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Mar 11, 2010 03:34 PM

Seeking superb 'food oasis' for my wife's 40th birthday - - > details enclosed

My wife is a Singaporean food snob in the best sense. I am looking for a nice place to take her for the big four-O. Loves simple, fresh homestyle food and is not a big restaurant food person.

She is mostly vegetarian but NOT strictly vegetarian.

Loves Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, Georgian, Moroccan, Persian, Turkish, Afghan, Macrobiotic cuisines, etc.

Enjoys Spicy & Tasty, Upi Jaya, the late Hemsin, Kum Gang Korean restaurant (Northern Blvd), the late Kura Sushi, Primorski, Agnanti,, etc.

HATES nouvelle cuisine, Italian food, American food, Asian 'fusion', fake Indian food, 'Malaysian' restaurants, oily/greasy food & doesn't eat beef or pork.

So if you know a peaceful elegant place to celebrate a special day please let me know. All five boroughs acceptable. Brooklyn Queens preferred.

Thanks a million!!!!

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  1. Boy is that a tall order. Can't wait for the responses!

    1. OK, I can totally appreciate your detail. And sincerely hope I, and others can help you. Some questions...What sort of ambience / energy of the place do you think she'd prefer? Since she is more into food/taste than restaurant/experience/decor, it need not be posh, correct?

      ANd any $$$ constraints?

      1 Reply
      1. re: chow_gal

        Thanks for your reply! You are pretty on target. Certainly for a birthday one likes to have a nice classy pleasant environment, with good service, where you can sit and enjoy. We don't care for that current style of posh hyped up 'experience' restaurants with overbearing decor and a staff with attitude. And as you wisely understood, food comes first. As for $, I do not mind spending on a special meal, but I have found that good value and reasonable prices are often part of what makes a good restaurant. After all, one wants to chow down, not to get held up.

      2. The Chef's Kitchen Table dinner at Brooklyn Fare is a unique special-occasion meal.
        Much has been written about it here and on other food blogs. Reservations are tough, but if you explain the special occasion and have a little flexibility on date, you can probably get two seats. I guarantee you will have one of the best meals of your life there. Search this board and search google blogs and read a bit about it. Then call for a reservation.

        Start here:

        but read some blogger postings about it and check out the photos of the meal.

        4 Replies
        1. re: famdoc

          co-sign 100%. i rate this meal right up there with the ones i've had anywhere in NY. it's definitely the most unique dining experience that I've had given that you actually sit in cesar's kitchen and interact with him. while he isn't the most warm person, he has an affable honesty about him that doesn't come across as pretentious or snobby. it's an unapologetic love for what he does and i think he really cares about how his product is received. what i loved most is that the food is simply prepared, yet had a complexity that rivals what you'd find at any top restaurant.

          after i went, i called the very next day to make another reservation but was told that they were booked through July. they are pretty good about contacting you if you ask to be put on the waiting list and a spot opens up.

            1. re: famdoc

              wouldnt the no-no status of beef or pork be an issue with this place?

              1. re: jen kalb

                we had several people with seafood only meals, even one vegetarian (however the veggie options looked a bit underwhelming)

            2. I havent been yet but am wondering whether Purple Yam in brooklyn might work.
              Origin is filipino (former Cendrillon owners, which was an elegant restaurant) but with a significant korean cuisine component.
              Bamboo Pavillion is a nice szechuan in outer brooklyn (18th Avenue). It is a fairly nice physical environment, with a prosperous clientele -its not crowded or noisy but but more nice informal than elegant. They have some very nice vegetable and fish dishes on the menu.
              You might consider Tabla, in the Danny Meyer empire (Manhattan), with Floyd Cardoz interpretation of Indian. Its been a fair number of years since I was there (Bread Bar only) but I thought the food was very good and its a nice place.

              11 Replies
              1. re: jen kalb

                this is a new find that might be more appropriate for the subject of the post; would Tabla be considered "fake" indian? they recently combined the entire space to the same menu with good reviews. anyway, I didn't think it was fake at all but my recent meal at the vegetarian Bhojan in curry hill was so amazing and so pleasant:

                I think it would make for a fine meal. not necessarily 40th bday fancy/romantic however, but, very very good. would be nice for a small group I bet but you are looking at a table for two? the service is great, and surely they can provide everything needed for a great meal; they had a kettle of masala chai that sounded amazing.

                1. re: bigjeff

                  Tabla's food is hardly "fake Indian". - Id say they riff creatively on an Indian palette of flavors. The exec chef, Floyd Cardoz is indian and had his initial culinary training there before moving on. Its hardly orthodox within any of the indian cuisine traditions but it is delicious food and worth trying.

                  Bhojan sounds well worth trying, since Gujarati food is uncommon around here. Have you been to Vatan? Its been years since we have (maybe should resample since having been in the real traditional village setting it tries to replicate) but the food was pretty good on our one visit. The dish at Bhojan you mentioned with limp pasta sounds like dal dhokli. did you like it?

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    didn't mean to knock Tabla like that but that's my interpretation of the requirements (the fifth paragraph); I do like the food there yes!

                    bhojan is good and . . . . kicks vatan's butt. what we had indeed was dal dhokli and . . . I liked it! it was really soft, not a particular strong flavor but to be honest, we couldn't finish it because there was so much food on the table.

                    i think what was amazing about my meal there was we had ordered the ashram thali which had no onions or garlic and it still tasted so flavorful and aromatic; if we got any of the other thalis they would have probably killed!

                    1. re: bigjeff

                      my family in mumbai cooks mainly without onion and garlic and their food kills! You don't need the onion and garlic, esp if you use asofoetida and other super aromatic spices.

                      I'll have to check out Bhojan--I like gujarati food as it's the closest to the maharashtrian food i really crave. (but unfortunately there are no maharashtrian restaurants in NYC--or at least not that I know of.)

                      1. re: missmasala

                        interesting! looking at this link:

                        I see that they definitely have at least half the items on the menu I believe; I definitely saw the pavs, and I think the soupy thing I had in the thali was possible the aamti. and the desserts we had would be the shrikhand. and then, it would seem that I misidentified something else on the thali as kichidi because the image of that on the site isn't what we had at all.

                        try it out, let me know what you think! what I will add is, when I think on it, the food could have been more aromatic yes, more stronger/spicier possibly; could use a shake or two of salt extra. but ya, please try and let me know how you like it! the place was humming, a lot of people trying the new kid on the block!

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          hmm. While my family makes versions of most on that list (except the meat curry--they are vegetarians) at least half of those items are snack foods you would never find on a thali.

                          and what you had could be kichidi--there is more than one kind. Tho I don't think it is usually on a thali. Could also have been boondi--little fried balls made of chickpea (besan) flour and served in kadhi--a buttermilk yogurt.

                          I have never seen misal pav here, so if bhojan has it, that would be great. Tho what i would really love to find is a thali with usal, the sprouted mung bean curry that the misal pav is based on.

                          next time i'm in the neighborhood, i'll skip saravannas and give this a try.

                          And if i can find it, I'll post a pic of one of the thali meals that my aunt made when I was in Mumbai this summer. I've never seen any of the dishes on it in a restaurant here, which is a shame, as it was all delicious!

                          1. re: missmasala

                            many years ago in London I had a sprouted mung bean curry that was one of the best dishes ever. Do you have a good recipe for this?

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              no. I wish I did. It's one of my favorites also. There's one in Madhur Jaffrey's Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, but it's not quite what I'm after.

                              The one I seek is simple, but somehow the finished dish is more than the sum of its parts.

                              Just googled "usal recipe" and this one looks the closest to what I am after. The curry should be slightly sweet, and the beans are not fully sprouted but only partially sprouted. The Jaffrey book explains the technique for sprouting them.


                              1. re: missmasala

                                that is so cool! they definitely had sprouted mung bean but it was a cold light salad, with cucumber and a little bit of spice; what you really tasted however was just the freshness of the raw mung bean, the juice inside; nothing like what I saw when I looked up 'usal' which looked relatively heavily seasoned.

                                looking at the list on that site, ya it was definitely not just thali stuff; the menu for bhojan is split into small plates, chaats, thalis, and breads. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the joint if you eat there!

                  2. re: bigjeff

                    Bhojan sounds interesting, I have some strict vegetarians coming to visit in the summer and this sounds like a perfect place to take them--I've never had Thali before--what is the difference between the 3 on their dinner menu? How do you eat this, just scoop it into the bread, like a dosa?

                    If the poster has an aversion to nouvelle cuisine and likes homestyle food, can't imagine a worse suggestion for them than the Brooklyn chef spot. While I'm sure it's high quality food, I too, have a certain aversion to overwrought preperations--even if they are tasty--they kind of become tiresome, although nice to look at and photograph---and I just can't stand tiny portions like that--I find it pretentious.

                    Wish I had a good Persian to suggest, but the places I frequent are good, but not great--and I think have fallen in quality a bit over the last couple years. I've had some very good meals at Ali Baba (turkish) in the city, and the atmosphere is nice there--you didn't mention Thai, does she not like that?

                    1. re: janie

                      hey janie,

                      regarding bhojan, the thali is served in a big metal tray with about 7-8 ceramic ramekins each containing some goodies. in the middle were 4-5 diff. starches, which was amazing. you just dip some stuff, scoop some stuff, spoon some stuff . . . good times! you could probably cross-reference the thali items with the a la carte menu to figure out although the menu just lists "two entrees" as part of the thali, so it would just be veggies of the day, something like that I'm sure. definitely definitely check it out!

                2. BTW, since we've sort of hijacked your thread, I just wanted to say that it seems to me like Japanese might be the best option, as a good Japanese restaurant is usually both elegant and peaceful.

                  AFAIK the best Japanese restaurants in the city are in Manhattan. A search of the Manhattan board should yield some recs.

                  Good Luck! It's very thoughtful of you.