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Mar 14, 2007 05:51 PM

Tiffin Wallah on E 28th Street -- Anyone been?

I noticed that a new and interesting-looking Indian place just opened on 28th between Park and Lex.... they say they're open for business. Anyone been yet? Thoughts?

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  1. A group of us ate there tonight. Although the place was near-finished for a while, it has evidently only been open for two days.

    There was an older waiter at the entrance, but i immediately recognized the younger man on the floor as the owner of Chennai Garden. Weirdly, I had first met him a few days after Chennai Garden had opened, after stumbling upon the place when visiting Blue Smoke. Even if you didn't know they were related, you might guess that there was a relationship. Tiffin Wallah is more modern looking and stylish in its dinnerware than most of its Curry Hill competitors.

    The menu is Southern Indian, of course. There are a few minor differences between the Tiffin and Chennai. In some cases, the differences are semantic -- there is a Tiffin section of the menu,including the usual Vadas, Chats, Idli's, etc. -- really no difference from the appetizers at Chennai, although everything's a little cheaper at Tiffin.

    Some of the highlights of the meal included a luscious uttapam with green chili and onions (but they'll put anything in there that you request), excellent dosa podi, a bhel puri chock full of cilantro, and competent dosas. The mango shake I had tasted more of mango than milk, and was made from real mango pulp -- delicious.

    We didn't try any of the gujarati or punjabi curries. Based on what we experienced, the quality is similar to Chennai's. There were some kinks in the service, but they are clearly working out the kinks.

    A lunch buffet will be offered for $6, but the marketing seems heavily toward selling tiffin wallah's, set meals, both in the restaurant, and more importantly, as delivery products. The owner seemed to look at Tiffin Wallah, to some extent, as a lab to determine what Indian foods could be made properly and still be deliverable.

    Here's the website if you want more info:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      Fascinating...thanks for the report Dave!

    2. I went to Tiffin Wallah this past Saturday night after -already- eating dinner, but I couldn't resist partaking in my friends' dishes. The food is so delicious, it's simply impossible not to get caught up in the sensory experience of eating it.

      We had a new dish I had never tried -- unfortunately I forget the name now. It was a rice mixed with various spices and add-ins. The textures and flavors were amazing -- crunchy, chewy, spicy, sweet. I would have taken back a second order for my roommates if I had been going straight home.

      I also had a dosa that was perfectly crisp, filled with distinctively spiced potato and just a kick of hot pepper. Whereas in the past I've steered clear of palaak paneer, this time I just had to give it a shot, and was glad I did. Creamy, but not overpoweringly so. The curry was spiced just right, and I wish I had ordered more. Also tried the chana masala, which is my staple dish from Chennai Garden, and an outstanding half-of-a-samosa (all that my friends had left me!).

      My last thought after finally folding up my napkin was that eating at Tiffin Wallah (and Chennai Garden) one is introduced to a world of vegetarian food that leaves nothing to be desired. The flavors are rich and satisfying, perfectly blended, and harmonize flawlessly. I am notorious for adding salt to vegetable dishes, yet I never once thought that the food at Tiffin Wallah needed a kick.

      I can't wait to order their lunch service (praying they will deliver west of Union Square). I would normally go for the same dosa or the same curry, but after sampling a range of the chef's specialties, I am confident that any dish ordered at Tiffin Wallah would be the perfect one.

      As far as service goes, I should add that the owner himself was there to supervise, and gave our table and the other parties there equally friendly and gracious attention. We did the often frowned upon disservice of staying way past closing, but the staff, and especially the owner, seemed more than happy to stay as long as we were enjoying ourselves. Our group was the last to leave, and he even walked us out and shook our hands.

      Excuse my sentiment, but in a city like New York, where it is almost chic to be abrasive, Tiffin Wallah is a breath of fresh air... scented with the aroma of exotic ambrosia.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shmooperdooper

        Thanks, Dave, for the website info... I just looked up my rice dish, and it's called "Behl Puri" ...sooooo good....

        1. re: shmooperdooper

          Glad you enjoyed Tiffin. For now, I'd probably go there before Chennai Garden, as the atmosphere is so relaxed, and with nicer surroundings, you get slightly cheaper prices. And of course, the owner is there.

          Have you tried Saravanaas on the other side of Lexington? There, the service can be indifferent, but I think the food is a little better.

      2. I've been twice since it opened -- once for the lunch buffet and once on the weekend for a non-buffet lunch. I teach in the neighborhood, so I'm very familiar with the Indian restaurants in the area. Tiffin Wallah is heads-and-shoulders better, in my opinion, than any of the other vegetarian lunch buffet places -- I highly recommend it

        1. Just went today. We shared an app and two curries, and it was too much food for us. :)

          The $4 samosa chat is a large bowl of it, with four samosas smothered in thick, fresh yougurt, chopped bits of vegetable and maybe some cardamom pods, fresh herbs and a sweet reddish chutney, probably tamarind but with less kick than I'm used to. It was a bit less like street food and more like something a good cook would put together at home, though I did miss some of the kick.

          For drinks, my sweetie got a mango lassi (agreed with above, more mango than lassi but you can't knock the fresh fruit texture of it) and I got the chas, described as a yogurt shake with salt and spices. I figured it would resemble a salty lassi, maybe with some cardamom and chili. Instead, it was also strewn with minced raw veggies: onion, scallion or chive, tomato, etc. It tasted exactly like vegetable cream cheese. Fantastic stuff.

          The sukhi bhaji (from the Gujarati section) was a nice, dryish potato curry flecked with onion and whole spices. It had abright flavor to it and it was obviously made to order. Good, but not stunning in any way. I think they went easy on the spicing for us gringos.

          The bhindi masala, that okra-and-tomato warhorse found at buffets everywhere, was the star, though. The okra was perfectly cooked, neither firm and bitter nor overcooked to slimy mush, the two ways I've always had it in this dish. The bits of tomato were sweet but still had body, and the sauce had soul; richly spiced and well-balanced. Instead of okra swimming in something reddish and viscous, it felt like a real dish, with all sorts of textures and flavors going on.

          I'd probably bump up the heat quotient a bit, but I'm intrigued enough to want to try more.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hatless

            I'm curious about the meal delivery service. Anybody have any information? Also, I talked to the owner of Chennai Garden and the man who owns Tiffinwalla is not an owner of Chennai garden -- he is a former employee.

          2. We went shortly after the Voice review. It's good for the extremely low price. 100% vegetarian, which was not make clear enough in the review.

            It's certainly worth going to once, but we won't be back.

            1 Reply