4215-1 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707
Review Date: August 20, 2009
Reviewers: Lucy Moore, Michael Pocinki, Christine S., Jody Hamilton-Davis, Jo Pelligra, Joy Anandi, John Collins, Beth L., Amanda Newman, Charlene F., John M., Sally D., John D., Martin B.
Green Leaf is located in the Parkway Plaza strip mall, near the old South Square mall. We dined on a Thursday night, in order to take advantage of the vegetarian buffet. We were warmly greeted at the door and shown to our table, which was prepared for our party of 14. There were several other diners in the restaurant and the number increased as the evening went on. Most appeared to take advantage of the buffet, rather than ordering from the menu.
The decor of the restaurant is adequate; however, Christine and Sally noted that the floors (even the carpet) were sticky. Lucy thought the silk foliage was nice, but a bit overdone. The music was of a good choice (appropriately ethnic) and at a nice volume. John D. was sitting in a chair facing the large, front windows and was bothered by the evening sun in his eyes, stating that the blinds' slats were not wide enough, bent, or missing. Both the restrooms were lacking paper towels, and the ladies' room was out of soap. Michael noted that the men's room was dark (burned out light bulb). He also thought the temperature of the restaurant was too cold.
Green Leaf does not yet have its alcohol license. We all drank water, which was refilled by attentive servers. The servers were also fairly prompt with clearing away our used buffet plates. Christine said it was a "real treat" to have chai tea on the buffet. The tea was hot and kept plentiful, throughout the evening (dinner is served 5:30pm-9:30pm seven days a week). Lucy and Michael topped off their meal with the chai tea, but found that it benefited from the addition of a bit of the juice from the Gulab Jamun, to add sweetness.
Most of our reviewers took advantage of the vegetarian buffet. However, John D. and Jody opted to order from the menu, as they like to have leftovers to enjoy, later. They were disappointed at how long it took for their appetizer to arrive and, then, for the waiter to return to take their entree orders. A benefit to those eating from the buffet was being able to eat right away. John D. said the vegetable samosa appetizer ($4.95) was "not horrible, but perhaps the worst veg samosa I've had, among many. Doughy, with nondescript filling." The waiter did not know the meaning of the word "vegan," when questioned about vegan bread choices by John D. and Jody. They learned that the Poori bread is vegan, though it is not listed on the menu.
For their entrees, John D. and Jody ordered the Channa Masala ($8.95) and the Kadhai Bhindi ($8.95). They liked the entrees okay, but would've preferred more spice. They had requested medium spiciness, but found the entrees to be more mild-tasting. They were pleased that the chef prepared a special vegan dessert for them. It seemed to be a carrot halva with bits of fruit and was served warm.
In general, the reviewers were happy with the buffet (buffet is $9.95 Sunday-Thursday; $10.95 Friday and Saturday, when meat is also included). However, many concurred with John D. and Jody that the addition of more spice/flavor to the buffet items was desirable. Specifically, John M. thought the buffet had sufficient variety, but lacked much flavor. He would order from the menu, when dining at Green Leaf, again.
Amanda, although she was successful at eating all-vegan foods from the buffet after getting help from a server (she had to educate him that yogurt is not typically vegan), agreed with the lack of spice to the dishes and would "think twice about coming back." Michael, however, did enjoy the mild heat of the dishes, as that is his general preference. He did say that the "buffet would've been helped by the addition of a curry dish." Christine thought the mango chutney was "chunky and hearty." Jo remarked on the buffet, saying, "not bad for the money...but you probably get what you pay for." Several reviewers noted that the buffet items were starchy (rice, potatoes and bread), with little green variety. They agreed with Charlene that a Saag Paneer (spinach dish), would have been welcome. Overall, Michael thinks "this place is a real deal: a vegetarian buffet (with many vegan items) for just $9.95." He enjoyed several dishes that he wouldn't normally eat, including the Onion Pakora (deep fried onion rings) and Paneer Makhani (a creamy tomato soup with cheese cubes).
The buffet items vary every week, to offer a larger variety for regular diners. Green Leaf features southern Indian cooking, but also serves northern Indian food. The buffet offers different styles for designated nights (northern Indian nights on Tuesdays and southern Indian nights on Fridays). Other nights feature "Indo-Chinese" and "Green Leaf Special." Some items on our buffet were the following: Idly (steamed rice and lentil patties); Bhaji (a potato dish); naan bread; a variety of sauces and chutney; steamed rice; Upma (semolina with spices - not vegan - Indian cream of wheat); and Poorhi (deep fried puffed wheat bread).
There were two dessert items on the buffet, neither of which was vegan: Gulab Jamun (a common north Indian sweet dish made with milk) and an unnamed tropical fruit pudding-like flan, which contained eggs. Several reviewers would have liked more dessert options, although Beth said the Gulab Jamun balls were the "best I've ever had," which seemed to be the case for others.
At the end of our meal, we each went up to the register to pay (we told them what we had ordered). Sally brought-in a 10% off coupon and the restaurant very kindly extended that discount to all of us.
In conclusion, for the flexibility of eating on your own timetable, at a reasonable price, from an all-vegetarian spread, the buffet at Green Leaf is a good choice. If ordering from the menu, be prepared for a longer wait and be sure to make it very clear if you like your food spicy.