Daily Archives: October 24, 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.
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