“Can you please make the Manhattan with Jack Daniels please” I asked the uniformed waiter, trying to make sure they didn’t add a cheap bourbon to the cocktail. He smiled obediently, his attitude extra pleasing, his heavy hair gel instantly making him Bollywood compliant. I was at “Moghul” fine Indian restaurant in Edison New Jersey. And they had just begun their special lunch buffet for July Fourth.
Soft music wafted to my ears. “Nazar ke Samne Jigar ke Pass...Koi Rehta Hai...Vo Ho Tum”. Aashiqui. The music took me back in time to almost three decades ago when Kumar Sanu and Anuradha Paudwal sang some great songs composed by Nadeem and Shravan.
There was the increasing chatter of the diverse group of lunch time guests. The music would suddenly get loud and intimate and then faint away into the background mingling with the ebb and flow of the appetizing scent of the food creating a cocktail for the senses. I inhaled the appetizing scent of the Tarka Daal, the Tandoori Chicken and the Mutton Rogan Josh in the restaurant air even before going to the buffet table. Hmmmmmm. Part of the pleasure of fine dining is to have the right ambience and the right music in the background.
The service was really good for a busy day, the waiter brought the “papri chaat” appetizer to the table. That saved a trip to the buffet. The small plate with its spicy chutneys and colorful ingredients lay in stark contrast with the clean table cloth.
“I’m going for another helping of the Saag Chicken” remarked the young woman seated on the adjacent table. She looked in her twenties, casually dressed, torn skinny jeans, v- neck tee, flip flops. Her companion was much older, he donned an Old Navy cap and seemed preoccupied with a plate full of Tandoori chicken.
Buffet lunch of this quality at $11.95 on a weekday is actually a steal. It is obviously a loss leader for Moghul. Its the dinner menu that brings them their target audience. For any buffet it is hard to get good service. But here it was different. Or perhaps once you prove your credentials by ordering a cocktail you get special attention. I’m not sure.
“The Mutton is cooked really well...I think I will go for another helping...” remarked the young lady at the next table to her elderly Old Navy companion.
At a nearby long table there was a noisy family representing three generations. Looking at the number of plates with food they had on their table, it seemed they had been starving for days. There was this middle aged couple wearing Kurta Jeans and Salwar Kameez, slightly crouching but limping steadily towards the buffet. Then there was this little infant who cried a bit and then fell asleep amidst the hullabaloo. He would most certainly wake up if the noise subsided.
“Does she have to pay for the buffet?!” asked the elderly man in the Old Navy cap. The waiter had brought him the bill and although I could not see the bill - I guess had charged for two adults.
“How old is she...” asked the waiter.
“Well...she is 10...” said the man.
I almost choked. If she were 10 then I must be 20. The buffet was listed $3 cheaper for children upto 10 years old.
The waiter was too polite to question this conservative pronouncement of the guest’s age, he apologized and promised to bring the revised bill.
“Koi rehta hai...wo ho tum...” the background music seemed to come back again from nowhere and filled the moment with memories of a younger age.
Some songs make you feel young. Just like some buffets.
(July 4th, 2018, New Jersey)