Zaiaka Bottoms Out

Alas, but not all excursions on our Great India Buffet Tour can be pleasant surprises. Recently, after a series of happenstances led us to search for a buffet in the Monroeville area, we ended up at Zaiaka, only to experience a series of disappointments.

Zaiaka in Holiday ParkFirst of all, to say that Zaiaka can be found in Monroeville (as their website does) is more than an exaggeration. Luckily Sabrina knew where it was because it took much driving beyond Monroeville to reach its Holiday Park location. We arrived around 1:00pm, having called earlier that day to ascertain that the buffet ran until 3:00pm.

When we approached the buffet, we noticed a lot of the items appeared to be depleted. Such is expected at any buffet; in the time we spent there, however, the buffet was never refilled, which I could understand if we had come at 2:15, but two whole hours before the buffet closed?

Luckily, Zaiaka served us fresh naan at our table, which we thought at first was a nice touch, but in retrospect realized was probably so they didn’t have to keep it refilled at the buffet. The naan was tasty and fresh.

The buffet offered a fairly standard selection of curries: Saag, Chicken Curry, Tikka Masala, Chana Masala… all the standards. Sabrina enjoyed a spiced cabbage dish that was a little out of the ordinary. The one surprise for me was that I actually enjoyed the Mattar Paneer, when I usually find it underwhelming. There was some sort of extra spice or flavor that made it more intriguing than usual. However, despite the standout flavor, this curry was no exception to the rule of Zaiaka curries that became imminently clear.

Every curry on the buffet was very greasy. In many cases it was plain to see the oil (maybe ghee?) pooling in all the little nooks on top of the curry. It reflected clearly in the taste and consistency as well. The curries were universally heavy, and otherwise nothing special.

At the end of our meal, when we went up to the cashier to pay, the bill came to just under $20. While not absurd for a buffet, this was certainly on the more expensive side (our top choice, Tamarind, was $17.95 total inclusive of two buffets), and considering the mediocre quality and the lengthy trek out to Holiday Park, Sabrina and I found ourselves wondering whether it had even been worth the trip.

It was clear at the end of our meal that Zaiaka belonged at the bottom of our current list of India Buffets. Maybe Zaiaka is an appealing destination for Indian food lovers in Holiday Park, but given the plethora of better choices in the city, we can’t fathom ever going back.

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