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New India Cafe - Langhorne - review

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Having now tried all the Indian restaurants in Lower Bucks and Philadelphia, it was time to try New India Cafe, which popped up sometime this year I believe in the Pine Watson Shopping Center in Langhorne, by the junction of 213 and 413. Last week my wife and I stopped by and got a take-out menu. I took it to my in-laws who live in nearby Newtown and pored over it, highlighting menu items I hadn't seen anywhere else. My excitement grew, and so did the mockery from the in-laws. My sister-in-law asked if I wanted a few different color highlighters, and my mother-in-law asked if I was going to make a spreadsheet. Feh on them. They can eat their frozen microwaved chicken breasts. The menu had the the usual 80 or so dishes, but there were an additional 15 which looked pretty interesting, like tandoori scallops and a corn curry. A few different chaats and cachumber. I dunno, it looked like maybe there was some interesting regional stuff here rather than just the same old moghul/bengali stuff. And no beef.

So this evening we dropped off the baby with her grandparents and drove over. There seems to be at least three levels of decor, no doubt from the two previous tenants. There's a narrow strip of wallpaper about chest-high above the wainscoating of French cafes, boulangeries and such. Another remnant are the large, possibly Mediterranean murals. Also there are a number of wall anchors with screws still sticking out of the walls. But you don't notice these at first, because the ambiance is quite pleasant, the a.c. was in the mid-70s, and the piano music was vaguely ethnic. A few other tables were occupied, but it was almost empty.

Free papaadum with the three chutneys, so we were psyched. The mint chutney was dry and bland, with virtually no heat, but the tamarind chutney was thick and perfectly sweet and the orange oniony chutney stuff was delicious, so we just avoided the mint. We got a chaat, I think it was like Aloo Papdi Chaat or something, which was amazing. Cold, tangy, salty, crunchy, hot, smooth. Been a chaat-seeker since that article in the Times a year or so ago (From Mumbai to Midtown), so I was much happified.

But then, sadly, the main courses arrived. My wife ordered the Vegetable Patia (mixed veggies in a mango sauce), and I the Bindhi Masala (Okra with like other stuff). The Vegetable Patia was like bad Chinese take-out. The veggies were obviously from a freezer, with about zero flavor, plus it was almost all peas, with one or two tiny pieces of broccoli thrown in. It was gelatinous, and tasted vaguely like General Tso's. It seemed to thicken the longer we stared at it.
The Bindhi Masala was equally horrifying. The okra were slimy, and they were in some kind of tomato sauce, but it tasted like tomato puree right out of the can, not like they put the puree in and then cooked it. The other veggies seem to have been thrown it at the end also.
OH!! And there were no spices!! Like, no evidence that any spice had been used. Not by flavor and not visually.
So after a few bites we sat there looking at the food and at each other. The waiter eventually came over and asked how we were enjoying it, and I told him that the stuff wasn't so good and it tasted like tomato puree.
Then he did something really sweet - he brought us some vegetable korma, compliments of the house. Very sweet of him, but this was really the third strike. The korma was... well, where should I begin? I've eated my fair share of korma, and wife has eaten far more than her fair share, in act we think korma helped push our baby out, and I've cooked it for her and she for me fairly often, so we know a couple of things about korma. This was basically onion-flavored cream with some steamed frozen vegetables tossed in. I mean, like you got to brown the onions before you start the sauce, and if you aren't going to stand over the stove for a half hour you need high btu's and lots of oil. No oil in this dish, and it wasn't thick enough to have any browned onions. Nor was it the right color. Korma has whole spices in it so that they don't discolor the sauce... but there were no spices at all. No cardamom, no cloves, no nuffin'. And there was no tartness from the yogurt that was supposed to be mixed in at the end, and the vegetables clearly weren't cooked in the sauce.
So I pretended to like it and ate some and my wife grimaced through some. He brought us some rice pudding, compliments of the house. Again, very sweet of him but not very good. Not bad pudding, but you can buy better stuff in the supermarket.

Very sad, but Desi Village is just a mile away, and even though they're under new management they're still light years better. But it would have always haunted me if I hadn't tried it.

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  1. Thanks SC great review,(loved the decor description) made me sad and wonder why it's so crazy hard to get good Indian food almost anywhere.(I had pretty good food in India so it is possible!!!)I had a good buffet lunch at this place a few months ago but still never trust a restaurant after one meal, even if it's good the first time. Now I won't have to schlep all the way out to Langhorn from Philly to try again, you saved me a fortune in gas, gracias.I adore chaat too!

    1. Come down to Rte-30, guys. There is a neverending flow of absolutely fabulous Indian food, nothing like what you are describing! There was a thread a couple months back, Felafel boy and I kept posting reviews to. There are like 6 Indian places within a 3-mile radius of where I am sitting right now, in Wayne.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rabidog

        Thanks rabidog, for the reference. We really are blessed out here in the western suburbs with the many Indian restaurants, a few of which truly are outstanding (A Taste of India just won the "Best Indian Restaurant (in the Mainline area)" award in the annual suburban paper "Best of" issue. They missed last year. I think Desi Village won last year.)

        When you eat at the same restaurant and enjoy the quality, you assume that all other such restaurants offer the same quality. When you go to different Indian restaurants, you quickly appreciate the good from the bad, and from the mediocre. As I said before, each Indian restaurant that I have been to excels at certain things over the others, which is why it's great to frequent each for different reasons, i.e. A Taste of India for its rich sauces and variety of food, Gateway to India for its overall tasteful quality and vegetarian dishes not typically offered at lunch buffets at other places (does any restaurant make rice as clean tasting as they do here, or make a plain vegetable soup as interesting as they do?!), Royal India for its variety and flavorful dishes and great naan, the last incarnation of Taj Mahal (may it rest in peace), that is, when they were doing South Indian, for its outrageous sambar and Mulligatawney.

        It's been a long time since I have been to West Philadelphia to eat Indian food, but as my memory serves me, these places out here in the western suburbs do a better job. (I recall Tandoor India's version of Saag Paneer was like a fine mush which left my gut with cramps, probably from the oil used. Himalayan's version. out here in the burbs, was just as bad, but in a different way.) Even some associates I know from India have made the same observation. Maybe the Indian restaurants in Center City, Olde City, and Society Hill do a better job - I haven't been to them (other than the old Samosa restaurant, as well as Minar Palace which does a fabulous job on its Saag Paneer).

        I learned of a new Indian restaurant by watching Indian programs aired on WYBE-TV on Saturday and Sunday. I think the place is in Bensalem, something with a name like "Indian Oven". They showed pictures of the inside and it looks very modest, politely said.
        Only certain Indian restaurants advertise on those Indian "Bollywood" programs, many of which seem to be based in New Jersey. There is another restaurant that frequently advertises on the show - they specialize in Kabobs, and the inside of the place and its kitchen looks huge. For vegetarians, I'd think this place would be off-limits with all the meat being cooked.

        Some restaurants are worth the drive. If a person has never been to A Taste of India, Royal India, or Gateway to India, it is worth the extra distance to sample their food at their lunch buffets.

        For average Indian restaurant food, there is no need to go out of your area.

      2. I had exactly opposite experience of New India Cafe in Langhorne, PA when I went there first time a couple of months back.
        I found the service was excellent and the food was simply amazing. I have not seen more friendly atmosphere in any other restaurant whether Indian or any other.
        Food was very tasty and the guys bring some complimentary stuff till the time you get your main meal.
        Also he rates are very reasonable.
        On whole, I will give them A+.
        People you should try the food and their service and you will not go anywhere.
        Thanks
        Lover of Desifud

        3 Replies
        1. re: desifud

          I also found New India Cafe wonderful. My wife an I have been going back for almost a year now and have never had anything but a wonderful meal. When Desi Village when under new management, the quality of their food really suffered. They went from being one of our favorite Indian restaurants to one that is sadly sub-par. To be fair, we haven't been back to Desi Village for almost a year, since we get consistantly great food at New India Cafe.

          1. re: mrens

            Okay, now you have confused me. I just tried Desi yesterday and, although it was okay, it wasn't great. It was a buffet lunch and almost nothing was labeled and some of what was labeled was labeled wrong. I had been salivating for palak paneer and the "palak paneer" had chickpeas in place of cheese. I know there is a name for that stuff, and it was tasty and all, but it wasn't palak paneer. I was on here looking for something else that might be a bit better, and found this review... but them people came on saying it was really good. Now what, huh? I'm gonna have to taste for myself. Fat lotta help YOU guys are! ;-)

            1. re: creatrix

              creatrix - may I ask why you chose Desi? There are several other Indian restaurants within a five minute drive of Desi.

              (Unless Jaipur by the Acme up the road, 202, from Desi, has changed in quality, I'd stay away from their limited lunch buffet.)

              You could have gone to the Chesterbrook Shopping Center for a decent lunch buffet (south Indian) at a place called Bawarchi. Last time I was there, I enjoyed some of their dishes, not the rasam (tomato soup) nor their desserts, but their main courses were better than average and had a pleasant flavor to them, mildly spiced. You would not have been disappointed with Taste of India at the Gateway Shopping Center, unless you went there at lunch time on a Friday (overly crowded). Malvern/Frazer, home of several very decent Indian restaurants is quite a distance from Desi, so that distance wouldn't be a practical time substitute for a Desi alternative. I'm just picking places closer for you. You know, if you needed a fix of palak paneer and a side dish (and willing to spend $6 for two dishes served on plastic/paper plates), you may have enjoyed the Indian food place in the food court in the King of Prussia mall; I think it's called Indian Delight. The food has smelled good when I have passed by it, and the dishes look to be of a different quality than what I have seen at Desi. It's not inexpensive, but at least you can get what you want.
              Up the road in Norristown is Aman's, if you want very mildly flavored Indian food, cooked without the usual oil you might find coating the food at other places.

              I've only been to Desi once, about two years ago for a catered dinner, and the food was very enjoyable. When I returned a year later, the presentation of the dishes at the lunch buffet seemed like a different quality than what I have seen at Himalayan, Gateway to India, Taste of India, Royal India, or even Aman's, and did not appeal to me at all.

              Oh yes ... if you insisted on your palak paneer, you might have tried Royal India's small takeout place (you could sit down in their small area, too) inside the US Petro gas station which also includes a small food mart and the small kitchen area for takeout. The cooking, done sometimes by the owners and their relatives, has always smelled appealing to me, and their dishes prepared there smell somewhat like what I can recall at their main restaurant in Malvern.
              And you can see your dish being prepared on the spot - no mass production line, just the customized dish freshly prepared for you!

              So, you do have some other choices for tasty Indian food within a five minute drive of Desi Village. At least the ambience inside the place is nice!!