South Indian in the Lowell Area
We finally got to Meena’s Kitchen last night and we ordered a ton of things because i wanted to do a thorough deal. A wet thurs night; 2 other tables there when we arrived at 7:45.For some reason I had in mind that this would be a funky space but it is not; very bland and institutional feeling room w/ big window into a clean bare brand new kitchen.
The husband/software engineer came over to pass the time and it seems they are pretty set in their ways as to their menu. It was odd, IMO. They seem to want you to get a ‘6 course’ meal ( a deconstructed thali, really, served in courses) which just doesn’t make sense to me. I think you need all the dishes together so the bready things can complement the ‘vegetable curry’ and soup etc etc. We didn’t order that option because it was the dosa type things that excited me most, being many types that i have never seen before, including at Udupi Bhavan or Pongal or Priya. The strength of this place is that a non-professional chef/ home cook is the owner and chef. She does what her husband describes as ‘real home cooking’ and many dishes you will not see elsewhere that are her creations. But her menu explains that she cooks w/ oil; no ghee, for healthier food. But I did miss the richness that ghee can bring.
* medu vada-- best i’ve ever had. spicy, full flavored and beautiful light fresh texture.
* tomato dosa- wow this is amazing; my all night fav! they also do a carrot and a spinach dosa; all have the component pureed into Meena’s delightfully sourdough-like dosa batter.
* rava dosa- much thicker/coarser than i've had before.
* pav bhaji - curried lentil dish normally served in its own dosa. we got it to accompany the other dosas we ordered
* navratan korma- components change daily; this one had grapes and cauliflower and peas!!
lovely creamy slightly sweet concoction
* uppama- not on the menu, but she did this wonderful farina as a special request to go in the pesarattu (an expected combo for many Indians).
* yoghurt- excellent thick creamy
* various unique Meena chutnies- favs were the ginger chutney and the capsicum tomato.Both not hot.
* utthapum -thick and spongey
* pesarattu- not green like Udupi Bhavan’s but still good texture and flavor.
* potato masala filling- lacked zest and cumin
* chana masala wada (chickpea falafel fried patty by any other name but coarser)- too plain and dense/hard.( but Udupi Bhavan's are like this too.)
* desserts- all the milk based desserts we had were identical in their saffron sugar milk base- whether w/ semolina or almonds or rice. all lacked the critical cardamom element and were blah.
no spices other than saffron that i could taste. very disappointing. the bobbattu pancakes w/ lentil filling were very scantily filled. The Deep brand frozen ones(called by their North Indian name, Puran Poli) are much better, unfortunately.
* tomato attu - very thick besan based pancake; a real ‘homecooking’ type item, per the owner, but i was bothered by the raw besan flavor i kept tasting.
* masala tea- flavorful but not cardamomy unfortunately
Udupi Bhavan and Meena’s are literally 15 minutes apart and we look forward to returning to both. Each has their strengths. I really hope Meena will expand her curried vegetable dishes beyond the special that she changes every day as part of the ‘6 course meal’ and the two that are served with dosas.
Udupi Bhavan Lowell
1717 Middlesex St, Lowell, MA 01851
I see. They seem to use the stuffing for pav bhaji (which they also have on the menu) as a stuffing for dosas. It should be a not-too-liquid vegetable stuffing, though. Does Meena's use lentils?
I'd heard about Meena's on discussion groups that specialize in Indian food, but have not had a chance to try it. The possibility of getting out there in the next few months just to eat is unfortunately rather remote.