How do you know you're dealing with seriously authentic Indian food?
In the case of Beaverton's India Supermarket, I knew when I came across candelabra bearing an ancient symbol that's verboten in Western culture. Indians have used the swastika for thousands of years, and don't share our associations. Seeing it was shocking to me and, I imagine, to most Americans. But should Westerners ask Indians to discontinue its use because white people appropriated it as a symbol for evil?
It's a lot to think about while you eat at Indian Connection, the buffet and restaurant that opened in the corner of this supermarket last year, and came to my attention through a friend who crawls the metro area looking for great Asian food. The sale of those candelabra at the supermarket may be debatable, but the vegetarian food at Indian Connection is not. This is my new answer to the age-old question of the city's best Indian buffet, and the maker of my new-favorite dosas in town.
The thali-plate buffet runs at lunchtime, and it's highly recommended for anyone not totally averse to hot plates. Expect a dozen offerings, half of which were different on my two visits. My favorites were a pair of rich curries, a soft yellow gujarati kadhi served on weekends with nice heat and a bright orange paneer butter masala with firm chunks of cheese that are a little farmier than typical. Get a few triangles of the hot and fresh butter naan and a scoop of the mixed vegetable fritters known as pakoras, and you're in business.
But depending on the day, you can expect to also find a few less-familiar offerings, like gobi manchurian, a popular Indian dish. The dish was invented by Chinese expats in Kolkata, and is essentially deep-fried cauliflower in a Chinese style, using corn-based batter and chiles. It was new to me and I've been craving it since. It's one of several dishes that show Chinese influence, including a bhel poori (a snack made with puffed rice and crunchy noodles) and a Szechuan-spiced dosa.
Speaking of the dosas ($8.99-$10.99): The ones at Indian Connection, which are not on the buffet, are everything I want from the super-thin fermented pancake from Southern India. The mysore masala dosas are the size of a folded bandana and served overflowing the plate, with delightfully crispy dough and a hearty filling of potatoes, onions and spicy chutney. The Szechuan-spiced version has a pleasant numbingness.
The next time I want dosas, this is where I'll get them. The same for an Indian buffet. The a la carte menu is very broad, including 10 variants on chaat frybread and four different stuffed paratha breads, not to mention a world of paneer. If anything, you could argue that the selection of goods available here is, ahem, wide to a fault.