Butter chicken is a popular dish in Indian restaurants, though you might see it listed on menus as Murgh Makhani. Though I suppose if someone was going to name a restaurant after the dish, they’d go with Butter Chicken.
Which is what the owners of Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine in Winter Park did.
Butter Chicken is in a little clump of businesses on Howell Branch Road behind a 7-Eleven. It occupies a space we’ve been in before, including when it was Bravissimo (when Rosario Spagnolo, now of Terramia, was involved with it) and a forgettable restaurant called the Getaway Cafe. (And by forgettable I mean that I had forgotten about it until I did a search on the address — and I still don’t remember much about it.) It was also Chef Henry’s Tip-Top Bistro, an Argentine restaurant that closed before I could get to it, and a restaurant called Saigon, which inexplicably specialized in Chinese cuisine.
But Butter Chicken. It’s still new enough that the signage out front looks temporary. Or maybe they’re just waiting to see if it catches on better than the Argentine restaurant.
I stopped by for a lunch visit, which, as with almost every other Indian restaurant in the area, meant a buffet. But Butter Chicken’s buffet included the title dish, so I went with it.
There were a good number of items on the line, at least in theory — a few of the trays were empty and remained so throughout my visit. I heard one guest ask if there was anymore jasmine rice to refill the empty container. (It should be noted that it wasn’t overly crowded.) The curry of the butter chicken had a good enough smoothness and rich flavor, though the chicken itself might have been more moist.
I liked the Diwani Handi, a vegetarian dish with lots of stuff in it, including big, chewy cauliflorets. (By the way, there are several vegetarian items available.) The Aloo Chana was good, too. The Goat Curry was OK, but the Fish Curry tasted a bit off. The tureen of Lentil Soup had just a small bit of liquid left in it but there was no ladle to retrieve it.
None of the food was particularly hot, meaning temperature. Also meaning spicing. The naan that was delivered to my table while I was dishing out my food was hot and had nice singes from the tandoor.
The dining room was neat but not especially cheery. It’s nice that tables are covered with cloths and the napkins are linen, too. Two young men worked the dining room and kept beverage glasses filled. Neither did anything to stop one guest who took her soiled plate back to the buffet to reload it. That’s a no-no taught in Buffet 101.
With a dearth of Indian restaurants in that part of town, Butter Chicken might do OK. But I think they’ll have to step up their game if they want to avoid the fate of those who went before them.
Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine is at 1341 Howell Branch Road, Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 321-972-8933.