Devi - Surprise Disappointment
For my birthday, a friend was treating me to dinner and had reservations at Tabla, which I have eaten at previously and liked. Knowing that Devi was awarded a Michelin star, and had gotten decent reviews on the boards, I convinced him to make the switch and try something new. I was ready to be wowed. Honestly, after our meal, I cannot believe this place deserves the Michelin!
The reason? Ketchup.
Overall, the food here compared to a place like Tabla is less fusion with more emphasis on upscale versions of regional cuisine. I started the meal with what I think was called something like a Mumbai Margarita. Served in a chilled martini glass, the drink had very fresh citrus juice, elderflower, mango, some kind of alcohol, and a sprinkle of cayenne on the top. Great drink with a gentle lingering heat. This drink was definitely one of the best parts of the meal.
We started with the lauded Manchurian Cauliflower, which came out looking similar to hotwings. The dish actually was not spicy at all, but the lightly battered cauliflower was definitely overshadowed by the sauce. The sauce's main component tasted like ketchup, which didn't necessarily ruin the dish, but was overpowering enough for us to wonder about its authenticity. Okay, fine, so we chalked that one up to the kitchen's creativity since the dish seemed to be one of Devi's signatures.
Not so much of an issue, except my dining partner ordered the stewed vegetarian Khatte Meethe Baingan (baby eggplant, sweet & sour tomato, tamarind sauce), which came out drenched in the same ketchup-y sauce. Ketchup overload. What a disappointment! On top of that, I'd have to agree with others that it is a little ridiculous that you are charged extra for a side of plain rice that clearly this dish should come with.
I, on the other hand, fared much better with the delicious Tandoor-Grilled Lamb Chops (pear chutney, spiced potatoes). The chops were buttery, and the spiced potatoes were simple but super flavorful with whole garam masala. This tasted like upscale Indian to me, but one great dish could not outweigh the mediocre meal.
The spinach and goat cheese kulchas was good, heavy on the spinach, but nothing special as far as an Indian stuffed bread goes.
For dessert, I was pretty psyched about the Emperor's Morsel (Shahi Tukra)
crispy saffron bread pudding, cardamom cream, candied almonds. I love a good bread pudding, and any variation is a sure thing with me. What came out was hardly bread pudding, but I would say, again, it was very Indian. A 4" round of 1/4" thick 'bread' had been soaked in a sweet honey water (similar to the traditional Gulab Jamun, but a flattened version) and topped with a sauce reminiscent of thinned sweetened condensed milk. Sandy 'breadcrumbs' of brittle flavor garnished the dish, was probably the candied almond part. The dish was suuuuuuuuuper sweet, watery, and again, no real wow factor.
If you want Indian, go to your hole in the wall; if you're looking to be impressed by a Michelin experience, be ready to be underwhelmed. I would recommend going back to Tabla, or trying a new place. Sorry Devi, you just didn't do it for me.
Great review!! Very interesting.
Check out Banjara in the East Village...I'm assuming you've already been to Tamarind on 22nd?
Pity you didn't like it. I know what you mean about the sauce on the cauliflower, although I'd say it was more of a sweet and sour kind of taste; but it's quite a popular dish. I have to say, from many experiences, Devi is a much, much better restaurant than any holes-in-the-wall I've found in Manhattan, including Banjara.
Thank you for the review. My b/f and I thought the food was rather mediocre and couldn't understand what the hype was about. The place is overpriced, but we were, admittedly prejudiced by the lackluster cuisine. I can't believe it got a Michelin star!?
You got there first with the negative review. I went on Saturday for the $24 lunch and came away very puzzled as to how and why this place gets so much praise on this board.
The mini crackers served with a red pepper chutney weren't bad; the Manchurian cauliflower was reasonably good I thought (nice crunchy cauliflower) although that sauce soon became cloyingly sweet and excessive; the baigan entree was one of the worst dishes I've eaten in any restaurant for some while, can't believe that a place can serve that and still land a michelin *. The sauce was hopeless, nothing Indian about it - tasted more Italian and even then of the "from a tin of chopped tomatoes" variety. I isolated a couple of pieces of aubergine and they were nothing to get excited about either, overcooked no bite to them. If an Indian restaurant (traditional, fusion, upscale whatever) can't do vegetarian dishes well, then there is a major, major problem. As for the rest, nan was good, saffron bread pudding I quite enjoyed, service and decor were passable although uninspiring. But that entree really stole the show for all the wrong reasons. Never ever again.
I recently went to Devi for the first time, and while I wasn't completely blown away, I had a very good experience based on the tasting menu. I didn't try the manchurian cauliflower, but if I'm correct manchurian-style usually implies a Chinese-Indian sauce, that yes, is sweet, sour and tomato-y. Most recipes for manchurian anything call for ketchup. I know people who aren't fond of some Chinese-Indian dishes because of that very sauce. For what it's worth, I liked the saffron bread pudding.
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