Clockwise from bottom: Chicken tandoori, chicken tikka masala, chicken biryani, upma, naan, rice in center
  • Clockwise from bottom: Chicken tandoori, chicken tikka masala, chicken biryani, upma, naan, rice in center
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There’s a small cluster of Indian restaurants on and around Black Mountain Road, just north of Miramar Road. I used to frequent one called Bawarchi, mainly for its weekday, all-you-can-eat buffet, and mostly that for its tandoori chicken. What a disappointment to discover it had closed last year.

Bawarchi

10066 Pacific Heights Blvd #106, Sorrento Valley

Turns out, it didn’t really close, rather it moved to a new location. From Tuesday through Thursday, between 11:30 and 2:30, you can still glutton out on its lunch buffet for a reasonable $12.98, and yes, that still includes tandoori chicken.

All you’ve got to do is be willing to travel to Sorrento Valley, and eat within the long shadow cast by the sprawling, more than 30-building Qualcomm campus.

I gave it a shot, filling a cramped parking spot in the lot of Bawarchi’s strip mall storefront just across the street from Qualcomm buildings labeled AQ, AV, and AX on the campus map. The restaurant itself is considerably smaller than its previous location, which means the buffet line is necessarily smaller as well — there’s simply not enough space to serve the same spread as could fit in its old, converted warehouse.

This was a crowded lunchtime as, mostly packed with South Asian men, presumably employees of Qualcomm and/or adjacent tech companies. I took this as a good sign. Yes, Bawarchi’s new location is Uber-convenient if you work in the area, but that doesn’t mean native Indians would flock here for reasons of familiarity and buffet affordability, does it?

I think I just answered my own question.

A mix of chicken curries and vegetable dishes, the buffet lineup at the new spot doesn’t quite live up to those lunches of old. I missed finding a lamb option, for example, and the tikka masala sauce didn’t have the same punch, either in chicken or paneer cheese options.

However, the naan remained soft and chewy; it bore enough charred crisp spots on the bread to keep it interesting. I enjoyed trying a new-to-me dish called upma, a spongy and lightly spiced semolina flour-based dish that falls somewhere between grits and stuffing, with little bits of curious vegetables peppered throughout. Any time I can enjoy something new, I leave at least a little satisfied.

That easily made it back on my plate when I made a second run through the buffet line, as did more of the delightfully red and savory tandoori. Of all the global barbecue chicken traditions, this dry-rubbed beauty may be my favorite. Bawarchi’s much better if you go for the regular lunch or dinner menu, and can choose among myriad vegetable, lamb, goat, and seafood dishes. But at these prices, I would brave the Sorrento lunch rush buffet again. Besides, with Qualcomm’s third round of layoffs this year under way, the crowd could be lighter really soon, and I'd like to keep this place from closing for real.

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