Restaurant watchers in Minneapolis know to be skeptical of the new-restaurant-du-jour at the corner of Nicollet Avenue South and 14th street—you know the spot. It most infamously held the unforgettably named “Snoodles” (noodles you sniff?), a few doors down from Market BBQ and Salsa a la Salsa, two restaurants which have proved that this location can work quite well. However: Can it work well for a half-Indian, half-Chinese buffet? Ordinarily I’d say that concept sounds sort of dopey, but when I heard such a restaurant was being opened by the people behind Gangchen (the very good, affordable Tibetan restaurant with the vibrant bar scene a little farther south on Nicollet), I had to try it out. I mean, maybe half-Indian, half-Chinese was just a way of communicating “Tibetan” to a world unfamiliar with that little country in the sky?
Nope. The place has three buffet lines. One Indian. One Chinese. And one with the classic, inexpensive catchall stuff you only see at buffets, like unripe honeydew melon chunks and sliced bananas cloaked in that weird red sweet sauce that tastes like corn syrup and food coloring. But it’s cheap! $7.99 at lunch for all you can eat, and $9.95 at dinner. On my single lunch visit I found that:
1) The Indian line was pretty good. The palak paneer was the best thing they had by a country mile—vibrant fresh spinach, tender not overcooked cheese. It was really lovely. Tandoori chicken was tender and well-made (though after the scant crowd dusted off the first batch of chicken, the pan was never replenished). Warm, roasty nan was lovely to wrap around the palak paneer. Rustic, homey, but very nice versions of curried beef and curried chicken rounded out the plate nicely.
2) The Chinese line was a mess. Generic, bland, and greasy, this was one of those buffets designed for people who think all-you-can-eat egg rolls, fried shrimp, and other brown fried things is a bargain. The egg drop soup—which I had high hopes for because the version at Gangchen is so good—tasted like food coloring, corn starch, and vegetable oil. I didn’t find one Chinese dish to recommend even grudgingly.
3) The dessert line? Donuts. Cookies. Chocolate pudding. All the most generic, inexpensive cafeteria versions therein. But I know some people will love them.
4) The place has a beer and wine list!
5) So what if you just had a beer and a couple of plates of solidly homey Indian food? That would be a $15 or less meal worthy of your time.
All in all, I left Great Sun thinking that this restaurant is going to be a dream come true for a few people—namely food-interested 20-somethings who put in a killingly long day downtown, left work ravenously hungry, and now need to grab a super-hearty dinner and a beer on the way home but don’t want to spend a lot doing it. Yes, I’m saying this may be the IT-guy restaurant of the year.
And it’s a heck of a lot better than Snoodles.
Great Sun Buffet
1400 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls.