Euphoric Eat: Divine Curry

There are few things I enjoy more in life than unlimited food, and as a wannabe bon vivant, the buffet is the closest place I can get to being in a state of nirvana.

Although Divine Curry has a wide variety of delicious courses to choose from during dinner hours, surprisingly I have only visited during the all-you-can-eat lunch special. At only $11 a person, the buffet may just be the best deal in all of Hillsborough. Check out their hours here.

Throughout the years, this family-owned Indian restaurant has been the site of much indulgence for me. When I was brought here for the first time, it had truly been love at first bite. Before I discuss the food, though, I have included several simple guidelines to abide by – Divine Decrees, if you will.

Divine Decree #1: Eat a light breakfast and/or exercise before coming here for lunch, as to maximize your appetite. Cost-effective gluttony for the win!

Divine Decree #2: Make sure your schedule is free for the rest of the day if you choose to eat here. Speaking from personal experience, the only activity you will be doing afterwards is napping.

Divine Decree #3: When organizing a plate for yourself, layer the bottom of it with fresh jasmine rice. Saturated by all of the different sauces, the rice then takes on a medley of wonderful flavors.

Divine Decree #4: When the host asks if you would like another serving of naan, say yes, whether you’re full or not. There is always room for more naan, food comas be damned.

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Naturally, I have kept a running ledger on my phone describing all the foods I have eaten at Divine Curry. The restaurant changes their buffet offerings on the regular, so my list is constantly expanding.

In addition to my own notes, I have consulted my good friend and Mumbai native Yash Porecha, who has accompanied me on many trips to this luscious locale. Though he grew up in Dubai, his parents were raised in India and have done a great job exposing him to their cuisine through years of home-cooked Indian meals.

That sense of nostalgia always has Yash eager for a return trip to Divine Curry. “It’s very reminiscent of home-cooked food, and even the food that tastes like its made in a restaurant reminds me of dining experiences at home,” he said. Though he may enter the restaurant feeling homesick, he constantly leaves satiated.

I was a bit flummoxed when trying to pinpoint a favorite, considering the restaurant’s mouthwatering lineup of both vegetarian and meat options, as well as a series of other confections. This lovely platter below provides a most salivating preview of what you can expect at Divine Curry.

Divinations

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Tandoori chicken is one of India’s dearest delicacies, and as a mainstay of Divine Curry’s buffet, is also a favorite of mine. Marinated in yogurt and seasoned with a variety of spices, tandoori chicken smells heavenly, and has a mild, yet tender taste to it.

Another popular item at the buffet is the paneer masala, a vegetarian dish consisting of fresh cottage cheese chunks, coated with a gravy-like puree mixed in with onions, peas, and other assorted vegetables. According to my epicurean expert Yash, “the sweet and savory, creamy consistency pleases the taste buds.”

Fried fixings are another speciality; samosas, pakora, and onion bhajia are some of the little bites which I can never get enough of. Samosas – fried turnovers stuffed with spicy potatoes, are a very common side dish, while the pakora is an exquisite combination of various vegetables, herbs, and spices. As for the onion bhajia, consider it as an Indian variation of the onion ring; Divine Curry makes theirs by thinly slicing their onions, and then lightly frying them in batter. Mmmmm!

Goat korma, lamb saag, and chicken makhni are also just some of the many dishes which I frequently indulge in. Korma, a spicy curried dish made with fried onion paste, has an unmistakable kick to it, while saag is a spinach-based dish cooked with a range of spices. The chicken makhni is also a favorite of mine, due to its elegantly simple and mild buttery taste.

I could probably write a whole book on the many different choices Divine Curry has throughout its diverse menu, but I will spare that effort in the interest of time. Take a look at the rest of the menu here.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention naan bread – the chef d’oeuvre of carbohydrates. With a rich history, this traditional Delhi bread is a staple of many South Asian cuisines. Baked to perfection in a tandoor oven, this first-rate flatbread has a bubbly texture and crisp, smoky flavor.

Naan Factor

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Whether you get it with or without butter is up to you; naan makes for a great accompaniment either way. Make sure to mop up your leftover sauce with it!

If you somehow saved enough room for dessert, the gulab jamun can provide your meal with the proverbial cherry on top. Made with milk solids and dipped in a sweet syrup, they have a spongy texture and a decadent taste.

Kheer is another pleasant treat. It is a flavorful rice pudding with nuts, rose water, and cardamom. This dish always has me coming back for seconds (and sometimes thirds!).

Despite my many trips to the lunch buffet, the menu remains, by and large, unconquered. I only have so much money to spend on food; as I like to tell myself, “when my wallet expands, so too can my culinary horizons.” Nonetheless, the value is often too good to pass up.

For years, Divine Curry has undoubtedly proven itself worthy of its moniker. If you have not eaten here yet, make it a point to do so – it is well worth the hype!

 

Euphoric Eat: Destination Dogs

This is from a previous trip to DD. In the picture are the "Bun on The Bayou" dog and the Bun Mi

This is from a previous trip to DD. In the picture are the “Bun on The Bayou” dog and the Bun Mi

This past week, I had the pleasure of eating at Destination Dogs for about the 1000th time, or so it seemed. Yash and I have eaten there at least once a month, dating back to our maiden voyage to the restaurant in the spring of our freshman year. It was love at first bite, and years later, it still tastes just as good as the first time.

This time, however, I went with my mom. With her in town for dinner, I could think of no better place to take her. Sorry for making you pay, Mom, but when I get a job someday, dinner’s on me!

After a particularly treacherous walk to the restaurant, thanks to some nasty winds outside that day, we were finally seated with our menus. Now, if you’ve ever eaten with me before, you’ve probably witnessed how much of a chore it is for me to order, and this trip was no different. But this is a menu unlike any other, so I was justified in taking forever.

On the left side of the menu are the “domestic dogs”, which are named after their respective locations. It’s got traditional beef hot dogs, like the Nicky Newarker, complete with onions, peppers, mustard and fried potatoes, but in addition to that, the menu also features many nonconventional dogs, such as one of my personal favorites, The Howlamo. It’s a wild boar sausage topped with pork belly, baconaisse (yes, bacon mayo), and scallions. Everything’s bigger in Texas!

The “international dogs” section on the menu is the real reason why we keep coming back for more. You can’t go wrong picking the Achilles Meal, which is a duck sausage covered in tzatziki, tomatoes, and shredded cabbage. If you’re feeling a little more exotic, perhaps the Bun Mi, a Vietnamese import, is the choice for you. It is a pork sausage with foi gras, pickled veggies, jalapenos, cilantro, and sriracha mayo. Flavors abound!

The grandest appetizer of all: Patatas Ridiculas: Fried potatoes, duck confit, pork, gravy, melted cheese, scallions, anything else you can dream up

The grandest appetizer of all: Patatas Ridiculas: Fried potatoes, duck confit, pork, gravy, melted cheese, scallions, jalapeños. Anything else you can dream of?

I’m all about expanding my horizons, so I decided to try two new dogs this time around. I got the Swede-Dreams dog, which, along with a Swedish meatball sausage, features mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry jam. It was like Thanksgiving in a bun; all the flavors fused to create one delectable dog.

As Billy Mays used to say, “But wait…there’s more!”

I forgot to eat breakfast that day, so this dog was practically calling my name. The Paul Bunyan, a Minnesota import, has everything you want in a dog and then some. The breakfast sausage alone would have sufficed, but DD takes it one step further, by adding bacon, maple syrup, and a fried egg on top. Sure, it may give you a heart attack, but it is worth it. Life’s too short.

I’ve made it my goal to eat every dog on the menu in my college career. With a menu featuring 24 different dogs from around the world, this has proven to be an arduous task. So far, I have eaten 14 different types of hot dog, and each time, I have left Destination Dogs satisfied, even if I’ve had a few food babies along the way.

Quite frankly (pun intended), this is the best restaurant in town. I could talk about this place all day long, but I still couldn’t do it justice. See for yourself what all the hype is about, and go to Destination Dogs!  You can thank me later.

 

Euphoric Eat: Efe’s Mediterranean Grill

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Located on the corner of Easton Avenue and Somerset Street, Efe’s Mediterranean Grill is pretty hard to miss. Despite passing by it virtually every day, I never found the time to go in for a sit-down meal. I once ordered a wrap, to-go, and it was alright, but nothing special. Still, I thought this place deserved another shot.

On Saturday night, along with my girlfriend and her roommates, as well as my trusty culinary companion Yash, we trekked through the snow as we made our way to yet another euphoric eatery.

After asking for a table, we were led upstairs into the main dining area, which was nearly full.  A packed house at a restaurant is usually a good sign, because it shows that it is a popular spot.

Anyways, this place had a great ambience to it. It seems like renovations were recently made to the restaurant, because this place looked brand-spankin’ new. Lovely artwork, brick walls, and huge windows overlooking Easton Avenue were just a few of the pieces of decor that made this place so welcoming.

We started our meal off with an order of baba ganoush for the table, which consists of an eggplant puree flavored with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Accompanied by a tray of pita which was fresher than a 12-year old with an attitude, this delectable dip had us all fighting for the last bite.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of eating some, I would behoove you to drop whatever it is you are doing and get to the nearest baba ganoush dispensary. Just kidding, those don’t exist. Although I wish they did. Maybe I’ll be a baba ganoush salesman some day.

After wolfing down another serving of pita for the table, it was then time for the main course. And what a main course it was. I got the lamb adana kebab platter, which had grilled lamb flavored with red bell peppers and a paprika seasoning, along with a side of rice. Translation: MHMMMMMMM!

Being the gavone that I am, one plate of food just wasn’t enough for me. So, after finishing my food, I bided my time, hoping…no, praying, that one of the girls wouldn’t be able to finish. I got what I wished for, and then some.

Kelly was the first to surrender her plate, which I believe was some sort of chicken kebab platter. It too was delicious, bursting with flavor in every bite.

Now I consider myself a lucky man when I get to finish just one other person’s food. But TWO people? I must be in heaven.

Thanks to Kelly’s roommate Gab, my dreams became reality. She too was unable to finish her meal, a chicken platter, which I promptly devoured.

Gluttony aside, I really enjoyed my time at Efe’s. The service was great, as the waiters were attentive and friendly the whole time. Despite being there at dinnertime on a Saturday night, we weren’t kept waiting long for our food, which was impressive.

Whether you’re out to lunch with friends or on a romantic dinner date with your special someone, you can’t go wrong with Efe’s. With a great atmosphere and even better food, I’ll certainly be back soon!