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Chennai Garden - why did it close?

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I went by Chennai Garden on 27th and Lex a couple weeks ago and found it closed! Anyone know why?

I'm deeply disappointed, as this has been a favorite of mine for years. My girlfriend has several food allergies and doesn't like meat, so this was one of the few restaurants where she could order several things off the menu.

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Chennai Garden
129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

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  1. I passed by there this weekend and saw a sign that said it was closed for renovations. I know that sometimes places say that and never reopen, but do we know for sure that they're gone for good?

    1. I always enjoyed their lunch buffet (as far as the food) but I found the service to be absolutely horrible. They would always try to sit strangers next to me when I dined alone without even asking me. It left a really bad taste in my mouth. If this was their policy for single diners, they should have disclosed it before sitting me at a table.

      2 Replies
      1. re: NicoleFriedman

        I'm not trying to defend their non-disclosure of this policy, but this is pretty typical (in my experience) in India. Ive dined as a solo diner a number of times and shared a two-top with a stranger, and even been seated adjacent to my dining companion, across the table from two strangers at a two top. I'll agree its a bit weird, but maybe they were just really ahead of the trendyness of communal tables.

        1. re: tex.s.toast

          I understand that this is typical in India. However, they were in NYC and at the very least, they should have either told me that this is their policy; take it or leave it.... or to ask. They did neither. The first time I was already seated with my small table covered in food when a stranger saunters over with their plates (not their fault; the waiter directed this person over) and simply told him to sit next to me... absolutely no aknowledgement. I would have left if I hadn't already started eating, and I wasn't about to have this guy stand with his plate full. Extremely awkward. I returned a 2nd time to give it one more chance. I asked the waiter before I sat if I could sit alone; he said yes. Then.... another waiter tried to pull the same stunt. I hadn't been back in a few years so this is news to me that they closed.

      2. I'm not surprised Chennai Garden has closed, if indeed it has. Here's a modified version of a review I wrote elsewhere:

        I took a trip to Chennai Garden tonight in the 45 minute window I had between one thing in Manhattan and another. Let me kill all suspense by saying that I found the food acceptable, but nowhere near the standards of even ordinary places in India. And there were some notable weaknesses. 

        The menu had helpful comments next to each item. Halwa a la mode was described as "warm badam halwa topped with cold ice cream," and I could see immediately the point of assuring diners that the ice cream would be served cold. But what was one to make of a dessert simply called Gulab, and described as "Jamun Indian flan with sweet syrup"? The complications mounted with the playful spacing. Alu Gobi was described as "potato and caulifl ower", and Vadai in Rasam Bowl as "2 savory donuts afl oat in rasam soup." I negotiated these potholes with my customary skill, and ordered the Chennai Combination Dinner ("iddly, medu va dai, vegetable ut thappam, masala dosai, coconut chutne y, samb ar, badam halw a") 

        The vadai was light and crisp, the idli fluffy, and the sambhar had a nice balance of sour and heat, although I would have preferred more heat. The coconut chutney was terrible, though: watery, thin and completely devoid of flavor. A coconut may have been driving by when this chutney was made, but it had not been in physical contact with it. It was the worst I've ever had. The masala dosa was passable, but the uthappam, pasty and undercooked on the inside and charred on the outside, provided stiff competition to the chutney for worst item on the plate. Overall, I think, Chennai Garden comes away the winner over some other South Indian choices in the neighborhood, but in a battle that's hardly the clash of titans. 

        The weekend menu has interesting items on it, though, and could be worth trying. The restaurant has certainly been getting good press, although some of the comments are mystifying. The takeout menu quotes the New York Times as saying "The vegetarian Feat of Indian arrives." New York Magazine says "The beast Easting of my buffet and all carte dosa." Time Out calls it "The best Kosher vegetarian restaurant at bargain price of its value." And The Jewish Week says, with admirable honesty, "Jewish cuisine is a little blend, Chennai Garden adding space into their life."

        1. Oh wow. Thanks for posting this news. I liked the food very much and thought the masala dosa and sambar were better than at most other places in the neighborhood, including Saravanaah's. But in truth, we stopped going very frequently in more recent years, since the service was often just appallingly bad. Saravannah's is still mostly good, if you need a place where your girlfriend can eat, though I find it a bit uneven, especially on weekends. And I also like Tiffin Wallah for a more lightly textured than usual vada, though it can be very greasy.

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          Saravanaas
          81 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

          Tiffin Wallah
          127 E 28th St, New York, NY 10016

          1 Reply
          1. re: michelleats

            The bad service of which you and others speak was, possibly, another manifestation of the inattention to detail that I think their menu revealed. Under these circumstances, I don't find myself shocked to find that they might be closing.

          2. I had no idea either, and we are in that neighborhood often. We used to go a bunch, for the lunch buffet. We then found Tiffin Wallah and all things considered, preferred TW. Atmosphere and food wise. Hopefully something similar will go in. It seems over the past year or two restaurants have opened quickly and closed quickly in those few blks, including the Turkish spot across from Curry Curry and one or two spots one blk south. Fast turn over.

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            Tiffin Wallah
            127 E 28th St, New York, NY 10016

            Ay Kitchen
            115 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

            1. This is so disappointing! I was hoping to go to Chennai Garden tonight with my boyfriend, and was looking up the hours just in case when I stumbled onto this page. It was actually my favorite Indian restaurant in the city - I'm vegetarian, and I love dosas and South Indian cuisine... and their halwa was heavenly. I would also like to know why they wound up closing. :(

              1. A glimmer of hope? The lights were on at Chennai Garden tonight.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Dave Feldman

                  Yes, Chennai Garden is indeed open now! I can confirm this as I dined there last night. It was my first visit ever, so I can't really comment on what happened or how the food differs from the earlier place. I'm no connoisseur of Indian food but I enjoyed the meal.

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                  Chennai Garden
                  129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

                  1. re: uwsgrazer

                    Thanks. Have to find out if it is the same folks. I went to Tamba on Friday and had a disastrous meal.

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                    Tamba
                    103 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      Happy to report that Chennai Garden is definitely back up and running. Same manager. And I recognized all but one of the waiters. Other than the walls being repainted pink, nothing has changed. The menu is the same, I believe the prices are the same, and the quality is within the range of the restaurant pre-closing. We had three dosas, one curry, and one thali among us.

                    2. re: uwsgrazer

                      What did you eat?

                      1. re: FoodDabbler

                        We had dosas, one thali and biryani. I think there was another dish, but I no longer recall what it was. For dosas, we got mysore rava masala dosai and I think a masala dosa, both of which I enjoyed. Someone else ordered the thali and the rest of us (three) pretty much got the things the fourth didn't want. I think one of the castoffs may have been utthappam. It was fine, though I don't think I would go out of my way to order it again. Biryani is actually a dish I have ordered elsewhere and felt that Chennai Garden's wasn't anything special. To me, the dosas were the highlight of the evening.

                        Seating was comfortable. Tables were reasonably well-spaced and noise-level was fine. Service also seemed good, though my friends primarily did the ordering and whatnot.