Saturday evenings. If you can eat a lot of food then this would be well worth it. Something to remember is that your drinks are all included in the price and you have an alright selection of both still and fizzy juice. You can re-fill your glass as much as you want too.

      ===The Verdict===

      Everyone I know who has gone has loved the place. The only slight niggle I have is that you can never be really sure what will be available so there may be occasions where you might not get a lot to choose from. The staff are happy to let you pop round and have a look at what's on offer before you decide to pay your money though, so this at least is a plus. I'd happily give the place four stars, and could be swayed to five if the choice available wasn't an issue. Good for a change, great food, nice staff. Go stuff your faces!

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