There’s a sneaking familiarity about all buffets, no matter what class of restaurant you’re in. There’s a quality of last night, last week or last year about the food, depending on the enthusiasm or youth of the restaurant. A lot of variety ends up tasting a lot the same. You feel sick and helpless or frustrated and hungry at the end, no matter how carefully you pace yourself.
So, one might ask, why eat at a buffet at all? Why not just a la carte? Well, there are two possible answers. One – you’ll spend at least twenty minutes trying to read the tiny print on the damn carte in dim lighting. If you’re with a gang of ten there will be confusion, deal-making, exchanging and, inevitably, squabbles.
Two – there’s something very attractive about the word buffet. It’s a big, hearty, inviting word. It makes a la carte look pale and foreign, even though it’s equally so. It deceives you with its promise.
However, if you did inadvertently say buffet, when you actually meant a-la-carte-without-the-fuss, then don’t kick yourself yet. There are ways of getting through this:
1. Stick with the one good thing. There’s usually at least one dish that’s more palatable than the rest. Even if it’s something frivolous like prawns, stay with it. Ignore the pressure of too much and focus on the little.
2. Avoid too much mixing of cuisines. The latest unhealthy habit in buffets is to appeal to the Indian sensibility by appealing to our lack of it. So you have pasta next to some North Indian paneer, baked fish next to a chicken curry. It’s natural to be confused in such situations. Even the sensitive among us might feel a little traumatised and do something deadly to our palates. So, keep calm. At best, you can change cuisine among the salads or the desserts. Otherwise, stick with one.
3. Don’t bother saving space for dessert. The chances of getting something good at this overly-laden table are extremely slim. If you do need it, go for something sticky, gooey and chocolatey. So you at least had something sticky, gooey and chocolatey as opposed to nothing-but-sugar.
4. Learn to say no, if helpful waiters bring you starters for about forty minutes. There’s no harm in getting up, walking, and serving yourself. Think of it as your exercise for the day. It works out better in the long run.
Remember, you are under no obligation to eat. Be underwhelmed. In fact, this might be the best way to approach a buffet in general. Channel your inner Prada-devil-woman.