Sometimes, when the hankerin for the delicious dishes of far-away and exotic India strikes, it cannot be denied. Those are times responsible in no small part to my waistline.
Today the urge was indulged at Aroma Fine Indian Cuisine in Draper, UT. I called in to find out the hours and headed in for the lunch buffet at around 1:45. The restaurant took some finding, since it’s located in a desolate mini-mall behind an out-of-business restaurant called, amusingly, Nacho Mama’s Place. I can only assume that they went out of business because one member of the family was implicitly uninvited.
From the outside, it looks like one of the cookie-cutter Indian-themed diners that seem to be popping up all over. You know, the ones that sport such delights as Bollywood music videos on all screens at full volume and a menu of overcooked Indian food complemented by American delicacies such as microwaved chicken nuggets. The inside was entirely incongruous with the facade, fortunately. The decor was dark, tasteful, involved, and welcoming. Shady browns, oranges, and tans gave the place a real sense of atmosphere. Draped cloths interspersed with ornately-framed large mirrors decorated the walls, and the tables and chairs were glass over a plain tablecloth. There was a small sitting area with the sort of furniture that people sit on in Indian paintings at the front, where one waits for a table when the place is full, and it actually looked pretty comfortable. The total effect was both classy and expensive, which matched the food perfectly.
The most charming thing about Aroma was the so-far anonymous greeter/waiter/etc. He had no name tag, so I’m going to randomly call him Dipesh. If you visit Aroma, and you should, please don’t call him that. Dipesh was refreshingly warm and friendly. He immediately came over to tell me about the buffet as soon as it was my turn to be helped. He pointed out several of his favorite dishes without my needing to ask, and good service is always welcome.
I piled my plate high with a generous sampling of each of the vegetarian dishes, which outnumbered the non-vegetarian offerings, and sat at the back so I could study my EA catechism in peace. Under the dim, low-hanging incandescent bulb a few feet above my table, the rich, colorful food took on a deliciously romantic sheen. The restaurant’s decor colors and the lighting really brought out the best appearance of the food, and I was surprised to see myself looking at what would make a fantastic stock photo. I ate slowly, savoring the real freshness and variation in the dishes. Often, Indian buffet food seems to be based entirely on garam masala, with variations from there consisting of changes in the meat, vegetables, or other spices. Not so here. Each dish was clearly cooked independently and based on distinct recipes.
One thing you might want to know–the food was very oily (not greasy). The oils were used abundantly in everything from the Basmati rice to the naan bread. Heavy cream made repeated appearances as well. Have no illusions that this food will do anything other than make you fat, although I prefer the term “enriched.” I was thoroughly enriched.
When I went to pay, I learned that the lunch buffet was $11, not including the drink or tip, which I consider to be high. I’ll definitely be going back, but I’ll have to limit my visits before I eat myself back into poverty.
While I was paying, I suddenly found myself in a long conversation with Dipesh, during which I learned that plastic bags are bad for vegetables, meat should be well done so you don’t get blood diseases, Applebees serves sub-par steak, and pizza can give you colon cancer. He also told me that they cook the vegetarian dishes separately, and that no utensil that touched meat is used in the preparation. I thought that was considerate of them. He also told me that he has a university degree in cooking of some kind and that the food was at Aroma was better for it. No argument there. In conclusion to our conversation, he informed me that they’ll be serving all my favorite dishes for lunch tomorrow. Like I said, I like the guy. He just needs to grow a rad mustache and he’ll be set.
Aroma is atmospheric, tasty, friendly, and expensive. I highly recommend it.