Avenue 195

The most common question I get about eating out in Chennai is, "Where is the best buffet?" Before I answer, there are conditions to the buffet. Lots of non veg dishes, great quality food, good ambiance, good spread, some live counters and if possible with alcohol. As my mind starts wandering, the next condition comes in. "Max budget is Rs. 500." So when Ashwin used this oft repeated problem in his stand up comedy, it came as no shock. "Dude, you have to create one yourself," will be my thought process. But looks like one dude has actually made it happen.

Apparently 195 countries are registered with the United Nations and therefore the name, Avenue 195, the brain child of Chef Vijay, who has been cooking around the world and has finally decided to bring his skills to Chennai. He couldn't have found a better place than the khana road of Chennai and has set up shop amidst various restaurants aiming to serve world cuisine. His menu is a good testimony to his vision and his buffet caters to all of his vision at an enviable price.

On a weekend you get 14 starters to your table! Yes, 14! The thing is it changes almost every day, so you could go on Saturday and Sunday and end up eating lots of different food. We had a superb nachos, shaped round! Shape didn't matter as it was quite nice, but grossly missed sour cream and guacamole. So it wasn't exactly the Mexican nachos, but a twisted one with baked beans instead of refried beans, but a very good one at that. Apparently the dish of the menu has it all, but for a buffet nachos, this was quite nice. I also totally loved the chicken shashlik sticks that was served and the dragon prawns, while though the batter fried veggies were thick with batter, it was quite nice as the batter was super smooth. We also had a round of chaat which was much better than I expected to be served in a buffet. Being a chef from England I expected a classic fish n chips, but while this was far from classic it was closer to being an outstanding dish. Super thin slices of fish in a crumb batter and fried to perfection. I had at least four slices and a couple more later. Too many starters to even remember the rest.

And then the main course. I distinctly remember the super tasting pesto grilled fish and the slightly soggy, but still tasty stir fried potato fingers. And the live pasta counter with a choice of three pasta, add your own veggies and chicken or fish or both. I added pesto sauce, chicken, zucchini and broccoli.  The pesto used here was not basil, but coriander and mint with olive oil. It had a distinct Indian taste to it, but was excellent. Those who tried the cheese sauce and tomato sauce said it was good too. I was too stuffed to even try out the live noodles and rice counter. Same process as the pasta and you can get your own version of rice and noodles. And I didn't even attempt the Indian breads with gravy as my stomach was close to bursting. Desserts weren't great, but the mousse cake and the rasagolla was enough sweet for this meal.

The menu changes everyday, so what I had might not be on the menu when you go there and so it is very difficult to rate this place with one episode. Priced at Rs. 575 plus tax (Rs. 623 nett/) and about Rs. 70 cheaper on weekdays with a reduced number of starters, this is a killer buffet, not because of the number of dishes, but the quality. The fish I had was not basa, but imported Sea Bass. The promoters' ideology is to provide good food and more importantly not to pass off anything as the original. The restaurant is only two weeks old and I don't know how they can sustain this quality at this price, but right now, this is the best value for money buffet in town. And it is on Khader Nawaz Khan Road (actually end of KNK Road, below Zaitoon, opp Apollo Children's hospital.