Cheap Eats - Still life with chicken

Curry & Kabob House serves Quality dinner, boring buffet

The importance of background music or even what is termed "white noise" in a restaurant is probably forgotten until you walk into a place and are confronted with deafening quiet. Walking through the doors of Curry & Kabob House, I immediately felt on guard due to the overwhelming silence. A table of men hunched over chicken bones seemed to be nearly whispering to one another. Usually I wait for my lunch dates, but to forget about the stillness, I found the buffet quickly and began to concentrate on the food.

The buffet: The steam-heated pans contained tandoori chicken, dal makhani (lentils cooked with butter and curry sauce), aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower cooked in ginger, garlic, tomatoes and curry sauce), pekoras (deep-fried onions, cauliflower and carrots), mixed vegetable korma (green beans, carrots and cauliflower cooked with garlic, ginger and curry) and a vegetable soup. The menu claims there are 15 items from which to choose, but unless you count all the hot sauces and condiments, I didn't see nearly that many. The biggest disappointment was the cold naan that sat there, untouched. Fresh naan would be nicer and probably get more attention.

What we ate: Dinner entrees at the restaurant are still cheap compared to most other Indian restaurants. Tandoori chicken tikka masala ($7.99) was wonderful, prepared with big cubes of chicken smothered in yogurt and mild spices. Chicken kadai ($6.99), a concoction of chicken cooked with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes in a rich and creamy brown sauce, arrived in a small iron pot. Saag paneer ($6.49) reminds me of creamed spinach but much heartier with homemade cheese and a seasoned sauce melted among the finely chopped spinach. A meat entree combined with rice (which is included) is plenty for one.

A quick cultural check: In bold letters out front, a sign indicates all the ingredients are halal. Halal is a Quranic term which means "allowed" or "lawful" and refers to meat that is slaughtered according to Islamic law. Not to overly simplify it, it's the Muslim equivalent of eating kosher.

Service: The server we had was there for both lunch and dinner. My favorite thing about him? He brought us an entire carafe of water and I was able to fill up at my own pace. Otherwise, he didn't come near the table and busied himself with other things.

Cheapest item: The vegetable pakora, an appetizer, rings up at $2.49. Diced vegetables including carrots and cauliflower are dipped in gram flour and deep fried. For 50 cents more, you can try the vegetable samosas — two deep-fried spiced potato "turnovers."

Most expensive item: If you're really hungry, go for a full order of tandoori chicken for $12.99. I've never actually seen anyone order this much tandoori, but you'll get a chance to see if you're a breast or leg man at least.??