Friday, July 13, 2012

Vatan Indian Cuisine @ New York City

After scouting the list of Indian restaurants in NYC, Vatan was chosen for their huge Gujarati thalis. And the fact that it is all vegetarian! Where we live, Gujarati food is rare. So naturally, we had to eat here. Vatan serves a three-course pre-fixe menu with two seating (at 6:15 pm and 8:00 pm) every day. Priced at $29.95, it is an unlimited meal and one has to go with a big, roaring appetite to taste and indulge in all the delicacies. Weekends require advance reservations. They are usually full. Well, someone or the other is celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, what?

Pssst......The guy at the front desk can be pretty annoying with his instructions and lectures on where to keep your stuff and where to sit, just lend a deaf ear. I have heard that if you are late, he gives  nasty lectures until he seats you. So do yourself a favor and be on time. Bah!

Once inside Vatan, you will find yourself in a little village in Western India, complete with thatched roof and faux banyan trees. The tables are set apart (yet they don't have a high chair for kids) and one has to take off their shoes before sitting on the concrete slab that acts as a chair. The lighting is dim and the waitresses are dressed in traditional Indian outfits.

As I sat cross legged on the monstrous slab, the waitress sauntered over with the menu and some colorful crispies to nibble on. The menu is mainly for information on what will be served and for ordering beverages. Your meal is pre-set.

Colorful  crispies @ Vatan
The first course - the Appetizer Platter - made its way in a huge steel plate. The chutneys and condiments came in another big platter.

Appetizer Platter @ Vatan
Clockwise from the top left hand corner - Ragada Pattice - fried potato cutlet in a dried yellow pea soup -was a small portion but very flavorful and just the way it has to be. Mini samosas - triangular savory pastry filled with potatoes and peas was meh. Muthiya - steamed flour with spinach - was yum yum yummo! I asked for three helpings of just this. Each extra helping was brought over in a teeny tiny plate, you see. Channa - garbanzo beans with onions and coriander - my least favorite. Not sure why this was even included in the Thali. Khaman - steamed gram flour cake - was nice and soft and spongy. Batata vada - fried potato balls in a chickpea flour batter -was awesome. So was the mirchi bajji - fried hot peppers with garam masala. The sev puri chaat was great too.

Other than the Samosas and the Channa, everything was delicious. I like the fact that it is unlimited. That way even if you don't like something you can eat more of what you like!
The Chutneys - the date chutney, green chutney, roasted garlic, pickled carrots and green chilli pickle. All very good indeed.

The second course then made its way.

Fresh, hot fluffy Puris - puffed whole wheat bread. Starting clockwise from the left -
Dal - boiled lentils cooked with indian spices.
Kheer - Rice pudding with saffron and dry fruits.
Chole - Chickpeas cooked in tamarind and garam masala.
Ful-gobi - Cauliflower and green peas sautéed in a savory sauce.
Batakanu sak - Potatoes cooked in a mild red gravy.
Bhaji - Sautéed spinach and corn.
Papadam - thin lentil wafers.

Aam ras (mango pulp) is listed in the menu as "available upon request". God knows why. The weird thing is that the waitress neither mentioned it nor asked if we would like some aam ras. We glanced at it on the menu by chance and when we asked her she said it was upon request as if we had to file some application for it. Bring it over, we said. It was sweet and refreshing. Very delicious. Who doesn't like mangoes? Be sure to ask for it. Puri is eaten with Aam ras in the western parts of India. It sure is a treat! And yes, it is part of the meal and you don't have to pay extra.

The entrée complements came in another big platter

Kadhi - Soup with yogurt and chickpea flour in authentic spices
Khichdi - Lentils mixed with rice and assorted vegetables
PulaoBoiled rice with peas.

The pulao was nothing fancy, but the kadhi and khichdi were awesome! My one year old loved the khichdi.

The grand finale to the dinner was Ice cream - homemade indian ice cream. We got the mango ice cream. Not sure, it could be seasonal. Masala chai - Indian tea cooked with cardamom, ginger and milk.

So, yes, most of the items were delicious. They may serve the extra helpings in extra small sizes, but don't let that stop you from asking for more! Food is great and unlimited. So eat and be merry!

Vatan on Urbanspoon


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