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Sep 022008

Call it Pickles.

Or call it Achar (Hindi), Urga (Tamil), Upinkai (Kannada) or Uragai (Telugu).

Rich or poor, villager or city slicker, young or old, North Indian or South Indian, these hot accompaniments are a sine qua non of any Indian meal.

They go well with rice (particularly yogurt rice) as well as roti.

And of course as every Indian knows, they come in so many different varieties – mango, lime, ginger, green chili, red chili, gooseberry, mixed vegetable, carrot and so on.

But to discerning gourmands like ourselves, most bottled pickles are a pale imitation of what the family in Andhra Pradesh ships out to us at frequent intervals.

Recently, we stumbled across the Udupi Green Chili pickle at an Indian grocery store in the U.S. Since it was on sale for $1.29, we picked up.

Udupi Green Chili Pickles

Boy, did we hit the jackpot. Continue reading »

Jul 292008

Like most Indians, there are two things we’re passionate about – Bollywood and food (no, cricket is not that hot on our list).

In a long life, we’ve watched several hundred Bollywood movies (Hindi and Tamil) and dined at scores of Indian restaurants in Asia, Europe and North America.

North Indian or South Indian, Gujarati or Indian Chinese, Chettinad or Andhra style, the smell and sight of Indian food in any of its myriad flavors sends us into raptures.

So it was no surprise that during our last visit to New York City, we headed to Curry Hill, the area of Manhattan famous for its concentration of Indian restaurants.

This time, we decided to make Chinese Mirch on Lexington Avenue (corner of Lexington & 28th St) our port of call.

Chinese Mirch Lexington Ave NYC

As its name suggests, Chinese Mirch is the place for noodles, chop suey, fried prawns, Gobi Manchurian, Szechuan Fried Rice and a host of other exotic Indian Chinese items.

Its neighbors include Curry in a Hurry, Copper Chimney, Pongal, Indo Munch, Chennai Garden, Tamil Nadu Bhavan, Banana Leaf and Diwali.

No sooner had we stepped into Chinese Mirch than we were quickly ushered into the upstairs seating area. The place was almost empty as it’d just opened for lunch.

Famished as we were, we quickly ordered a mix of Continue reading »

May 202008

Update: Tamil Nadu Bhavan Re-opened by NYC Health Dept

Our earliest memories of South Indian restaurants are of dark and dingy interiors, food served in dirty plates or banana leaves and water poured into tall tumblers by sweat-drenched waiters in the dusty small towns and cities of Tamil Nadu in South India.

Four decades and 10,000 miles later, a visit to a South Indian restaurant remains a mishap-prone, dirty journey into the unknown.

We’ve visited scores of Indian restaurants in the New York metropolitan region and have found several of them to be dirty.

Indians, it seems, bring all their dirty baggage – literally and figuratively – to America.

Our latest knowledge of a dirty South Indian restaurant is Tamil Nadu Bhavan on Lexington Avenue in the Curry Hill area of New York City. The Murray Hill area in Manhattan, where Tamil Nadu Bhavan is located, is referred to as Curry Hill for its proliferation of Indian restaurants.

But even by the stinking standards of dirty Indian restaurants in New York City, Tamil Nadu Bhavan a.k.a New Saravana Bhavan Dosa Hut in Manhattan is a rat hole.

Evidence of Rats, Mice, Roaches and Flying Insects are only some of the problems identified by the NYC Health Department in its April 23, 2008 inspection of Tamil Nadu Bhavan, which earned this ugly Indian restaurant an astounding 80 violation points.

Tamil Nadu Bhavan NYC
Tamil Nadu Bhavan – A New York Rat Hole
102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016
Ph: 212-679-4497

In the same inspection report, the NYC Health Dept inspector also wrote: Food item spoiled, adulterated, contaminated or cross-contaminated.

And by the way, this restaurant is not vermin proof.

In less than four months after Tamil Nadu Bhavan opened, the NYC Health Department of Health & Mental Hygiene ordered this dumpster to be shut down.

Tamil Nadu Bhavan has the dubious distinction of failing the New York Continue reading »

Mar 092008

We have yet to read Jennifer 8. Lee’s new book The Fortune Cookie Chroniclers: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food but we plan to pick it up soon.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from today’s New York Times review of The Fortune Cookie Chroniclers:

Lee presents an intriguing idea in a chapter called “Open-Source Chinese Restaurants,” contending that “if McDonald’s is the Windows of the dining world (where one company controls the standards), then Chinese restaurants are akin to the Linux operating system, where a decentralized network of programmers contributes to the underlying source code.” She contrasts the decade of “failed experimentation” before the success of Chicken McNuggets to the breathtaking speed with which chop suey, fortune cookies and General Tso’s chicken took hold in Chinese restaurants everywhere thanks to a “self-organizing” system in which good ideas spread like urban legends.

Lee writes in the opening chapter that Continue reading »

Mar 022008

Anjappar Chettinad NYC Review

Anjappar Chettinad in North Brunswick, New Jersey gives a bad name not just to the famed Chettinad cuisine but to all Indian restaurants in the U.S.

Disgusting service and a distasteful kitchen come together to deliver a dreadful experience to diners at Anjappar’s new outpost in North Brunswick, NJ.

A far better – and definitely more apt – name for this impostor of a restaurant would be Ambattar Chettinad because the only thing these imbeciles seem to be good at is shaving you off your precious time and hard-earned money (For those not familiar with the Tamil language, Ambattar means barber).

Anjappar Chettinad - Awful WoodAnjappar Chettinad or Ambattar Chettinad?

Anjappar – Endless Agony

Our agony at the Anjappar Chettinad restaurant in New Jersey began at the very beginning.

We had to wait 36 minutes to be Continue reading »