Mavalli Palace recommendations
I know there's been plenty of discussion on thia board about Mavalli Palace (which I've read), and I've also noted what people have recommended, here and in Jim's book. But as I will be having dinner there tonight, I wonder if any recent visitors or regulars have recommndations considering a) we'd like a reasonable ratio of protein/starch/veggies and b) are interested in ordering their specialties/strengths.
I think it's safe to say that a good maxim would be: If you can eat a dish in most Northern restaurants, don't order it at Mavalli Palace.
My favorite appetizers are the Vadas, lentil doughnuts. I especially enjoy the Dahi Vada, in spiced yogurt (especially in the summer -- it is highly refreshing), and the Rasa Vada, a spicy lentil sauce.
The masala cashew nuts are great to nibble on, too. The fried appetizers are competently prepared, better than average, but not worth the calorie expenditure, in my opinion.
If you are going to go overboard, do it on the dosai.
The uttappams aren't quite up to the dosai, but if you do, I'd go with the colorful vegetable uttappam or the chef's special (with vegetables and cashew nuts).
In general, the dry vegetables are superior to the curries. I especially like the Baingan Bharta (baked eggplant and green peas), the sukka alu (usually a standout). My favorite of the wet curries is probably the palak paneer (spinach and cheese with tomatoes and sauces).
Love the lemon rice; others often prefer the tamarind rice.
The molakopodi (ground chilies in oil) is a standout accompaniment with dosai/uttappams and sambar.
I'd skip dessert and head to the Waterfront Ale House for some Peter's ice cream.
Wow, that is annoying!
I have noticed that service can be iffy at Mavalli. I believe that in most cases, you are being served by men who usually have no particular passion for the restaurant business -- they are one day going to be engineers and computer programmers. I know that several of the (fine) watiers who have left were just saving up money here to go back to India and get the training they needed.
re: Dave Feldman
Thanks for the response, though it was too late for yesterday's dinner...
We went early, service was okay if not great. A tad slow, but it was quite early and I guess they had to start cooking for us.... They had no AC, but had put oscillating fans in each corner and were clearly trying to seat everyone as close to them as possible.
We were two with moderate appetites, so we didn't order much (BTW, they have a $15pp minimum). We had iddly; onion rasa dosai (both with good chile dipping sauce); aloo ghobi (I'm more for bengain bartha, but my mom, whom I was with, loves aloo ghobi); mango lassi, which was just alright; and chas, new to me, which was curious: the menu said yogurt drink with mint and ginger, but it was more savory than we anticipated, with chile slices and a flavor dominated by cumin. Tasty, though. Altogether a pretty good, but definitely not great, meal.
I live half a block from Waterfont Ale House, and can definitely appreciate Pete's ice cream, but we ended up with good Ciao Bella sorbetti from the stand outside Todaro Bros.
Lassi, typically has been what North Indians serve.
Chas, it indeed a south indian variation - and with
Mavalli Palace's focus on south-indian food, an
appropriate choice. Lassi, typically in various
parts of india tends to be thick yogurt drink.
Chas on the other hand, is watery.
The best chas outside of South India (or india) I had
was in Jamaica (as a special favor by the owner of a
restaurant ;-)) while we watched on TV a one-day
International Cricket match.
You went to Mavalli Palace and tonight, after reading Anil and Mahesh's note, decided to go with a group of five to New madras Palace.
It was crowded, so we were in the back room, which is a little like eating in the basement at the kiddie table during Thanksgiving dinner, but actually it was fun, although the waiters often forgot us for long periods of time.
We ordered a ton of dishes, and waiters brought them one by one, which made the pacing enjoyably lugubrious.
The bhel puri was fantastic, by far the best and freshest I've had in New York.
Iddly's were indeed fresher than Mavalli's.
The dahi vadas were a disaster because the the yogurt was so undistinguished. Score a huge win for Mavalli here. Can't compare the Rasam Vada, because they never brought it.
The masala cashews were nicely spiced but the cashews were stale. Argggh.
The potato samosas were on steroids. O.K.
Along with the bhel puri, the standout dish for me was the Palace Rava Masala, described on the menu as a combination of cream and wheat and rice flour. It was laden with green (hot) peppers, onion, and lots of cilantro, and alternated in texture (the edges pleasingly crisp).
I enjoyed the Palak Masala Dosa before. The filling of this lentil dosa was not chunks of spinach, but a mildly spiced spread. Excellent.
The mysore dosa was relatively heavy and undistinguished.
Still, two out of three were at least as good as Mavalli's best dosas.
The beingan burtha (eggplant w/tomato and onions) and alu chana (potato cubes/chickpeas) were not a match for Mavalli -- the sauces seemed one dimensional. The palak paneer was more pleasing, but not as complex as Mavalli's.
I am addicted to the molokopodi at Mavalli, and didn't like New Madras's higher oil to chilie ratio as much.
Hard to make too many conclusions after one trip to NMP, but my first impression is that this is a place that takes the Southern Indian staples seriously, but perhaps overextends itself with the huge variety of curries.
One other observation, is that NMP tends to add more sour accents to its food -- the iddlies and lemon rice were examples (the lemon rice had a strong accent of curry leaves, and less of a lemon flavor than at Mavalli).
re: Dave Feldman
as i'm hearing a lot of these days, that was brilliant! dave - i'm by way of being baingan bhartha obsessed, and its not really a south indian dish. everybody from maharastra northwards seems to make it, with characteristic differences: the gujaratis make it sweeter, the punjabis heavier, spicier and of course, we maharastrians make it the best. but its virtually impossible to make well in the u.s.a. because the eggplants there have this mysterious property where the insides get watery after roasting.
come visit me in london and i'll take you for some REAL baingan bhartha.