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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the May 19, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Out to Lunch: Ganges

Flowing, transparent gold fabric — tied with burgundy ribbons — flutters from the railing leading to Ganges, the Indian restaurant that has opened near the spot where the Ellsworth deli once dispensed gargantuan sandwiches on sourdough bread.

Tranquil and formal, with white tablecloths and soft music, Ganges serves up a business lunch that is miles away from the everyday deli experience.

On a recent weekday, the new restaurant was already buzzing at noon. A group of ten men, eight of them Indian, all of them with the gentle, serious look of engineers, anchored one end of the dining room. Smaller groups, nearly all of them obviously on break from work, were scattered throughout the room. The crowd grew over the next hour, as no fewer than three family groups arrived, along with more workers from nearby offices.

A pleasant waiter showed me to table near the back of the dining room and right in front of a long array of large copper tureens. After asking if I would like a drink, he motioned me toward the buffet. My only complaint about Ganges is that there was no indication, either from the waiter or through signs, about the lunch format. After being shown to the buffet, I assumed that it was not possible to order from the menu, but half an hour or so later a woman requested a menu, and one was promptly brought. Also, there was no indication of the price of the buffet ($8.95), or none that I saw.

That is a minor complaint, though. The buffet was outstanding, and I imagine that is the choice most diners will make.

Entrees include both vegetarian and meat dishes. There was an outstanding vegetable curry, a platter of hot naan (bread) that was refilled many times, tandoori chicken nicely presented on a bed of vegetables, exceptionally flavorful lemon rice, aloo palak (a vegetable dish), rasam (a spicy soup), dried beans, green salad, kheer (a sweet milk and rice dish), and a number of other choices.

Appreciative diners went back to the buffet table again and again. The Indians in some of the dining parties acted as guides for their non-Indian friends, talking about ingredients and indicating which entrees were spicier than others.

Those who want to order from the menu have a choice of a full range of tandor and kabab specialties cooked in a clay oven, vegetarian entrees, and chicken, lamb, and seafood dishes.

Despite the substantial lunch crowd, the dining room was quietly convivial. It was impossible to overhear much of the conversation at nearby tables, making Ganges a good choice for anyone intent on carrying on business over lunch, or just enjoying a peaceful respite from ringing phones. The buffet format is well suited to lingering, and there was absolutely no pressure to finish up and move along.

The well-integrated decor is in shades of yellow and burgundy with bright blue accents. Carpeted floors help to create a quiet ambience.

While lingering over lunch is good, getting something on the table at night is an imperative for many working moms and dads. When the workday nears an end, and there is nothing at home for dinner, Ganges offers an option in the form of its “Dinner in a Hurry” express take-out meals, offered for $8.95 to $9.95 on Monday through Thursday.

Ganges, 33 Princeton Hightstown Road, 609-750-1550, fax 609-750-1540. BYOB, handicapped accessible. Accepts MasterCard and Visa. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and until 3:30 p.m. on weekends. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on weekends.

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