on the corner of 6th Street and 1st Avenue
(disclaimer - experiences of a vegetarian group, therefore meat eaters mileage may vary significantly)
We went last night as a party of four and by the time we were all seated and had water, we were the only party in the entire restaurant. We chose Kohinoor because we were in the neighborhood, it was relatively new and, unlike all of the 6th Street Indian places, it didn't have wacky XMas light decor. That's not to say Kohinoor has subdued tastes - shards of mirror inset into cream walls and photos of Bollywood stars laminated on bathroom counters ruin any attempt at subtlety on their part.
We split an appetizer of baby dosas and idli. Both were quite tasty and despite the size of the dosas, recognizably southern Indian in taste and seasoning. The idli were also moist enough to eat on their own, but were well served by the tomato-ey sauce provided as an accompaniment.
Unfortunately, the food went downhill from there. We split three entrees and a few breads. The aloo paratha (fried bread stuffed with potato) tasted like underseasoned diner home fries stuck into a greasy tortilla made from lentil flour. Not appealing and too oily, even for aloo paratha. The naan was what my friends and I call bisquick naan (so-named because one of our favorite resturants in California actually used bisquick to make most of their breads). It had that distinctive sweet flavor from Bisquick - not a complaint at all since I enjoy that flavor, but clearly an adaptation due to easily available/less costly ingredients.
We ordered a Vegetable Dumpakht (spelling all approximations) as we had never had this dish. It was a saucy vegetable dish, most like a korma, baked inside of a 'pastry' shell. The pastry was a tasty, non-Bisquick, bread. The dish was lovely to look at - puffy like poori and a rich, golden color. Unfortunately, the vegetables inside were extremely timid. I wasn't looking for fire or even spicy hot; I was looking for a sure hand in mixing spices to have an assertive flavor. This lack of seasonings marred our other two dishes (Bay Goon Ka Goon and Subzi Jalfraize) as well. Just too bland. One of our group compensated by dumping mint chutney on everything.
Also, the service and menu reminded us very much of our experiences in India. The menu warns that management reserves the right to (completely paraphrasing here) police disreputable behavior. We had four different people hovering over our table at various points in our meal, although being the only table in the place may have contributed to that.
My summary - despite not being as loud (both visually and aurally) as its competition down the street, the food at Kohinoor (at least the vegetarian options) are not really any better.
I would like to ask our Indian experts a question - this is the second restaurant on 6th St - Banjara being the first - now reported to be serving "dumpakht" sort of an Indian stew contained in a pastry or bread shell. I am intrigued by this because my indian cookbooks describe a similarly named "dum" dishes which are moist-cooked in a pot sealed with a "paste" of flour and water. Not a pastry dish at all. Very different from the pot-pie like item described, but perhaps the new "dumpakht" is a takeoff by a western-trained indian cook on the old dish. Any thoughts?
re: jen kalb
I picked up a book on Awadh cuisine in a train station in India a few years ago,and was interested in the desciptions of 'dum dena' cooking,which involved sealing the ingredients in a pot with a flour paste and covering it with hot coals,cooking everything slowly.Also,the technique of placing a hot coal in an onion skin,sprinkling ghee and spices on it,and sealing it briefly within a pot of food to add a smoky flavor.I haven't tried them,and they would be impractical to prepare in most restaurants,but they sound delicious....
re: jen kalb
i'm appending a web site with a description of dum pakth; i've only eaten that style a few times (at a restaurant in bombay's leela paynta many, many years ago), and it is glorious. hard to say what exactly the 6th street restaurants have dreamed up, but given their usual treatment of things indian, i'd be shocked if it was close to the real thang.