Restaurant Review: Sangam

Michael Hall ’19

Restaurant Critic

Chana masala and naan from Sangam’s lunch buffet. Photo by Michael Hall ’19

Despite Vail Commons’ innate allure, Sangam Indian Cuisine appears to be where true buffet-devotees go to dine. Saturday at one in the afternoon, my friends and I entered Sangam to a packed dining room with uniformed waiters careening between tables. The general hum of the restaurant was an appropriate accompaniment to the strong fragrance that could prove difficult for some morning noses. Nevertheless, seven days a week this dimly-lit Indian restaurant offers indulgent diners solidarity with a 10-plus course buffet for $10.95. Immediately after being seated, we put in our orders for a round of mango lassis (a yogurt-based Indian drink that is essential to the program) and headed for the buffet.

A draw for some and turn-off for others, the entire buffet is mildly spiced, although hotter sauces can be ordered. There were the obvious attendees—chana masala, chicken tikka masala, chicken curry, Basmati rice, naan bread—as well as some Indian dishes less likely to be “riffed-on” by Davidson dining services, such as pakora and carrot pudding. I loaded my plate with all of the above as well as some chili chicken and mentally prepared for what would be an extremely flavorful first bite of my day.

The first thing I noticed—as is always commented upon with buffets—was the temperature. All of the food could have been warmer as it neared the lower-end of the spectrum for heated dishes. I began with my favorite, chana masala, a vegetarian dish composed of chickpeas simmered in a tomato sauce. With basmati rice (long-grain rice that is especially fragrant) the tender chickpeas were the first envoy of the Indian cuisine’s iconic spice combinations: cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, etc. The other two dishes I chose that are served with curries, which is really any sauce used in Indian cooking—chicken tikka masala and chicken curry—weren’t quite as delicious. The curries for both were perfect for bathing the naan bread but overcooked chicken ruined the dishes themselves and affirmed my guess that the vegetarian dishes, so common in Indian cuisine, would be the best.

Of the dishes I had never tried, the chili chicken seemed the most out of place. A vibrant red exterior aroused fantastical images of chilis in my head which were only crushed upon the first bite. Chili chicken is Sangam’s unabashed spin on General Tso’s chicken, deep-fried and bathed in a sticky glaze that would be better at 1 a.m. than p.m. The pakora, a vegetable mixture dipped in lentil batter and fried, had an almost-burnt exterior and dry inside that was oddly satisfying and well followed by the carrot pudding, my ultimate favorite. Soft, milky, and with a tempered sweetness that couldn’t have come from much more than the carrots themselves, this pudding was intriguing. Heavy notes of citrus and spicy cardamom played on my bias towards the spice and prompted seconds. Any heat that had accumulated over the course of the meal was subdued by the ultra-creamy mango lassi, making Sangam an ideal choice for any students fatigued by the Davidson food scene and willing to venture to exit 28.

Michael Hall ’19 is an Economics and Hispanic Studies double major from Savannah, GA. He can be reached at mihall@davidson.edu.


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