Mother India

There are Indian food buffets and then there are Indian food buffets that are talked about with hopeful tones and the inferred promise of something really special. Mother India offers the latter; this is no cut-rate all-you-can-eat. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., you'll find a nice buffet of hot North and West Indian dishes for $6.95, accompanied by an interesting selection of yogurt sauces, chutneys, and cold salads—and, of course, naan, that irregular and lovely pocket-filled Indian bread, and basmati rice. Of the salads and cold dishes, a fresh mixed green one with a nicely tangy lemon yogurt dressing is the type of salad that could (and should) precede any meal, but a marinated mix of sliced carrots and tiny cauliflower branches, very heavily adorned with sweet fennel seeds, is a real specialty. Desserts include the regular suspects as well as some thinking outside the rice pudding-and-gulab jamun box; the mango custard tastes as bright as it looks. As for the warming trays, the dishes therein aren't just well-prepared—even (or especially) for buffet fare—they're often more nuanced and original than what some Indian restaurants offer on their regular menus. Chickpea-battered marinated fish and methi aloo (fenugreek leaves and potatoes cooked with tomatoes and Indian spices) are just two offerings that far outshine the customary gray-hued stewed spinach. Want to take your buffet to go? Two decent-sized Styrofoam containers are yours. Fill 'em up. 1018 Alaskan Way, 206-292-2000. DOWNTOWN

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