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Masala Garden (new Indian on West 79th St.)

Masala Garden has taken over the space formerly occupied by Miss Elle's, between Broadway and Amsterdam. I wanted to try it both because it's new and because it offers dosas, which are not easy to find on the UWS. From the menu, it was clear that this isn't a Southern Indian restaurant (the only other S.I. dish is an uttapham and one of the dosas offered was a keema dosa).

It's with genuine sadness that I report that this is a lousy restaurant. The dosa wasn't up to the standards of Hampton Chutney, let alone the better places in Curry Hill or Queens. The chicken vindaloo and lamb biriani that my tablemates ordered wasn't any better.

I've always loved the space, and despite some ornamentation, it looks much the same. I hope it improves, but I'm pessimistic.

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  1. You got me excited, thanks for reviewing it despite the quality.. I will put it in the long list of restaurants that suck on the UWS..

    1. I just ordered from there and was actually pretty impressed.. It was a little expensive but, I enjoyed it. I had the chicken vindaloo and thought it was excellent.. I loved the spice as well as the flavor. I have never been to the Hampton Chutney Company but, felt the Dosa was on par with Jackson Diner. The paner sag was really tastey too. One dish fell very short and I would not order again, it was the shrimp appetizer Masala Jhinga.. It was pretty much flavorless..Naan never comes delivered well and this was no exception. However it certainly wasnt bad.

      I normally order from Indus Valley and now have another option.. Looking forward to ordering from here again..

      Dave, completely respecting your opinion, perhaps they were just getting the kinks out, or perhaps its personal preference.. I am definitely going to try it again and will report back..

      1. Thanks for the feedback. Maybe they have a new kitchen staff? I hope so -- the area desperately needs good Indian. I was truly traumatized by my meal there. If you do give it a second try, I'd appreciate hearing about it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Dave Feldman

          i tried masala garden place a few months ago and thought it was good enough but it didn't blow me away like earthen oven has. so, dave and for those of you in search of a great indian restaurant in the nabe, please read the reviews on earthen oven (72 and columbus) and then head on over. there is a daily brunch menu for < $15 until 2:45 pm that includes appetizer, entree, dessert and nan but, aside from that, the food is amazing and they are nice. their chef is formerly from tamarind and the sign on the window states that their other location is at indus valley. i find them far better than indus valley. they just got a great write-up in the NYT. my only reservation is that i wish they would lower the prices by $3-$5 across the board... so i cna eat there several times per week.

          1. re: nativeNYer

            I think I filed the first report about Earthen Oven here and I was disappointed -- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33420... -- but haven't been back. It was only a couple of weeks after it opened so perhaps it has improved significantly.

            Indus Valley's offerings are highly inconsistent, in my experience, but the better stuff I like better than the other UWS Indians. I'll try any Indian that opens in the UWS, but I don't find myself returning to any of them for anything other than convenience.

        2. Thanks for the heads up NY

          1. I also found Masala Garden mediocre, but I found the dosa at Hampton Chutney vile. For a dosa, I go to Saravanas in CH, or if that's too far to Pongal across town. I went once to Earthen Oven and didn't understand the fuss, although we did come right at the end of the lunch hour when they were shutting down. Near home, on the UWS, our favorite Indian remains Swagat on Amsterdam between 79/80.

            1. i agree swagat is very good and it continues to get great ratings unlike indus valley which i've heard has declined. for some reason, the taste of the food at earthen oven appeals to me much more. it is very LIKELY this is because i'm unfamiliar with the taste of authentic indian food. however, i would suggest that you try earthen oven again for dinner one night. the service for brunch wasn't nearly as good as the usual service, the servings were smaller and they don't offer the chutneys . perhaps it's a personal preference. we've had the chicken tikka masala, chicken chettinad, and poori. i'm always curious to hear what others think especially b/c i'm new at this.

              2 Replies
              1. re: nativeNYer

                Thanks for the suggestion that we try Earthen Oven again. We did, today, for lunch; and we loved it. Our late Sunday afternoon brunch experience was an aberration. Both of our meals were vegetarian. Today, the vegetables had textures just right, and the spicing was both distinct and balanced. (The vegetables the first time had distegrated to mush and the spicing just tasted sharp and unpleasant; I think everything had just sat too long into the day.) Anyway, we look forward to going back.

                1. re: alc

                  thanks for the feedback. i haven't been as pleased with brunch as i've been with dinner but more so with regard to the service. keep in mind, though, that i'm basing my brunch experience on one meal. anyway, i found the servers to be better for dinner. i don't expect them to fall at my feet at all but i had some trouble with getting ANY water refills throughout brunch as well as obtaining answers to my menu questions. regardless, they are always very gracious and the food is great. i can't help but notice that most of the servers at night are outstanding and, of course, the servings are larger. from what i can tell, the place often looks quite busy for both brunch and dinner, even on week nights. we'll see how it goes... either it will decline or become a neighborhood (or city??!) favorite.

              2. What have you heard about Indus Valley declining.. I order from them maybe once a month for the last year and have not seen a delcine..

                1. daniel76,
                  here's a recent chowhound thread re indus valley and below it is a cut and paste from a recent review on menupages.com. Not sure if this is the same reviewer. i haven't been there since it opened . i thought it was good but i wasn't captivated for some unknown reason and just never returned. not sure how earthen oven is affiliated with indus valley b/c i don't really see any similarities but maybe the chef changed at indus since i've been there. btw, we are trying chola for lunch tomorrow after reading the reviews on here. i never heard of that place before.

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35089...

                  Posted by Anonymous on 12/23/2006
                  A real customer

                  I have a feeling the great reviews are coming from the owners. I was very excited for a 'staple' item and was sorely disappointed with the chiken tikka masala. I paid 14$ for six tiny cubes of relatively tasty chicken drenched in enough sauce to flavor a pound of rice. I'm a petite female, and still, COME ON! Six little cubes? The sauce was tasty but there it was very soupy and had no depth of flavour. I called to make sure it was policy to serve such small portions. They assured me it was indeed, correct. Never. again. Oh, and the samosas were very greasy!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    Earthen Oven is really the best Indian on the Upper West Side. My wife and I are eating there at least once a week. There chef used to be at Tamirand, so that could be why. And yes, I am a customer!

                    1. re: tbone

                      i agree with you, tbone. i'm completely hooked on earthen oven as well. it's good to hear this coming from a chowhound. in fact, i tried the chola brunch today but it didn't even come close to the food served at earthen oven. i agree that they have a huge buffet and the many appetizers brought to the table amounted to an enormous array of samples. however, i wasn't impressed with the quality of the food. perhaps this is more authentic indian and i don't know better. the chicken masala was all dark meat (i think) and practically in shreds. i really didn't see any cubes. it was mostly sauce with very small chicken bites, only if one searched and searched.

                    2. re: nativeNYer

                      Yeh, I have been eating there, Indus Valley, for some time and whether or not you like it, the quality has certainly not declined.. I dont know if it is fair to start telling people the quality of a place has gone down based on an anonymous review and one other person's opinion..