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Jul 24, 2008 06:59 AM

Tiffin Mt. Airy!

They open today! I'm so happy!

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  1. Let everyone know how it is!!!

    1. We went this evening and the food is just terrific. The food is just so fresh and well prepared. Really the only thing that I've had close to it is at Palace at the Ben. The seating is very limited...but people were waiting and didn't seem to care. Lots of take out orders. We will be regulars.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaisyM

        I braved the downpour last Wednesday to attend the opening reception at the new Tiffin on Emlen Street, and it was well worth it. Tiffin offered their more adventurous Mt. Airy neighbors a sampling of their foods, including a moist and flavorful tandoori chicken, and wine.

        Munish Narula, the proprietor, has a winning recipe, combining a smart business plan and no-compromises as-good-as-it-gets Indian food to produce a labor of love.

        Developed with the savvy of friends from Wharton, Munish has created a business plan which includes an assortment of rotating offerings which are available each day for takeout. I don't know how they do it, but this adds up to a huge variety of dishes and depth of flavors. They also have a terrific regular menu with some of the best examples of Indian dishes I've eaten anywhere. It's refreshing to experience the complex combinations of flavors that are usually lost when these dishes are dumbed down for American tastes.

        When Tiffin first opened on Girard Avenue, I discovered that these dishes freeze and re-heat extremely well. I was never one for takeout, but in no time at all, I was making regular trips to Tiffin to purchase 10 or 12 dinners at a time. I usually cook all my own meals from scratch, but I must say, I've never eaten so well, since I've been able to take these meals from freezer to microwave, and eat Baingan Bartha, Ajwaini Chicken Tikka, or Malai Kofta just a few minutes later.

        Since I've gone digital, I don't get into town as often as I once did when I was constantly bringing film in for processing, so I'm thrilled to have Tiffin closer to home. Munish's enthusiasm and pride are obvious, and his creation will be a great asset to this side of town.

      2. If not for this post, I would have continued making my weekly drives down Lincoln Drive passing by Emlen street, not knowing that a few blocks up was Tiffin.

        Although I had just eaten dinner (Indian, of course), I wanted to visit Tiffin to see the place first hand.

        What impressed me was the intimacy and unpretentiousness of the place, not to mention the very appealing aroma throughout the restaurant. I walked in just to get a sense/scent of the place and to grab a menu. On my way in, I scanned the dishes that I saw on various tables and everything looked appealing and nicely presented.

        I don't know if the menu I got was the main one for dinner, because the offerings were fairly limited, mainly the favs of people, including ten vegetarian main courses, items that would not disappoint anyone seeking the more mainstream favorites, like paneer tikka masala, malai kofta, and navrattan korma. The menu I picked up didn't include any beverage listings, soups, or desserts, so I'm not sure just by looking at this menu how much this location actually offers.

        The ambience is very plain but comfortable - plain wooden tables with minor decoration on the walls and elsewhere. Not sure if there was any music on at the time of my visit. This place is in the heart of a residential area with very few other commercial establishments nearby, truly what one would call a neighborhood restaurant, a place if you lived nearby you could walk to.

        If I lived in the neighborhood and needed a fix of a mainstream Indian dish, how convenient this place would be. Prices are what you would expect for a similar restaurant, $8.95 to $11.95 for most dishes, with bread running $1.95 to $3.50, appetizers running $3.25 to $5.95.

        What was a new experience for me in this metropolitan area was that this is the first time I had been to an Indian restaurant whose patrons were completely non-Indian. My guess is that it is due to the demographics of Mt. Airy and that other Indian restaurants in the metropolitan area are closer to the residences of folks from India. If you live in Mt. Airy, you are fortunate to have such a place in your backyard!

        Less of a reason to have to drive to W. Philly, Center City, or the western suburbs, although I would still recommend the lunch buffets, whose variety and value cannot be beaten.

        7 Replies
        1. re: FelafelBoy

          How nice to have this place so close! I drive by this way all the time getting on the drives to go into center city. Went Friday night and got there at 6:45 and was told there was a 40 minute wait - of course we waited and were glad we did! The place is small and cozy, with brightly colored walls and basic, unfinished furniture, obviously the focus is on the food. After exactly 40 minutes we were seated and had excellent food, forget what the apps were but they were great. For entrees we had chicken in a pepper sauce (with a really good zng) and lamb chattinad (lmb with mustard seed, coconut and curry) both were excellent. The lamb was very lean, no fat, and not gamey at all. We ordered naan, which they forgot to bring, but that was OK since we had plenty of food.

          My only complaint was that it was VERY hot in the restaurant, but I think the wine and spicy food exaggerated that (?). I THINK they have AC because when I ued the bathroom it was nice and cold but the restaurant itself seemed hot. Along with Taste of India this is the best Indian food we've had in the area. As FelafelBoy states, it was interesting that there were no Indian patrons there. For 2 apps and 2 entrees we spent a whopping $36, we spend more at lousy restaurants! We will definitely be bac but perhaps on an off night to avoid the crowds. Their secon location has definitely been discovered!

          1. re: Schpsychman

            Good description of the place. The chicken dish you described sounded like "Chicken Kali Mirch." I wonder if you ordered off the small menu that is available for taking home. There is no listing of beverages or desserts on it. Did you order from a larger menu?

            I can easily understand why you had to wait so long. I visited the restaurant around 8pm and all tables (ten?) were filled with only one other person at the counter (having paid or taking out something, I didn't really observe what she was doing). I can't imagine being inside this place waiting that time - I mean, it's interior is small, and if there is a line of people waiting for tables, where do people wait? There didn't seem to be any place inside to wait.

            Just like the old Minar Palace, I wondered if this place had any other floors to seat people. Its current space seems inadequate to service a more peak time crowd.

            1. re: Schpsychman

              Schpsychman - the chicken dish you described was Chicken Kali Mirch.
              The lamb dish sounded scrumptious!

              I can't imagine where people wait to be seated during peak times, like the one you described. The interior is small and there is no place for people to wait in line without getting into the space of diners. When you were waiting on the night you described, where WERE people in line waiting? Is there some other area other than by the tables where other people are eating?

              I visited at about 8 pm and even then every table was taken, but no one was waiting for a table.

              I wonder if there is another area for people to eat. The community's support of the restaurant would justify a larger space.

              You mentioned having enjoyed the food at Taste of India. So, you prefer the spicier food. Have you tried Bawarchi, about five minutes from there? The food is not as spicy, but is still full of flavor. What you will give up is the oily nature of the food preparation and the selection of desserts, but you will gain are healthier and lighter tasting dishes, as well as some dishes you would not get at TOI, like some really good dals, vadas, idlis, and ok sambar. (nice host, there, too!)

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                FelafelBoy, yes that was the chicken dish and it was quite spicy (the way I like Indian food). The apps we had were Aloo Papri Chaat and Fish Kali Mirch (which was made with tilapia, nice to get something other than salmon), both were very good.

                People do not wait inside as there is no room, they wait outside, congregating along the street (that's where we waited). At one point they actually locked the door so no one could walk in. My wife said they should have a little stand outside where they handle taking names, would keep the dining room clear. They should also set up some benches perhaps and/or tables. They did take one table outside when we were there but to make room for a 6-top inside. They should have 2-3 little round tables outside in nice weather I think. As I said to my wife, they could open 4 more Tiffin's anywhere they wanted and they would all be that busy, making this one bigger would make sense given it's popularity from day one.

                I will definitely try Bawarchi. I won't mind giving up oiliness (oilyness?)as long as it's full of flavor as you say. Sometimes the oiliness of Indian food is tough on my stomach but what I love about it is tasting the many layers of flavor. I never eat dessert at Indian restaurants anyway so that's not a big deal for me (I'm always too full!). Thanks for the recommendation!

                1. re: Schpsychman

                  We read and hear that Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy don't have enough good restaurants, and that it's because it's not center city -- too many "families" in the northwest section of the city, and not the right demographics for "restaurant goers". This post seems to defy that. And so do the throngs of people who go to certain of the Chestnut Hill places which are OK but not great. Chefs, give our neighborhood a try! Glad to hear Tiffin is so well received!

                  1. re: Schpsychman

                    Schpsychman - Pardon my near duplicate post - the first post didn't get registered for much longer than is the norm, so I assumed it disappeared, so I re-posted a similar message.

                    Interesting that the sidewalk is used as the waiting area - not bad if the weather is ok. I wonder if this area is zoned for a restaurant to have tables outside to serve diners. The area that Tikkun is in seems to be able to accommodate such diners. I could see small tables outside - no need to think of Tikkun diners as making a ruckus outside. But then ... suppose there is still a waiting line? Where would those people stand in line - on Lincoln Drive?!

                    I would not be surprised if the only way to get in on the weekend is to have made reservations weeks prior. The place is small, and with it being the only game in town (Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy), I think this place will be severely underspaced to accommodate potential diners.

                    As was said, Tikkun could probably open similar sized restaurants at additional sites in the area and still be busy.

                    If you go to Bawarchi, keep in mind that they change their dals every day - if you are unlucky, you will get the most plain dal (makhani dal). Most of their other dals are interesting, particularly the methi dal, something I have never had at the other Indian restaurants.

                    I haven't been to Bawarchi since early Spring, so I hope things are the same as they were before. Speaking of "oily dishes", not the difference in the way they do their rice vs. what you see at some other Indian restaurants - even its Chicken biryani is not as oily as what you would get at TOI. (Nearby Chinnar also stays away from producing oily dishes, but they really cut back on flavor and spices. It's good there, but not full of flavor you get at TOI, Bawarchi, and Royal India. Since you like spicy food, if you ever get out to Exton, you'd like the sambar at Devi. They make the best sambar of any place in the western suburbs, and perhaps in the metropolitan area. They have a smaller selection, and healthy vegetarian dishes.)

                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                      Correction in my Aug 04, 2008 11:26pm post ...

                      I meant to say Tiffin, not Tikkun, as the name of the restaurant..

            2. Does anyone know any details about delivery? I live in Roxborough and was so excited to hear they'd be delivering here, but the website hasn't offered any information yet.

              2 Replies
              1. re: malkazanie

                I don't know the details about delivery but as we were waiting outside many people were pulling up in their cars for takeout (they had called ahead obviously). I would call the restaurant directly and ask them. And BTW FelafelBoy, Tiffin does not take reservations so it is first come, first served. I also think that the space is ALREADY too small to accommodate the crowds right now! Thanks for the other rec's too. I have to try Devi again, took the family there one New Year's Eve a few years ago and wasn't wowed at all, but I'm sure that didn't represent their menu at all.

                1. re: Schpsychman

                  Lunch buffets may not be the best way to judge a restaurant, but I agree with you, that Devi does not wow the way a place like Taste of India or others do. The lunch buffet I had there was modestly enjoyable, with the standout being the sambar, that is by far, the best of any place in the metropolitan area. Its vegetarian dishes were moderately enjoyable, healthy tasting, and nourishing. There was a smaller selection of dishes at the lunch buffet than offered at all the other places I have been to with the exception of Jaipur.

                  I liked Devi for a change of pace in that it did offer a dish or two that I didn't hvae elsewhere. Chinnar seems to offer "the most favorite dishes" at its buffet, whereas Bawarchi takes more of a risk by featuring a dish or two that you would never see at a restaurant doing North Indian dishes, and its dal dishes are the real thing. Healthy tasting, too. For healthy tasting dishes, I'd say Devi, Bawarchi, Aman's, and Chinnar are the best. The test of this is to indulge and get up from the table after your orgy and see how you feel.

                  In doing so at TOI, I frequently felt ready to explode (too much rich delicious food), vs. after leaving Devi and Bawarchi, I always feel like I had a good meal, but am not weighted down with overly rich foods, but rather got filled up with healthily cooked foods and spared myself from eating rich foods prepared with alot of cream, oil and sugar. (My least favorite common dish at the Bawarchi buffet is their bhindi masala, which is prepared with too much oil - in fact, I think it's their worst dish.)

              2. We had a disappointing lunch at Tiffin this past Saturday. First of all, the restaurant has no atmosphere, was not as clean as it should be and the wait staff only grunted and gestured (not one word of English was spoken or attempted). The texture and mouth feel of the sauce on the Navrattan Korma (mixed vegetables) was very good but the flavor was exceptionally bland. The Ajwaini Chicken was tasty, but it was not hot and was very overpriced (chunks of one small chicken breast for $10.50). The rice was wet and lumpy (microwaved leftover rice?) and the garlic naan was lukewarm. The service was very slow (~25 minutes from the time of ordering until we were served) and there were only three tables in the restaurant. Maybe we didn't order the noteworthy items, but based on this experience we will not be rushing back. We might try it again if we are nearby, but it will not be a destination restaurant for us.

                2 Replies
                1. re: nevets

                  Good, they'll be more room for us and less people there! My recent visit there was fantastic and I can't wait to return. What I take the most exception with in your post though, was "not one word of English was spoken or attempted." This IS an Indian restaurant and these ARE Indian people right? They are expected to speak English to you but does anyone speak Indian to them when they visit a restaurant? No. Did you speak or attempt any Indian with them? No. You see my point (I hope)....

                  1. re: nevets

                    sounds like you are describing the tiffin on girard, am i right? that place is a total dump inside compared to the mt. airy location... more of a takeout base than a place to eat-in...