Mela is known as the place to go for a delicious and affordable lunch experience in downtown Asheville. It is one of just a handful of Indian buffets in the city. The restaurant continues to win numerous awards including best Indian food and best business lunch in Asheville.
The popular lunch buffet allows you to try dishes from both South and North India at an affordable price point. While Mela is far from the best Indian cuisine, it's an okay option for anyone who wants to sample a wide variety of Indian dishes for one low price.
Update: Unfortunately, the quality of the buffet seems to have deteriorated. While my first visit was decent, the food was sub par and the place felt a bit dirtier on my next visit nearly a year later.
The lunch buffet at Mela is a decent value at just 16 bucks a person. You will get to sample all sorts of unique Northern and Southern Indian dishes. From tandoori baked Naan, to fresh soups, to standard favorites like Saag Paneer, to seasonal vegetarian dishes like Vegetable Korma, you will get to try a bit of everything here.
If visiting around dinner time, start off with the Samosas. This traditional Indian appetizer consists of hand made pastries stuffed with potatoes and peas then fried to perfection. In terms of main dishes, you really cannot top the Saag Paneer, a delicious filling dish consisting of homemade cheese cubes simmered in a seasoned spinach base. The Madras Vegetables dish is a wonderful mild spiced curry that almost anyone will love.
Mela uses organic ingredients when possible and always has at least one vegetarian option on the buffet line.
Service at Mela is decent. Plates could be cleared a little faster and drink refills are a bit slow. Also, the buffet line could use regular cleanings.
The ambiance as Mela is modern and fresh. The buffet line is restocked frequently, although it could use a good cleaning. The decor is nice and the large windows looking out upon the downtown are a big plus.
The vibe is a bit noisier and trendier than your typical Indian buffet, so not a great choice for anyone bothered by large crowds. Definitely not the place for anyone seeking a quaint dining experience.
Mela may not be the best or most authentic Indian food around, however, if you have your heart set on a buffet, you may want to give it a try. The affordable pricing compared to many overpriced Asheville foodie establishments really does not hurt either.