BBQ Nation offers a buffet full of flavor
By: Jennifer Zeleski
My lack of exposure to Indian cuisine is disappointing. For far too long I have believed that the Triad area hasn’t had an adequate location for traditional, and ultimately delicious, Indian food. But with the recent opening of BBQ Nation in High Point (located at 3928 Sedgebrook St.), I could not have been more wrong.
BBQ Nation is a 100 percent Halal, Indian restaurant that serves everything from freshly-skewered kebabs and vegetarian rice dishes, to fresh naan bread and chicken masala. Last weekend, my boyfriend Peyton and I decided to give it a shot.
To my initial dismay, lunch at BBQ Nation is served buffet-style. Normally I am highly opposed to buffets. The experience tends to be focused on the quantity of food rather than quality, and I have had several disappointing experiences in the past. But rather, I looked at this opportunity to embrace (almost) everything BBQ Nation has to offer, and I was not disappointed.
Before even making our way to the buffet, we were asked if we follow vegetarian diets. We were a little surprised at the question and quickly realized how different this type of approach was to dining at other restaurants. I noticed that each of the surrounding tables had personal charcoal grills topped with skewers of meat or skewers of tofu, and was glad to see a restaurant that was so accommodating to potential dietary restrictions, without substituting menu items for lesser quantities or unfavorable options. Considering neither of us follows a strict vegetarian diet, we opted for the non-vegetarian grill.
It was right around lunchtime, and the restaurant was decently crowded with several families, and a steady passing line through the buffet. Choosing what to try from the buffet would be much less straightforward, so I just went for it.
There were several options written on the pink sticky-note labels that I didn’t understand, but I tried to use my intuition. There were vegetable uttapams, otherwise known as small pancakes with vegetables baked inside, several trays of vegetables, and a variety of different meat options. For my first plate, I settled on two different types of chicken, three different types of rice, and a slice of naan bread.
Peyton, on the other hand, went for more variety. His plate featured the 555 chicken, chicken curry, a few vegetable choices, and one of the uttapams.
When we returned to our table, we were met with the personal grill, that also had two chicken options, as well as one skewer with shrimp and another with large chunks of pineapple.
As tempting as it was to dive right into the grilled skewers, we trusted that they would stay hot, and taste better if they rested for a bit over the charcoal, so we decided to start with what we got from the buffet. Peyton started with the 555 chicken, which we thought would be spicy due to its bright red color, but instead had a mild spice and overall good flavor. He preferred the 555 chicken over the masala chicken but was ultimately all about some of the different vegetable options.
My choices of chicken were each different in their own way. The chicken masala had a bright orange sauce, and I might have been content with ordering it as a full meal, but the sauce could get a bit heavy after a while. But when paired with long grain white rice, it was delicious, and exactly what one would expect from an Indian restaurant. The chicken curry was a bit spicier and left my mouth with a bit of an afterburn. I was thankful to have the white rice to calm down the spice. The only downside was that the chicken curry was on the greasy side, and the chicken was cooked and served with the bone, which made it unappetizing for a few bites.
The first I tried was the chicken dum biryani, which had chunks of chicken and red onion throughout. My first bite hit me with a flavor that reminded me of the holiday season, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. Peyton captured it perfectly in one word: cardamom. The rice has a very aromatic and almost savory flavor in the best way possible. It was great, but I tried not to eat too much in fear of getting full too quickly.
The vegetarian option was the vegetable pulao, which had a sweeter flavor at first until I squeezed on the fresh lime. The flavor became vibrant and addicting, unlike any rice dish I have tasted before. I knew I was going to have to copy the recipe at home or come back for more. It was hard to choose which I liked best, but both were delicious in its own ways, and hardly substitutes for one another. Within the mix of it all, I got distracted from trying the naan bread. It’s hard to deny yourself any crunchy, savory naan bread when it’s in front of you, and this one was no exception. I loved that it was chewy at parts, but still had an irresistible baked flavor.
Without filling up too much from our first plates, we decided to go for round two, but only after we tried the some of our skewers from the grill. The two different types of chicken, one a yellow color, and another looking similar to your typical grilled chicken had developed a black char around the edges. Both had the heavy taste of charcoal and smoke, the kind you long for when while cooking at home without access to a grill. The yellow chicken had a mild flavor compared to the others from the buffet, and the plain, grilled chicken was the mildest of all. They were good options to enjoy the grilled flavor but weren’t as enticing as the buffet counterparts. Peyton decided the shrimp was a nice change from the other meats, but the pineapple was the real winner for us. It was warm and still had its bright, citrusy flavor, but it was covered in something that made it spicy. So much so that I took smaller bites to account for not destroying my taste buds. Regardless, it was still delicious, and I will most likely be making grilled pineapple at home with some added spice.
The second time around, I had to practice a high-level of portion control as I made my way down the line of the buffet. I picked up a small piece the medu vada, which was similar to a hush puppy in flavor and consistency. If I had come to BBQ Nation for the barbecue experience, I would have paired it with their take on buffalo chicken wings, but I was going for more of the uncommon items. I also grabbed a piece of the papad, which reminded me of a tortilla chip but had a taste I have never experienced before. It was very different from any “chip” I’ve ever had. It was savory, salty and crunchy, but something I didn’t really fall in love with. I also got a heavy scoop of the assorted Manchurian vegetables. I had tried a bite from Peyton’s plate and was instantly hooked. The mixture was sweet and savory, covered in a brown sauce and featured cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and other unidentifiable vegetables. Paired with some of the rice dishes from my previous plate, I could have been easily content with having them and the Manchurian vegetables for dinner every night.
Although I was fairly full halfway through the second plate, I decided to take a few more bites of the items I just couldn’t waste and headed back up to the line for dessert. Peyton got us a plate of naan bread while I picked up some of the freshly-chopped watermelon and cantaloupe. There was also a beet dessert, as well as two different dessert parfaits that we opted out of. We were both delighted to find the thermos of masala chai in the corner, and it was the cherry on top of our experience. The chai was perfectly spiced with fresh ginger, cardamom, and almost had an underlying spice of black pepper. If you have never had traditional masala chai, this is your chance. But be warned, you may never turn back to your favorite chai tea latte.
By the end, I just wanted to take the tray of Manchurian veggies home, and to continue stuffing myself with naan bread and masala chai, but I knew I had to cut myself off.
There were only a few aspects of BBQ Nation that deterred me from having an overall incredible experience, but the food wasn’t one of them. First, I am still not convinced on the buffet-style, considering the food gets cold quickly when you arrive back to your table, but I didn’t mind it as much when I took smaller portions and ate a little more efficiently. Also, the atmosphere was modern and would be great for large groups and families, but is very loud and smells entirely like charcoal, which isn’t a bad thing but could be off-putting to some.
All in all, I was too full by the end to try a sweet or mango lassi, a traditional Indian yogurt-based drink but will have to try one when I return. At roughly $15 per person for the lunch buffet, it could get pricey for a family, but no one will leave hungry, would be the perfect spot for workgroups looking to please a variety of people. Whether you’re looking to expand your exposure to Indian cuisine, or you’re a vegetarian looking for flavorful, atypical options, there is something for everyone to enjoy…even if it’s spinach chaat. Hey, at least it’s fried.
Jenn Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.