Ed. Note: 9/12/11 Woodlands was recently purchased and is now Flavors Indian Cuisine.
Ed note: Woodlands started serving meat February 12, 2010. It is no longer a vegetarian restaurant. Only in Memphis!
Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
4205 Hacks Cross Rd. #101
Last Sunday, Warren, the kids (Satchel, 7, and Jiro, 5) and I were at my mom's house in Germantown. Warren spent the afternoon fixing my nephew's bike. As a 'thank you' I suggested that we go to Woodlands Indian restaurant. Warren loves Indian food, and I figured this was our chance to finally try the vegetarian place we had heard so much about from friends.
After a much longer drive than I expected (Hacks Cross is REALLY EAST), we arrived at 5:30pm. Woodlands is located in a nondescript strip mall and the interior is pretty nondescript as well. The place was practically empty, a function, I'm sure, of the fact that they have a lunch (and not a dinner) buffet seven days a week. We know our way around a Japanese restaurant, but Indian? Not so much. With the absence of a buffet and Chicken Tikka Masala, we were a little lost.
I let Warren peruse the menu options while I tried to figure out what to order the kids. There were five options (all $5) on the kids' menu: iddly fry (fried rice and lentil cake), plain dosa (rice crepe), sweet dosa (crispy rice cake layered with sugar and butter), cheese uthapa (rice and lentil pancake topped with grated cheese), and cheese dosa (rice crepe topped with grated cheese). Since telling the kids their far from familiar choices could be potentially damaging and result in them refusing to eat, I made the executive decision to order Satchel the iddly fry and Jiro the cheese uthapa.
Meanwhile, Warren decided he definitely wanted the palak paneer, which is one of his favorites. I mentioned that someone told me that the vegetable pakora platter was a hit with kids, and he liked the sound of that. Based on the pretty pictures in the menu, we also ordered a special spring dosa, one of their specialties. We added an order of naan (which is normally free at India Palace, I think) and a mango lassi (which is a shake).
Feeling proud of ourselves, we sat back and waited for our food to arrive. First up, three mango lassis. Yep, the kids' meals came with mini mango lassis. (Oops--there went $3!) It tasted pretty good in my opinion, but the kids declared it yuck. Good thing we had three of them to drink!
A few minutes later, the rest of our food arrived.
The way that Indian food is described and the way it actually looks never quite matches up in my mind. Take for instance the iddly fry. I didn't think that a "fried rice and lentil cake" would look (or taste) like wedge style French fries. They certainly sounded more nutritious than they looked, but they tasted good and Satchel was eating them, so I considered it a successful dish. Jiro's cheese uthapa was also tasty in my opinion, but I could only get him to eat a couple of slivers. (He instead opted to eat nearly all of the basmati rice we were given to go with the palak paneer.)
The palak paneer was very good, and got a thumbs up from both Warren and I. It looks like creamed spinach with tofu looking chunks of cheese in it, but when we tried to get the boys to taste it, they refused. The vegetable pakora platter was the Indian equivalent of tempura, but even the fried factor couldn't garner any interest from the kids. The special spring dosa was okay. It came with a few sauces that I wasn't sure what to do with (which probably would have elevated it to more than okay). Warren seemed to like it, but it was too big for us to finish.
I heard Satchel say, "Jiro that's not disgusting, that's delicious!" I think he was referring to the iddly fry.
The kids were done eating fairly quickly, but managed to stay seated and quiet. Had we come during a buffet when they were a little hungrier, they may have been more embracing of Indian cuisine. After a solid hour of behaving, Jiro wanted to sit in my lap for the last few minutes of dinner.
We had lots of everything left over--everything except the iddly fry. Our total bill was $43.15 plus tip, which convinced me even further that the lunch buffet (which is $7.95) is the way to go. However, in general, I felt like the food was rather blah and our order was way heavy on the fried.
On our way out, Warren got the kids interested in the Hindu statues adorning the front and had them try the Indian "breath mints." It was the most animated they'd been all evening.
On our way home, I reread Steph's review of Woodlands in Nashville as well as the write up in the Commercial Appeal by Jennifer Biggs. When I mentioned that the "Bombay Chat Corner" of the menu featured street food and that Biggs highly recommended a cauliflower dish that we never saw, Warren got huffy with me and suggested that I do research BEFORE we go out to eat and not AFTER.