Tag Archive | Indian Restaurant

Vatan Indian Restaurant Offers All You Can Eat Vegetarian Feast in an Authentic Setting!

Table and Menu
All Photos By Gail

One of the most enjoyable parts of dining in an Indian restaurant, especially if you possess an adventurous palate, is the experience of being able to taste many different dishes as part of one meal. If I am looking for an incentive to step beyond the comfort zone of my ‘stand by’ favorites, and the quality of the food is still reputably high, I might check out a place that has unique decor, or that features the dishes of a region or state whose food I haven’t yet tasted — because all Indian cuisine is definitely not the same.

Entry Hall

I was recently offered the opportunity to visit Vatan, a Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in Kips Bay which specializes in Gujarati cuisine. A little bit of Googling told me that Gujarat is a state on the western coastline of India, with a strong influence of Jain culture and philosophy, which explains why Vatan favors purely vegetarian dishes.  Vatan is also distinct for its  prix fixe dinner, which includes a thali-style arrangement (many servings of various foods all served together on a large silver platter) of appetizers and condiments, followed by a thali-style main course array, including bread, followed by dessert. The price is $34 per person and it includes all you can eat of any featured dish from any of the three courses. Exciting!

Left Side of Dining Room with Tree

As soon as you enter Vatan, it is clear that you will be dining in an immersive atmosphere unlike other Indian establishments in Manhattan. Vatan’s cozy main dining area emulates the look of a beautiful open courtyard, so you will almost feel that you are dining outside. There is even a tall, leafy tree in the center of the room, whose branches spread out across the ceiling. If you look closely, up high you will see a couple of monkeys perched among the leaves, ready to playfully pelt you with an orange! Just kidding, of course, but it does look that way!

Monkey in Tree
“Hi, There!”

Interior Courtyard Shot

Interior View with Ganesha

Two seating options are offered for your optimal comfort: you can either remove your shoes and sit cross-legged, or sit western style.

Ganesha

The focal point of the dining room has to be this glowing red monumental figure of Ganesha, the Elephant-headed God who is the Remover of Obstacles. It is really captivating!

Mural Indian Lady

The walls also feature may colorful murals like the one above, which is just outside the kitchen, and the mural  below, which was adjacent to our table.

Dining Room Mural

All of the staff are dressed in beautifully-detailed, traditional costumes, which gives the experience an even more immersive and authentic feel.

Merlot

Our server arrived promptly to take our drink order (beverages are not included the fixed price), and they do have both beer and wine on offer. I ordered a glass of this lovely, full-bodied Merlot, which provided a nice complement to the spicy food. Menus are not really necessary, since Vatan serves a fixed fare (though you can choose a vegan, or gluten-free option), but they do have a few specialty sides, which are available for an additional charge. With the Entree Thali, you also have the choice of your preferred degree of spiciness. I opted for mild (which trust me, was still quite spicy) while my dining companion went with medium spiciness.

Appetizer Thali
Appetizer Thali and Condiments

When our appetizer course arrived, our server took a few moments to describe the ingredients in each dish, as well as brief details of how each was prepared (boiled, fried etc). She even offered suggestions as to which condiments went best with which appetizers, or main course dishes. The service was truly impeccable throughout the meal. Here’s a description of everything on the Appetizer Thali:

Chana Masala (Chickpeas With Onions And Coriander)

Khaman (Puffed Cream Of Wheat Flour Cakes)

Muthia (Steamed Flour With Spinach)

Mirchi Bhajia (Fried Hot Peppers With Garam Masala)

Batatavada (Fried Potato Balls In A Chickpea Flour Batter)

Ragda Patis (Potato Cutlet In A White Bean Sauce)

Sev Puri (Potatoes, Garbanzo Beans, Yogurt, And Chutney Filled In A Crispy Bread)

Samosa (Triangular Savory Pastries Filled With Spicy Potatoes And Green Peas)

Despite what you may be “used to” when dining out, I encourage you to just surrender to this unique experience. You may be tempted to ask for bread and raita (popular cucumber yogurt dip), since many Indian restaurants serve those items with the appetizer course, but sit tight, because that’s coming up.

Appetizer Thali

Detail shot of the Chana Masala (foreground), Muthia (right rear), Khaman (left front ) and Batatavada (left rear).

I enjoyed every dish on my tray, though I did offer my hot pepper to my friend, since I did not want to tempt fate. We were asked if we would like seconds of anything, but not knowing how much food was still coming, we declined.

Entree Thali 1

The Entree Thali arrived next, and it was just as beautiful as the previous tray. Here’s what we ate, as seen in the photo above:

Toor Dal (Boiled Lentils Cooked With Indian Spices)

Bhaji (Sautéed Spinach And Corn)

Ful-Cobi (Cauliflower And Green Peas Sautéed In A Savory Sauce)

Batakanu Sak (Potatoes Cooked In A Mild Red Gravy)

Chole (Chickpeas Cooked With Garam Masala)

Puri/Roti (Puffed Whole Wheat Bread/Whole Wheat Flatbread)

Papadam (Thin Lentil Wafers)

Kheer (Rice Pudding With Dry Fruits)

Aam Rus (Mango Soup)

It is not uncommon in Gujarati cuisine to have both savory and sweet dishes in the same course, such as the entree dishes of Rice Pudding and Mango Soup, which I enjoyed mixing together in a single bite.

Entree Thali 2

The little puffed Puri breads are ideal for holding small bites of food and making little tacos with them. Super tasty, and also, fun!

Rice and Yogurt Soup

Because you are not quite exploding just yet, they also bring you delicious Entree Complements (Seen Above):

Pulao (Boiled White Rice With Peas)

Khichdi (Lentils Mixed With Rice And Assorted Vegetables)

Kadhi (Soup With Yogurt And Chickpea Flour In Authentic Spices), which is similar to Raita, and which we shared for use as a sauce to cool the fire of the spicier dishes.

Roti Plus Two Dishes
Roti Flat Bread

Everything was delicious.

Indian Ice Cream

After a short break to let our food ‘settle’ a bit, it was time for the final Dessert And Chai course, consisting of mango and one other flavor of Homemade Indian Ice Cream, which we split evenly.

Gulub Jamun

There is also Gulab Jamun , a warm Donut Ball in a Sugar and Rose Syrup, which I just added to my ice cream because I thought would be more fun, and it was.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai is a sweet Indian Tea with Cardamom, Ginger and Milk; the perfect ending to a perfect meal. While we were advised that we could have as much as we wanted of everything, frankly, the cumulative portions served were very generous. The fixed price menu is an excellent value and I could not possibly have eaten one more bite. .We really enjoyed our evening at Vatan, and I am looking forward to returning for future visits with new friends!

Indian Lady Artwork

Vatan is Located at 409 3rd Avenue (Between 28th and 29th Streets), in the Kips Bay Neighborhood, New York City. Visit Vatan NY Dot Com for more Information and to Make a Reservation.

Vatan Signage Elephant

Restaurant Review: Patiala Lounge at Junoon

Patiala Lounge from Website
Above Photo Courtesy of Junoon Website. All Food Photos Courtesy of Diane’s iPhone

Delicious Indian food can be found all over Manhattan; from East 6th Street to Curry Hill and elsewhere. But when you really want an unforgettable fine dining experience in the realm of Indian Cuisine, there is no question that the place to come is Junoon. On a previous visit to this Michelin-starred foodie haven on West 24th Street, we were wowed by delicious foods perfectly paired with a variety of wines (wine pairings are a Junoon specialty), gracious, personalized service and the understated opulence of the main dining space. When we paid a long-overdue return visit to Junoon last week, we decided to change up the experience a bit by dining in the Restaurant’s equally gorgeous front room and bar, which is called the Patiala Lounge.

Patiala Lounge Seating
Photo By Gail

Offering the same menu as Junoon but in a more relaxed, intimate (and dimly lit) space, Patiala Lounge provides a variety of seating options. From the room-length bar to high communal tables, clusters of sofas, low tables and side chairs, or suspended, glass topped tables (which were formerly swings) that display a collection of colorful Indian spices and dried flowers, Patiala is an ideal destination for everything from an after work cocktail and light bite to an impressive first date. Chef and Culinary Creative Director Aliya LeeKong along with Executive Chef Vikas Khanna have created a menu with all of your Indian favorites as well as their own special creations.

Cocktails

We were so smitten by numerous delights on the appetizer section of the menu that we opted to forgo main dishes in favor of concentrating on a meal of exotic starters. We started off with specialty cocktail selections including the Star On Earth ($14) a Floral Cocktail of Chardonnay, Maraschino, Pear Brandy and St. Germain with a Star Anise floating on top as a garnish. This is a very sweet and potent drink, as you might guess by the list of ingredients. My dining companion chose one of the featured nonalcoholic cocktails, the Jaswal ($8), a refreshing blend of Cucumber and Lychee Juice with Fresh Lime, Topped With Ginger Beer (the virgin cocktails can be spiked with your choice of alcohol on request).

Here’s what we ordered:

Paneer Pakora At Junoon

Paneer Pakoras ($12), Generous pieces of Homemade Spiced Paneer lightly fried in a chickpea flour batter and served With Cilantro – Mint – Yoghurt Chutney is amazingly delicious with a nice mix of textures as well as being vegetarian friendly. Junoon makes its paneer in house, and it is the best.

Cauliflower

Lahsooni Gobi ($12), Crispy Florets of Cauliflower with Chili Flakes in Garlic Tomato Chutney has a rich and fresh tomato taste and a hint of fire. If you like just a bit of spice but not too much, this dish is a good choice.

Eggplant Chat

A new favorite as of this visit is the Eggplant Chaat ($12) featuring lightly fried sliced Baby Eggplant topped with crispy Red Onions and served with Yoghurt and Tamarind. Chaat, meaning snack, is a name for most Indian street food, and I just wish they had street food this yummy in the US. Seriously, if you are a fan of eggplant, this dish is must try. The sweet fried onions and blend of sauces take it over the top.

Chicken Thighs

Murg Tikka Mirza Hasnu ($14) is a dish of Chicken Thigh pieces marinated in Hung Yoghurt, Junoon Garam Masala and Cheddar Cheese (yes, the cheese is in the marinade) and served with A Tomato and Cucumber Salad. Juicy and very flavorful from its time in the tandoor oven, our waiter suggested we have it prepared with a little extra char on the outside to accent the tenderness of the meat.

Naan Breads

Because we were in a tasting mood, we asked for a basket of assorted Indian breads that included traditional Naam, Parartha, Roti and a Junoon Specialty Naan stuffed with Prune and Walnuts, which was divine. Breads are priced from $5 – $8 for a basket generous enough to share.

Normally we would not order three desserts (!), but our server insisted we try a little of everything, it seems, as follows:

Junoon Dessert 2

If you are a person who, like me, enjoys many different flavors commingling together on one plate, you will flip over the desserts at Patiala Lounge. This is a Chocolate Spice Cake with a light touch of chili powder giving it a little kick. It comes with a buttery tasting ice cream flavored with pistachio and other assorted nuts. Insane.

Junoon Dessert 1

Here we have a mélange of Coconut Rice Pudding, Bruleed Bananas, Dates, Rum Glaze, Candied Almonds and Ginger Ice Cream. Unreal.

Junoon Dessert 3

The Date Fig Gateau is topped with Salty Caramel Sauce, garnished with sweet and fragrant fresh Clementine segments (which we loved), Meringue bits, Black Sesame Crumble and accompanied by Cinnamon Ice Cream. All Desserts are $12.

There are many reasons why Junoon is one of my favorite restaurants – excellent food, beautifully designed interiors, exceptional service – and I can say that when you visit you will be treated to all of these things equally in the Patiala Lounge as you will in the main space of the restaurant.Maybe I’ll see you there.

Patiala Lounge at Junoon Restaurant is located at 27 W. 24th St., New York, NY, 10010 (Between 5th and 6th Avenues). I would recommend that you phone 212-490-2100 for reservations just in case, as it is a pretty popular place (and with good reason)! The extensive menu can be downloaded from their website at Junoon NYC Dot Com.