There are few times in my life when I have said, “Damn. That buffet was amazing.” I can think of a small handful, and nearly all of them have been in reference to Indian buffets. So when T came home from a work lunch at Clove and said we had to go back there as soon as possible for this amazing buffet, I was on board. He was particularly excited about their coconut soup – it was pretty much all he could talk about for a week…
Clove has only been open since May, and apparently the owners also have a location in Phillipsburg, NJ. We should all be glad that they have now joined us in Allentown. Their grand opening sign was still hanging when we stopped by at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon after hitting some unexpected mid-day traffic. We were a bit worried, as the interwebs said they stopped serving lunch at 2. We walked in and were warmly greeted by a very kind older gentleman. He seated us and asked for our drink order. After a quick glance at the buffet, T asked about the amazing coconut soup. The gentleman quickly offered to bring him a bowl from the kitchen. He returned with the soup as we sat with our first full plates. Let me describe this beautiful soup: the bowl it was served in was a nice ceramic white bowl…and it was difficult to differentiate the soup within. It was pure, white, and delicious. It looks creamy and velvety, but has a hidden texture that you don’t expect- there are delightful little bits of coconut that have been blended into the rich soup. (Note: on our second visit, mentioned below, the soup had a slightly higher butter content than the first time. I couldn’t decide if this made it better, but it certainly didn’t make it bad…!)
So let’s talk about these plates we loaded up. At first glance, the buffet looked as though it might be disappointing, as it was pretty small. But after checking out what was up there, I believe it is the perfect size. Any more and you would be either a) paralyzed by choice, trying to decide what you had to have or b) paralyzed by fullness, as you decided that what you had to have was everything.
The buffet, as we saw over our visits, tends to change up, with some things that seem to be staples. There was butter chicken, chana masala, and veggie biryani. The butter chicken is easily the best I’ve ever had. It is sweet and flavorful and the chicken was incredibly moist. There is also a hot plate that keeps a combination of chicken tandoori and vegetables sizzling. The onions and peppers that are on the hot plate continue to slowly cook down as the buffet goes on, becoming caramelized and tender. On our first visit, there was no chicken left, but the veggies were like butter. Upon noting that we had veggies and no chicken, our sweet host brought us two pieces of tandoori chicken. And let me tell you- this was some of the best I have ever had. It was moist and tender, with a crispy and tangy exterior. I could eat a bucket of that stuff.
Across our visits, they have also had dishes with paneer, lamb, and eggplant. I have really appreciated the spice level of their dishes. The spicy dishes had a great kick to them, but to the perfect level that added flavor, not pain. We have only had their standard naan (they have several varieties), but it is delightful- fluffy and crisp. They also have all of the usual tasty condiments and two types of dessert that vary between puddings and (my favorite) gulab jamun.
As I’ve alluded to, we went back the next week (perhaps a warning sign of impending addiction), and when we walked in we were greeted by the same delightful gentleman. Upon seeing T, he immediately said, “I’ll bring you your coconut soup!” That warm feeling of familiarity and having someone remember you can really be the difference between a place you go every now and then and a place you want to visit with more and more frequency. I have no doubt that they will be seeing us with more and more frequency. Side note: the actual buffet hours seem to be different across google, the Clove website, and the downloadable .pdf menu. It appears they may have just extended their hours and now serve their buffet from 12 – 3 Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner on Wednesdays from 5:30-9:30. It is also very reasonably priced, with drinks we left lunch stuffed and with a check of $21.
Food & Drink: 18/20