113 3rd Ave. S.
I’m not one to keep my cards close to my chest when it comes to spouting off about dining preferences. I’m generally no fan of buffets, for example — but there’s a brilliance to Spicy Bite’s downtown buffet that I can’t resist.
Spicy Bite used to live in the far east of Saskatoon, at the corner of 8th Street and Acadia Drive. That’s great for those who live on that side of the river, but it wasn’t a convenient location for me. I got there once a year or so and always enjoyed the food, but it was kind of off my radar.
Now that they’ve moved to a downtown location, I see a lot more of them. What’s easier than a lunch buffet when you only have 45 minutes before your next downtown meeting? I’ll tell you what: nothing. And it’s an added bonus that the contents of the buffet are spicy, savoury Indian/Pakistani dishes.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve settled in here for a quick lunch. It’s my husband’s and my favourite lunch spot, since we can meet during the day, kid-free, and indulge our cravings for spicy food. The food itself ranges from mild to medium in spice, but I tend to dress it up with spicy mixed pickle for added zip.
Buffet offerings are different on any given day, but you can always find butter chicken, tandoori chicken, lamb or goat curry, and a beef curry, as well as three or four vegetable options, including tamarind curries, aloo gobi, many iterations of daal (sometimes including locally grown black chickpeas), as well as pakora, samosa, salads and dessert.
I can never manage to sample everything on offer. There’s always warm naan bread available, and I wash down my meal with chai tea (included with the buffet) and finish with a creamy rice or mango pudding. I’m far more partial to gulab jamun for dessert, but they’re only available at the dinner buffet.
I suppose everyone has their own way of navigating a Pakistani/Indian buffet. I avoid the rice completely (it’s just filler) and use naan bread to pick up the chunks of meat and sop up the sauce. I always have spicy mixed pickle and tamarind or mint chutney nearby. I’ll also usually steer clear of the samosas and pakoras, since they’re also filling, and I’d rather fill up on the curries.
My husband, on the other hand, is a bottomless pit when it comes to the samosas, and he eats more rice and less naan (which works out for me when I’m his date). We’ve pretty much got it down to a science.
At one point, I stopped in to pick up a takeout version of the buffet so I could give it to a friend who was house-bound, and they were super accommodating. They grilled up some fresh naan and sent it with me, wrapped in tin foil.
I know I should really order food off the menu to test the true mettle of a restaurant, but I have a weakness when it comes to the scope of the choices available at Spicy Bite’s buffet. There’s just no way you’ll get the same number of dishes for the same value when you order à la carte.
Another reason to stick to the buffet is that they change it up regularly. Sure, the favourites like butter chicken will always be there, but on my last visit there was a new dish that I’d never tried before, a particularly spicy mixture of deep-fried onions and cauliflower and chunks of chicken. Unfortunately, I didn’t note what it was named, but wow was it good. (It’s not on the menu, as far as I can see.) So you’re getting the chef’s daily inspiration when you go with the buffet — what’s not to like?
I did once order from Spicy Bite for home delivery. They’re on skipthedishes.ca, so it was a pretty easy process, and no telephone conversations were required. I tried my best to find things that my spice-averse children could handle.
They make it easy for you by providing family combo meals on their online menu, so you can just order a nice breadth of dishes for whatever number of people you need to feed. We considered that, but decided to try a few things off the beaten path, like fish amritsari, and an Indian omelette that no longer appears on the menu.
We also ordered samosas, rice, naan, and three different curries, including lamb saagwala (lamb in spinach sauce), shahi paneer (homemade cheese in a creamy cashew and almond sauce) and daal makahani (lentils and kidney beans in a ginger garlic sauce).
The curries themselves were fantastic. My husband and I talked in circles about which one was our favourite; I couldn’t decide between the creamy, nutty sauce on the paneer, or the rich layers of herbs and spices in the spinach sauce.
Everything was delicious, but there’s just something lost in transport. The naan isn’t as tender, the deep-fried appetizers get a little soggy, and nothing is really piping hot. My kids started to power through the appetizers and then stopped when the heat started to build in their tender little mouths. Even the mildest stuff was still too spicy for them.
My kids’ rejection of the food, plus the lukewarmness (no fault of the restaurant, just the reality of hauling food across the city in Styrofoam containers), and the price (we paid upwards of $80 for the meal) convinced me that from now on, the buffet is the way to go.
I hope to see you there. I’ll be the one eating with my fingers, using naan instead of a fork or spoon.