Is it just me or is it hard to find good Indian food in DC proper? I’ve been searching for it basically my entire adult life. Rasika is obviously amazing, but if you don’t want to schlep across town and cough up $100, your options are rather limited.

Knowing I’d be in Maryland, I suggested Indian for lunch with a friend, and she was eager to try it. I chose Woodlands for the low price point, not realizing it would be Sunday buffet, although in retrospect, duh it was Sunday buffet. It’s actually surprising that it exists here, nestled amongst the pupuserias and the Latino markets and the pollo a la brasa and more pupuserias.

Woodlands bills itself as South Indian, which I always knew abstractly was different than North Indian cuisine, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the buffet offerings were unrecognizable to me. No boring-ass naan here; if Woodlands is any indication, the specialty of Southern India is fried fried fried things. Fried bread, fried potatoes, fried lentils, fried pancakes, fried dhosa. I ain’t mad. There were so many things and there is no way I would ever get their names right, but I’ll try to describe the dishes.

My first plate included yellow dal on the left, the adjoining red cauliflower curry, the veggie pancake, the lentil donut, the yellow pumpkin curry, the cold chickpeas, and the iceberg salad that was a waste of plate space and I’m not sure why I believed that getting one spoonful of salad would negate all the fried things on my plate. The winners on this plate were definitely the red cauliflower, which was well sauced and fragrant, the pumpkin curry that was richly coconutty and full of soft-cooked pumpkin, and the lentil donut which was surprisingly savory and flavorful. The dal was too thin and not the best ever so I didn’t get any on the next go-around.


Second plate: as you can see, a re-upping of lentil donut, pumpkin curry, red cauliflower, and saag paneer, which was good but standard, plus the two desserts: the sweet kheer-like pudding made with noodles instead of rice which had the tinge of cardamom but the overwhelming sweetness of condensed milk, plus the gulab jamoon which was exactly the fried ball of sweet cheese I needed to close out this meal.

My wonderful dining partner was a friend who happens to be an immigrant from El Salvador. For her first experience with Indian food, this was a good pick. “I’m in love with the pumpkin,” she said repeatedly. I agree, it was wonderful.

Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: Woodlands is a great place to try something new even if you are already well-acquainted with Indian food. And if you want to convert someone else, it’s all the better.

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