Though the Bollywood world has been a tad shaken up this past few weeks, after the “racy” images of Indian star Shilpa Shetty getting a few kisses from Richard Gere, the colorful movies are still playing (per usual) at countless Indian restaurants in the Virginian ‘burbs. The lively song-and-dance sequences perk up otherwise lowkey strip mall spaces known for nine-buck buffets serving a cafeteria-style selection of chutneys, tandooris and naan.
Recently, the ten-month old Saravana Palace joined the trend. Though it’s tucked away in a Fairfax strip mall, the Southern Indian spot is slightly more formal than other Bollywood-loving venues. They have real silverware–not the more common styrofoam plates and plastic forks–for their lunch buffet (dinner is full service), and the snappy Bollywood musical and film footage, which plays all day, is projected onto a wall, providing a "big screen" feel. The catchy songs– often lip-synced anyway– are turned down so as not to disturb the calm atmosphere. Diners lucky enough to face the wall can nibble on two-foot long dosas while watching melodramatic scenes with star-crossed lovers and disgruntled parents.
At Punjab Dhaba in Falls Church, two smaller monitors feature an ongoing loop of Bollywood films and music videos. The lunch and dinner buffets are always accessible, sitting out all day (which can make for a less appealing spread). At 5 PM, the buffet price shifts from $7.95 to $9.95. If the monitors are too small or the reruns too dull, visit the Loehmann Twin Cinemas, the all-Bollywood theater house right across the street. Two daily features play at 7:30 PM every Monday through Thursday night (with more frequent weekend times) causing a mini exodus from Punjab Dhaba just before show time. When asked about Punjab Dhaba, the Loehmann theater attendant shook his head. He prefers Minerva on Lee Highway.
Saravana Palace, 11725 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-218-4182; Saravanapalaceva.com.
Punjab Dhaba, 7263 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-698-5262.