Chennai NYC Indian Restaurant
1663 First Ave
New York, NY 10028
Chennai NYC Review: Average Food; Spoiled Samosas; Below Par ServiceJust when we thought that Manhattan couldn't possibly support one more Indian restaurant, here comes a new one.
Chennai is the latest addition to the South Indian vegetarian restaurant scene in New York.
From its perch on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on 1st Ave (bet 86th St & 87th St), Chennai (named after the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu in South India) serves a variety of South Indian fare such as Dosa, Idli, Uttapam, Medhu Vada and curries like Vegetable Chettinad.
Famished as we were when we headed to Chennai for lunch, we ordered a wide variety of items including Dosa, Vada, soup and a curry.
AmbienceAs we waited for our food, our eyes wandered around the interiors of this small restaurant. The decor at Chennai is minimal and the place is a little cramped with the tables closely packed.
Forget the decor, we told ourselves. Perhaps the food would be the standout feature of this new restaurant.
But our hopes for a fine meal at this Upper East Side Indian restaurant were in vain.
Much to our disappointment, there were no standout dishes at Chennai.
Although not exemplary, much of what we ate at Chennai was not bad either.
Our order of Assorted Vegetarian Platter came with different fritters like Alu Tikki, Spinach Pakora, Cauliflower Pakora, Plaintain Bajji, a tiny Medhu Vada and the good ol' Samosa. Except for the Vegetable Samosa, we found the other items in the platter OK.
Spoiled SamosaThe bad-smelling Samosa was a disgrace. Clearly spoiled, Chennai's Samosa was not an appetizer that any respectable kitchen would send to a diner's table. Its place was in the garbage not on the diner's table.
Mulligatawny SoupChennai's Mulligatawny Soup was unlike any other Mulligatawny Soup soup we've ever had. It was far too thick, had a garlic flavor and tasted more like Dal soup. We didn't protest, however, because it was tasty.
Rasam Vada, Idli, DosaLacking any flavor, Rasam Vada soup was uninspiring to behold and equally uninspiring to ingest.
Idli ($5) was a little hard and the accompanying Sambar was a bit low on tamarind.
Mysore Masala Dosa was alright but the potato/onion filling inside was way too spicy. It had enough chilli powder for the entire Indian army but the other ingredients were not in proportion.
Vegetable ChettinadChennai's Vegetable Chettinad ((prepared with crushed black pepper) was an outright impostor. Set in a thick gravy, it lacked any of the fine flavor of Vegetable Chettinad that we love so much. To call the Chennai abomination that landed on our table as Vegetable Chettinad is to play a dirty trick on diners.
Coconut Chutney was cold and bland but the Ginger Chutney that came with the appetizer was good.
Coffee ($2.50) was flavorful and good, as it ought to be in any South Indian restaurant.
Chennai FaloodaChennai Falooda ($5) was pathetic. We've had Falooda a gazillion times and the Chennai Falooda easily ranks among the worst. It was watery and lacked the promised ice cream scoop or any sweetness.
Besides the Mysore Masala Dosa that we had, Chennai serves other varieties of Dosa including Onion Dosa, Paneer Masala Dosa, Rawa Masala Dosa and Paneer Mushroom Dosa as well as Uttapams with different toppings.
To attract a diverse clientele, Chennai also serves a variety of North Indian curries and bread items. Chennai's menu lists North Indian curries like Sarso Ka Saag, Alu Dum Kashmiri, Cabbage Tadka, Vegetable Tikka Masala and Aloo Shimlamirch.
Below Par ServiceLike at most Indian restaurants, service at Chennai was quite bad.
At first, upon glancing at our order our waiter (hailing from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh) firmly discouraged us from ordering Idli stating that it 'd be more than we could eat. We decided to go by his suggestion. Strangely enough, our waiter was back a few minutes later asking us whether he could get us the Idlis also. What made our waiter change his mind - since he provided no explanation, we've no clue.
When we started to order desserts around 3:05 PM, our waiter told us that the kitchen was already closed and that we wouldn't get any desserts. We thought it was downright sloppy on the part of the restaurant. After all, we'd entered the place about 2:15PM, 45 minutes before closing time.
Many restaurants we've been to are courteous enough to inform us around the kitchen's closing time so that we get to order our last items. But the clueless bozos at Chennai never bothered.