Pongal NYC Review
Pongal NYC1154 1st Ave
(Btwn 63rd & 64th St)
New York, NY 10021
Pongal NYC Review: Awful Coffee; Lousy Food; So-So ServiceOur recent lunch at the vegetarian restaurant Pongal (the 1st Ave location) in New York City began on an inauspicious note.
Hailing from the southern part of India, we have a longstanding weakness for Madras Coffee and the sight of it on a menu card brings on a Pavlovian salivation. So we decided to indulge in Pongal's Madras Coffee before embarking on our meal proper.
One sip was all it took for us to realize that Pongal makes one of the worst Madras Coffees in Manhattan. A beverage so pitiful that it left us in a sputtering rage.
It takes a really pathetic Indian kitchen to dish out Madras Coffee this bad. Our Coffee lacked any flavor of the beverage let alone that of the finely aromatic Madras Coffee - the problem was that it contained far too much milk and too little coffee decoction.
Our spirits flagging, we gloomily launched into our meal.
Pongal the restaurant is named after a popular harvest festival in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Pongal is also the name of a rice dish served in sweet and spicy versions during the festival.
During our recent visit to this Upper East Side Manhattan vegetarian Indian restaurant, we covered considerable territory. We sampled a variety of dishes including such South Indian staples as Idli, Medhu Vada, Masala Dosa, Poori, Sweet Pongal, Spicy Pongal and the usual accompaniments like Sambar, Chutney and Raita that come with these dishes.
Sweet Pongal lacked both sweetness and flavor. Just a mound of hot rice cooked with lentil and insufficient jaggery, it lacked the cashew nuts, raisins and cardamom powder that are essential ingredients of Sweet Pongal.
If the bozos at Pongal can't even cook a good bowl of Pongal or make a decent cup of coffee, what in the heck are they capable of?
Although mildly spiced with pepper seeds, the spicy Pongal turned out to be tasty. The drumstick sambar served with the Pongal was hot, reasonably thick and rightly spiced leaving us hankering for more.
But the Chutney that came with the spicy Pongal was a travesty. Cold and bland, it was - forget palatable - virtually inedibile.
To serve such a pitiful parody of the Chutney with the Pongal Special ($10.95), the costliest dish at this restaurant, shows utter contempt for diners coming to the restaurant in hopes of a good meal.
What's wrong with these lazy Indian chefs? Most of them serve stale, cold, bland Chutney these days that's far from fresh.
Masala Dosa was crisp and had fresh potato curry filling. Unlike many Indian restaurants serving Dosas in New York and New Jersey, Pongal treats the potato filling in the Dosa with respect. Not just as a lump of mashed potatoes. Our potato filling was tasty and did not have the stale smell and bland taste unlike at Sukhadia's in mid-town Manhattan.
But what spoiled our enjoyment of the Pongal Masala Dosa was that disgusting Chutney again.
Idli and Medhu Vada were all right but did not rise above the ordinary. That hideous coconut chutney made us see red again.
Poori Masala ($5.95) came with two large Pooris and a cup of potato curry (the same filling that goes into the Masala Dosa). Pooris were too thick and less than satisfying.
Our dessert choice Badam Halwa (Indian almond fudge flavored with Saffron) proved to be a disappointment too. Besides lacking the almond flavor, it had a half-cooked texture and tasted more like Kesaribath (also known as Rava Sheera). You might as well take $5.45 (cost of the Badam Halwa) and throw it in the street.
When we asked our Pongal waiter Nelson, a young Sri Lankan fellow and resident of Queen's here, whether Internet access was available at the restaurant, the friendly soul quickly admitted that he piggybacks on the unsecured WiFi Internet connections in the area since his employer has a password-protected service. While he was eager to help us out with our Internet connection, he did not seem particularly knowledgeable about his restaurant.
Asked for his recommendation from the menu, Nelson looked surprised at the question and mumbled "everything is good." Not much help for diners seeking help in navigating the 110 items listed on the menu.
Like us, if you crave real South Indian cuisine, head for Jersey City. Ganesh Dosa House on Newark Avenue offers real Madras Coffee and a wide choice of South Indian fare including 68 types of Dosas and 20 types of Uttappam (a kind of Dosa).
With Pongal proving to be such a bad experience, it's going to be quite a while before we can muster the fortitude to visit this restaurant again.- © NYIndia.us