With all due respect to the illustrious tradition of Indian cuisine, it's never really been my thing. Notwithstanding a good samosa, the stewed purees, exotic spices, and ghee-heavy dishes central to Indian cooking have always been a little--how can I put this delicately--disastrous to my whiter-than-white-girl constitution. Hot flashes, sweats, you know the rest (if not, this little Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston vignette might clue you in.) I make every effort to avoid the fussy vegetarian tag--a label that pains my ethos as much as my upbringing--but I've never set foot in an Indian restaurant without a tinge of trepidation.
Get 'em while they're hot! Pabla's samosas and pakoras.
And return I did, to the restaurant's popular vegetarian lunch buffet, an exotic smorgasbord touting over 20+ regularly rotating menu items. Pabla's atmosphere is hardly notable--plopped across a Fred Meyer in a strip mall, done up like a shabby chic cafeteria--but for lunch-hour diners on a time crunch, the variety of offerings, at $9.99 per person plus tax, make it an expeditious meal and a good value, and the buffet of flavor seals the deal.
I packed my plate with a samosa, mint chutney, vegetable pakoras, nan, basmati rice with mixed vegetables, saag paneer, daal maharani (creamed lentils), and mushroom masala (mushrooms cooked with tomatoes, green peppers, and spices). There were quite a few offerings I missed--green salad, soup, trays of steaming curries and vegetarian specialties (all clearly marked)--but it was a start, and I knew I could go back for more.
The taste experience was rich and savory but subtle enough for a heat-sensitive gal like myself (and according to the menu when ordering table service at dinner you can specify a desired heat preference). After a few swipes of fork, the saucy pile ran together in a whirl of delicately spiced Indian flavor. I finished every bite except for a lone mushroom that seemed briny and canned, and half a samosa I pawned off on my boyfriend. He went back for seconds.
We skipped desert--there were a few selections from the adjoining sweet shop available at the buffet--and ended our visit with a stroll through the neighboring Indian grocery, picking up a few spices and chuckling at the names (Glucose Biscuits! Cheeslings!) of some of the staples. We ambled back to the car and headed back to Seattle. Voracious mentioned on its last visit here that Renton may not be a dining destination per se, but Pabla does a brisk business for those who live nearby; for those who make the trip, it's a good reminder that there are some delights right beyond our limits just waiting to surprise us.