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Madras - Indian Cusine (casual) ***1/2
2179 Lawrenceville Hwy.
Decatur, GA 30033

Along this stretch of Scoot Road-Lawrenceville Highway dubbed “Little India,” you’ll find numerous restaurants, all modest in décor, all serving good food. Madras is the jewel in the crown, serving authentic south Indian vegetarian dishes to crowds of delighted Indians and non Indians alike.

MENU: ****
I wish meat were served here, still there’s an unbelievable variety of items (103 in all) including appetizers, soups, chats and puris, dosas, bread, uthappam, curries, rice, condiments, bread and desserts. Everything is explained for the uninitiated.

Madras is a high-volume restaurant. We’re not talking organic food here, but everything looks and mostly tastes fresh. The lunchtime buffet is a wonderful way to explore a wide variety of items.

The wow! Factor of a two-foot long dosai can’t be beat (you won’t believe you ate the whole thing). But many of the other dishes feature similarly colored items (spinach, okra chickpeas and eggplant often take on the same hue). It’s not about the garnish.

Madras is located in a strip shopping center. The décor is minimal. Flipping though the English-language Indian periodicals while you wait for your food is interesting.

Busboys work hard to keep the tables clean. I didn’t peek at the busy kitchen. The bathrooms are fine.

Servers seem to always be wearing smiles (which helps since the thick accents often require repeated conversation). Water glasses stay full to extinguish fiery flavors and to-go boxes are offered.

MENU RECOMMENDATIONS: Try the house specialty, dinner thali, a sampler plate which features a chef’s choice of two curries, naan, rice, raita and a number of other dishes served in small bowls to share—it’s a great way to develop your taste buds. Don’t miss ordering a dosai, a thin crispy rice and lentil crepe stuffed in the middle with a variety of vegetables. Bhel puri is a mixture of puffed rice, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and a sweet and spicy chutney topped with cilantro (“like Rice Crispies with salsa” said my friend). Pass on mutter paneer (green peas and cubed cheese) for the tasty Baigan bhartha, baked eggplant. I adore the carrot halwa, a spicy dessert of shredded carrots, milk, ghee and sugar flavored with cardamom.

From the moment you open the door and get a whiff of the exotic aromas to the moment you push back from table, you’ll be transported. One of the city’s best Indian restaurants.

reviews by Suzanne Wright