Category Archives: Murray Hill

Saravana Bhavan: dosas in comfort and cleanliness

saravanna

I had my first Indian meal when I visited the Indian port city of Chennai during my semester at sea in 2007. I was 20. While I know Indian cuisine has so much history and possesses the qualities I look for in food – flavor, aroma, variation, and a focus on bread – I just never had the opportunity to really get into it growing up. My family would dine on Filipino food or burritos when we were feeling really adventurous. Now that I have an Indian man in my life (Chef Akhtar), I have no choice but to incorporate this very unique cuisine in my life.

During our visit to the Indian market today in “Curry Hill”, there really was no way to avoid eating Indian for lunch. And with a lingering hangover at lunch time, I welcomed it with open arms. Thanks to the advice of a customer at the market, we were told to walk two blocks down to a place called “Saravana Bhavan” – thankfully she detailed the location, because I forgot the name instantly. When Chef Akhtar and I walked in, it was bustling with Indian families eating Sunday lunch – which I take as a key indicator of an Indian restaurant’s authenticity. The plates flying by all got my stomach rumbling, and I somehow soon ordered the most expensive item on the menu – the $17.99 South Indian Thali, which came as a platter with hot bread, rice, and mini bowls of Indian curries and stews for dipping. Using bread to shovel an array of delicious things in my mouth, which is often how I eat Mediterranean food, is my favorite way of eating – I only wish the bread was a little greasier and crispier like Naan, which the restaurant doesn’t serve. We also ordered the Masala Dosa, which arrived as a massive cone engulfing a concentrated scoop of potato and peas. The bread was crispy, moist, and a sturdy utensil for the three accompanying sauces. And on a whim, we requested a fluffy Poori, a fried fluffy whole wheat bread that was just another perfect vehicle for dipping into my tray of delights.

dosa

dosa

a platter for a Queen

a platter for a Queen

inflated poori

inflated poori

I can’t say I loved every little bowl on the platter; the sweet mango and rice pudding I could have done without, but the koottu (lentil puree) and the rasam (a South Indian Tamarind soup) were especially soothing to my hung over soul. Washed down with a diet coke, this hearty, vegetarian, finger-fed meal became a new found cure to an upset stomach. I’ll definitely be back when the mood to head north and east in Manhattan strikes me.

Grade: A-
Location: 81 Lexington Ave @ 26th Street
Website

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Filed under Affordable Date, Cheap Eat, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Indian, Murray Hill

La Petite Auberge

After a bum rush of insanely delicious meals this weekend, my body went into a bit of a shock when I had a mediocre meal at La Petite Auberge this evening. I guess I shouldn’t have expected classic French food considering it’s the only non-Indian restaurant in the five block span of “Curry Hill.” Aside from the wonderful company (grandma + husband, husband’s grand daugther, aunt, sister + boyfriend) and conversation (online sales were sky high this Christmas!), everything about the place was peculiar – from the decor, to the man who passed out individual pats of butter with a fork, to the fact that we were practically the only group in the restaurant from 7-9pm. It pains me to write a bad review, but here it goes…

The menu looked like it was from 1900 – stained brown, sticky, and in a plastic leaflet, it was another indication that the place is a long standing institution for a crowd of older locals. In addition to the menu is a hearty list of nightly specials. Each entree comes with a salad, but my sister and I decided to start with the chilled asparagus. The asparagus was definitely cold, but overwhelmingly wet and watery as if they had sat in a refrigerator overnight. After one bite, I stopped abruptly and sucked down my water to dispel the disturbing taste of vegetable liquid.

Like the asparagus, the salad, wilted and plated on a basic white dish, was doused in a white, mayonaise-y dressing. I like to think I’m open to eating almost everything, but mayonaise is just one of those things I will never, ever, in a million years, grow fond of. Disgusting. And I definitely would never think to dress a salad with a mayonaise based dressing, especially in a French restaurant. Again, after one bite I had to stop, though those around me seemed to enjoy it thoroughly.

I crossed my fingers for my salmon roti as the waiter arrived with it in hand. It looked sad but harmless – roasted, glistening with oil, with a side of pathetic looking string beans and two boiled potatoes. I knew it wouldn’t be life changing, but was content to have something basic fill my hunger. After one taste, though, judgement rushed over me. Not only was the salmon swimming in butter and overcooked, it was resting on (this is even difficult for me to type out)….a hair. Yes, a hair. I fortunately discovered it before eating it. I swallowed my water, pushed the salmon aside, and prayed for dessert. In a normal situation, I would have confronted our server, but there’s always a time and a place for being high maintenance. And as I looked over and saw my grandma and her husband quietly enjoying their calves’ livers, I decided my point-proving just wasn’t worth the disturbance.

hair not pictured

Dessert was, although generous in size, just fine. I ordered the chocolate mousse, which was as dense as ice cream but lacked the intense chocolatey goodness that I seek out on a meal-y basis. The most edible dish happened to be my grandma’s peach melba – it’s pretty tough to destroy vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce and peaches.

The food and atmosphere at La Petite Auberge were both stale and unexciting, but considering my grandma has afforded me some of my most memorable meals (La Panatiere, La Souffle in Paris), I think I can handle one dinner together focused on company as opposed to spectacular food. I’ll just do all in my power not to make it routine.

Grade: C-

Address: 116 Lexington Ave # A btwn 27th and 28th streets

Website: http://www.lapetiteaubergeny.com

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