He moves with the authority and nimbleness of an air traffic coordinator. Ross Vijay, owner of the relative newcomer Touch Nine in Irving, is a businessman and promoter (“Write a Yelp review!” they say as you leave) endowed with ample reason for crowd control. If it’s the first Sunday of the month, he’s steering the lines for Touch Nine’s 70-plus item mega-buffet.
When you arrive, someone will great you at the register, parting the seas. To the left is the no-frills dining room with booths and communal tables. To the right, the buffet hall with white plastic folding tables. The Indian lunch buffet is commonplace to the point of being a tired workhorse. This spot may feel corporate, but Vijay tackles his no-holds-barred monthly extravaganza with the glee of a social media mogul and a multi-day preparation. (Don’t try calling to ask simple questions in the days preceding; no one seems to have any mind save for the mega buffet.)
One plate, even if it had seventeen compartments, wouldn’t be enough to hold the vast samplings (the regular menu draws from both North and South). There are flavorful yogurt-marinated chicken kebabs, malai kofta (balls rich with paneer cheese, spices, and nuts, in a creamy sauce infused with fenugreek), and all the breads—naan, buttery parotta, the pancake called uthappam, the tangy steamed rice sponge called idli that’s perfect for soaking up dal, sambar, and rasam, savory soups, which are also on hand. Biryani stands ready for scooping next to butter chicken and what seem like half a dozen fish curries; Indo-Chinese dishes with baby corn; and even a version of the Mumbai street-food snack pav that’s a little bun stuffed with curry, like a slider-sized Sloppy Joe.
He’s an innovator, too. You have not seen anything quite like the thing he’s calling a “samosa turnover,” puff pastry interleaved with paneer, vegetables, and spices. He’s particularly proud of these. But he seems to be debuting new items every visit, and the quality, overall, is remarkably good.
To end, a table groaning with sweets: a very good version of sweet grated carrot halva, billowy mango mousse, chickpea flour diamonds, and pistachio topped coconut squares. And perhaps most popular of all, three great tubs of ice cream: vanilla, mango, and cardamom-rich malai, the contents soft and half melting.
Music is thumping. The minimal display is striking, but it works. There’s something about scooping mango ice cream that apparently says, “it’s the good life.”
At the end Vijay is surveying the scene alongside a couple contemplating renting the space for a corporate banquet. “Is this a party?” the woman asks off-hand, clearly not a regular to the mega buffet. Yes. Take in the happy crowd of humanity leaving a trail of parotta crumbs in its wake. You could say that it is.