Buford Highway continues to host Atlanta’s finest (even in the recent hothlanta conditions), with Panahar Bangladeshi and Indian Cuisine as one of the best of its kind around. Panahar keeps a low profile as an unassuming, unique experience into the rarely ventured cuisine and culture of Bangladesh. Actually to that note, their prime cuisine, Bangladeshi, is the only one of its kind in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The differences in Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine are not too distinguishable. The spices were toned down a bit compared to most Indian restaurants’ food, and there were fewer sauce-heavy dishes. Flavors here are earthier than the often sweet or fruity Indian dishes.
For lunch, which is what this review is based on, the serving style was buffet; however, the quality of Bangladeshi and Indian restaurant buffets are not at all as poor as American buffets and are a common sight for lunch instead of conventional table service. Panahar presents with their buffet a consortium of foods from a culture that most average Americans may not be too familiar with. This buffet option offered at Panahar is then a welcome relief to the new customer as the decisions are made for them and if one has a question, the staff is happy to help explain each item in the line-up in thorough detail.
The buffet choices were split between the house soup, the eight main dishes and a dessert/condiment cart with several chutneys. The house soup was a rich, thick, and earthy soup that ends with considerable spice. The house soup however was offset by the lighter main dishes which included tandoori chicken, egg curry, shaag paneer, goat meat and potatoes in a brown sauce and the staples naan and rice. The two desserts were laal-mohon (whey balls in honey syrup) and firni (spiced rice pudding). Out of all of these choices the shaag paneer, a creamy spinach and cheese dish, easily outshined its neighbors in the buffet with its great texture and taste. The plentiful, moist naan worked well to soak up the juices and bits left behind from the main dishes.
Panahar was appealing in that each dish on the buffet brings a different style and the avid customer can get a variety of flavors to taste all on the same plate, but Panahar excels in the quality it brings to the entire buffet. Beyond that Panahar exceeds expectations in service and environment. With the buffet tucked easily out of the way in a corner, the restaurant had a cozy, bordering-on-plush feel with the soft red and brown tones and canopy drapes over the row of booths. Add to this that the service at Panahar is quick and efficient; the staff does a good job of keeping water glasses full, helpful with the surprisingly spicy house soup, and your table spotless. Keep in mind all this fits in a space barely the size of a convenience store and though this means it only seats about 30 people, it is easily the first place to stop in the area.
Panahar operates Tuesday through Sunday, with their lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and dinner table service from 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Takeout is also available. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner, considering the low capacity and frequent large parties. The lunch buffet costs $9 (and offers a coupon for first-time customers for a return trip) and almost all dinner dishes fall in the $9-$13 range.