Good food brings people together.
That’s what’s written above the doors leading out of Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine. It would be hard not to agree with the sentiment, especially when I spent my recent visit there mostly talking with my lunch companion about how much I was enjoying the food.
Meat is part of almost every meal I have, so at times I’m guilty of thinking that vegetarian meals aren’t as filling. Govinda’s proved me wrong.
The restaurant, which is on the ISKCON of Houston property on West 34th Street, is buffet-style, and all you can eat, with various vegetarian Indian cuisine.
Above the buffet line, different spices are named along with the benefits of them. For example, written for chili is, “Helps with digestion challenges (gas, stomach pains and cramps). Aids in circulation, excessive blood clotting and high cholesterol.”
At the start of the line is a salad bar. I kept it simple with lettuce, carrots and cucumbers with tahini dressing. Down the line I added Basmati Rice, Dal Makhani and Bhindi Masala to my plate, and for dessert grabbed the custard pudding over the chocolate cake option.
From the recommendation of my lunch companion, I decided to try the Mango Lassi drink. Lassi is a traditional dahi-based drink that originated in India. It’s a blend of yoghurt, water and spices. This one had the addition of mangos.
It’s a dense drink and I could tell that yoghurt was in the blend. It was more of a smoothie, so I’m glad I also got a water. The lassi offset the sweet mango and made a yummy treat.
The Tahini dressing had an earthy flavor. It wasn’t overly strong, even on the places where I’d accidentally put too much. The place card above the dressing read that the ingredients included tahini (sesame seed paste), tofu, olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper and salt.
The spices used in the Basmati rice quickly made it a great add-on to my plate. Basmati is known for being more fragrant in its aroma, but I didn’t notice it too much. Its flavor was a little nutty with just a splash of spice.
Whole urad dal, chana dal, kidney beans, butter, tomatoes and spices made up the Dal Makhani. “Dal” is a term used in India for lentils, beans and peas. The dish came together in a thick, creamy, packed-full-of-flavor side item.
The Bhindi Masala was okra, potatoes and tomatoes. It was mildly hot with hints of cumin and garlic. As someone who isn’t big on okra, I suddenly was with this dish.
The custard pudding wasn’t thick at all, but had a watery consistency with small slices of apple and banana mixed it. It was milky and sweet and while the consistency threw me off at first, I liked the vanilla and banana flavors it had.
There were also Papadam, roasted lentil crackers, and Roti, flat whole wheat flour breads, available.
By the time I left Govinda’s, I realized that a vegetarian meal can be just as hearty as a non-vegetarian one.
The buffet is rotated daily at Govinda’s. You can find each day’s menu on its Twitter feed, @govindashoum. Govinda’s menu is all vegan on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine
Address: 1320 W. 34th St.
Hours: 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 5–9 p.m. daily
Healthy options: Yes
Star of the show: Dal Makhani