Monthly Archives: October 2012

Welcome to Tulsi!!

This past Saturday I was invited to a private party at a new Indian restaurant in Manhattan called Tulsi.  It is the concept of Chef/Owner Hemant Mathur, formerly of Devi which he co-owned with Suvir Saran, also in NYC.  We had the whole restaurant to ourselves for the night and what a wonderful evening it was!
Tulsi is a holy basil found in the entry ways to many Indian homes in India as a welcome sign.  It is similar to Thai basil used in cooking.  True to its name the restaurant is welcoming and warm.  The staff was cordial and friendly and the service impeccable throughout the evening.  One only needed to mention that he/she needed something and the alert wait staff was ready to deliver. 
First order of business upon arrival was to get a taste of their signature cocktail for the evening – the Indian Summer – a concoction made from Rangpur gin, lime juice and lychee.  I noticed that no one else had a drink in their hand when I arrived and yet somehow I was steered to the bar to try this drink.  And this after being labeled the “booze girl” earlier that afternoon at a charity event setup.  Hmmm! Wonder what that’s all about?  As you know I like anything with gin but I don’t like fruity or sweet.  This was good.   A little less lychee perhaps (though I swear my version had rose water and not lychee in it) would have been better, but the crowd loved it!!  Later versions had a much more pungent aroma of lychee which is quite unmistakable.  I opted to move onto my usual – wine.  The hosts had chosen some great options – Lemelson Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Gary Farrell Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley.  While I love my Pinot from Oregon, Gary Farrell was the clear winner in this one. 
So let’s get to the food at Tulsi.  If you’ve read my blog about Junoon (posted a few months ago), you know that I am always seeking good, quality, Indian restaurants and find them hard to come by.  The food at Tulsi was delicious!   It was different, inventive and tasty!  Appetizers passed around included Lamb Kebab with a mint chutney (the Indian kind), Crab Cakes with a spicy sauce, Manchurian Cauliflower, and a to-die-for spicy shrimp served on a little crispy cracker that had the distinct taste of celery seed.  Luckily the group I was hanging with was observing a religious holiday and on a vegetarian diet that day so I got to eat more than my share, though I did convince one of them to come over to the dark side pretty easily.   He follows this blog so you know who you are…
Dinner was served family style at each table and included  Chicken Curry, Halibut wrapped in a banana leaf, Baby Eggplant with bell pepper in a thick flavorful sauce, Malai  Kofta and Chef Mathur’s famous Tandoori Lamb Chops all served with some Naan and Basmati rice.  All of the dishes were excellent but my two standout favorites were the Halibut and the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Malai Kofta.
I am not a dessert person, but the ones served to us looked really good.  I walked away to get myself a glass of Glenmorangie, got caught up in a Scotch conversation at the bar, and when I came back my desserts had been devoured by a mysterious stranger.  Most likely one of my table mates not willing to admit to the crime.  Chef Mathur’s wife is the pastry chef for the restaurant and is trained in French pastry techniques which she artfully applies to traditional Indian desserts. 
So what makes this Indian restaurant or its food stand out over others?  For me it’s in the clear quality of ingredients used, the level of service offered, and the presentation of the food.  All of these “ingredients” show the pride taken by Mr. Mathur in the delivery of his restaurant and food to us.  One of the highlights of the evening for me was that I got to meet Chef Mathur whose rising career I have followed over the past several years since I ate at Bukhara in New Delhi.  Unlike some other famous chefs I have met in the past, he is a genuinely warm person who greeted me with an unpretentious Namaste and a great big smile instead of the usual handshake and dismissal.  He took an interest in my interest in food and invited me to come back to the restaurant for dinner.  He even gave me his card and asked that I send him the link to this blog when one of the hosts told him I wrote one.  And whether he actually reads it or not, he is a gracious gentleman – a lost breed. 
Overall we had a fabulous evening with the food as the highlight at a wonderful restaurant.  We ended the evening with a shot of Patron.  After all cheap tequila just wouldn’t do after an evening of amazing food.  I urge you to try this restaurant. I know I surely will be going back.  Let me know if you do and what you think of it.  I’ve heard their regular menu is an eclectic combination of unusual ingredients (for Indian food) and street food from around the country presented in an upscale way.  I will post an update after my return.
A special thanks to my hosts, Suneel Devgan (General Mgr at Tulsi), the awesome staff, and most especially Chef Hemant Mathur for a lovely evening to be remembered.

A Foodie goes to Brooklyn

Not too long ago, a friend of mine moved from the West Village to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn which is across the Williamsburg Bridge of course.  Since then I have visited a few places for food and drinks in this very up and coming neighborhood that is being revitalized and quickly becoming a high rent district.  Being a follower of this blog from time to time, he has been suggesting to me for quite some time to spend a day in Williamsburg and walk around to the various restaurants and bars that are cropping up everywhere so that I could write about his new “hood”.  So this past weekend, we did just that!
It was a beautiful, sunny, fall Sunday with that crisp, cool feel.  After a workout, a trip to the local farmer’s market and a few chores around the house, I got on the road fairly early and met my friend at his apartment.  We started out at Pies & Thighs (yup, that’s the name of the place) for brunch.  It’s a very small restaurant which specializes in Southern style breakfast items like chicken & waffles, biscuits and gravy, and grits.  They also bake some awesome looking pies on premises and I was told have great donuts.  I ordered the smoked pork hash and my friend had the fried chicken & waffles.  The food was really good.  I was glad I had not eaten anything in the morning.   The hash came with potatoes and two eggs, which I chose to have over easy, with a green salsa on the top.  The pork was tender and the combination of the salsa, runny yolks and meat was perfect.  I tried some of my friend’s waffles which were made of buckwheat flour and were really good.  He didn’t share any of the chicken so it must have been too good to part with.
After brunch we decided to walk toward the East River and work off some of the calories we had just consumed.  We ended up at the Brooklyn Flea market.  For the most part it was like any other flea market with people trying to sell their junk.  But I was surprised by the number of food vendors selling all kinds of tasty and interesting bites.  There was a truck selling lobster, another one selling tacos; there were stands with dosas, pizza, lemonade and ice cream.  There was even one stand that had porchetta which they were slicing to order.  We were glad we had just eaten else we would have likely eaten one of everything.  This is definitely a place I’d like to go back hungry someday though so that I can try the food.
Having had enough of the crowds, we exited the market and went to sit on a bench by the river to rest our feet.  As we sat there watching the passersby and debating whether we could swim across the East River, we watched a storm cloud approach overhead.  I’m not really sure why we didn’t opt to start for our next destination until the drops actually started but we didn’t.  Perhaps it was because we were both in lazy Sunday mode and didn’t feel like moving.  We decided to go find a sports bar to catch the Jets game which had started by then.   Running through the pouring rain we wound up at The Whiskey Brooklyn.  We sat at a table with a great view of the game and ordered their house draft beer in the dark style.  The only choices are dark and light and it’s the only beer on tap.  When asked where it was made, the waitress told us it was a secret and would not divulge any information.  The beer tasted like someone took Schlitz and added color to make it dark so we have now dubbed this the place with the “crappy secret beer”. The beer may have been bad but the Jets game was worse so we waited till the rain stopped and moved on to Banter, an Irish bar that was much quieter and had better beer.  The Jets game was looking pathetic by now with the 49ers winning 24 to zero.  So we drowned our sorrows in a glass of Corsendonk Dubbel on tap and turned our attention to the exciting ending of the Ryder Cup instead.  I never thought I would admit to watching golf and I’m not sure that it’s something I would watch on a regular basis but at this particular moment it was quite fun.  The Europeans sitting at a table nearby cheering on their team made the vibe a little more interesting I think.  For a second we thought about heading to a driving range but who were kidding in our lazy Sunday modes.  We opted for a another Dubbel instead.
We walked around more of the neighborhood as my friend pointed out some of the other interesting eateries along the way.  After some time went by we realized that it had been a while since we ate and we were starting to get hungry so we decided to head back toward his part of the neighborhood and find a place to eat.  We wound up at Rye.  He had eaten there before, and said the food is consistently good.  It’s a nice place inside with dark wood walls and a big bar. We sat at the bar not wanting to necessarily get a table.  As we perused the menu, my friend decided the place was too quiet for him on this night and wanted to try elsewhere.  Not wanting to be rude, we had a cocktail before leaving.  I had something called a Southside which was really delicious.  It was made with gin, cucumber and lime juice.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that gin is my drink of choice for cocktails.  We then headed for Walter Foods for dinner.
Walter Foods was much more lively and fun.  The menu looked good.  We asked our waiter to surprise us with an appetizer of his choice which ended up being a warm artichoke dip with toasts.  It was really good!  In fact it was the best artichoke dip I’ve ever had with big pieces of artichokes in it.  For my meal I ordered a seared Arctic Char served over sautéed mushrooms and roasted corn.  My friend was apparently having a fried chicken kind of day and ordered it again for dinner; this time served with mashed potatoes and a hot sweet honey glaze.  Both meals were excellent – my mushrooms and roasted corn particularly tasty. This time I got to taste the chicken which was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  The flavor from the honey glaze made it extra good.  I commented it was almost as good as mine so I then had to promise to make him my skinless version of fried chicken to compare tastes.
After dinner we started heading back toward my car when my friend spotted the neighborhood hangout, Clem’s, and decided we should have one more drink to end our day.  When we walked in we saw that the Giants game had started and ended up staying to watch.  It was a far more exciting one than the Jets game earlier in the day.  Despite a Giants loss to the Eagles, it was an exciting game to the very end.  Quite tired after a fun but relaxing day, we headed home. 

A view of Manhattan from Williamsburg – taken from rooftop bar at Wyeth Hotel

I’m looking forward to going back and trying a few more of the places we didn’t get to.  One can only eat and drink so much in a day.  And now I have a blogging buddy to drag along.  Other places I’ve been to in the area are the Brooklyn Brewery, Hotel Delmano (it’s not really a hotel), and the rooftop bar at the Wythe Hotel with its spectacular views of Manhattan.  So if you ever catch yourself just passing over the Williamsburg Bridge, why not take a detour into this wonderful neighborhood with little traffic, friendly bike paths and a whole new culture growing just on the other side of the East River!!


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