Category Archives: Food

Eating With the Small Bees

Délicieux! Magnifique! Je ne vais certainement revenir à cet endroit encore une fois et pas seulement à cause de la classe !

In case any of you are confused it means : Delicious ! Magnificent! I am definitely going back to that place again, and not just because of class!

If you want a scrumptious breakfast that leaves you wanting more, then Petite Abeille is where to go. Located on 401 East 20th Street this restaurant, even though it is small in size, carries a big punch.

I Love You Jon Stewart!!!

On the outside of the restaurant they have seating. This served me well since I sat there waiting for Sabrina and Ashley, also on assignment with me, to arrive. Even though it was somewhat warm, when you are sitting in one spot with the wind blowing, reading Jon Stewart’s book “Earth: The Book”, it gets pretty cold.

After they finally arrived, and apologized, we went in; but before we went in I noticed the big blue A staring at me through the window. I have to say seeing that made it a lot easier to eat there. If it would have been lower than a B I would not have eaten and instead watched them eat.

Made Me Feel A lot Better About Going In

We entered and a waiter showed us to our seats. As we sat there I kept asking Ashley what certain items were; she’s the foodie of the group.  I ordered a croissant ($3.00), a Gaufre de Liège waffle ($4.00), and hot Belgian chocolate ($4.00).

The waiter was kind enough to put the croissant and waffle on different plates because I don’t like my food touching.

When the croissant came it was so soft, flaky, warm and awesome. Biting into it felt like my whole mouth was skipping through a soft fluffy cloud. I ate all of it.

On Cloud Nine!!!

The waffle was sweet inside which was ok with me. Just to think I was about to ask for syrup! Every one of its square shaped craters tasted as if filled with Aunt Jemima every time I chewed.

Next Time I Will Ask For Milk

The greatest part of the breakfast was the delicious, scrumptious, lip smacking, tasty Belgian hot chocolate. Take Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream and heat it up until it is fully liquefied and you get that amazing chocolate. As soon as I took my first sip of the chocolate I was in a chocolate trance. My biggest disappointment as far as the breakfast goes happened when I finished my hot chocolate. If it wasn’t for my nutritionist I would’ve ordered at least another.

YUM Is An Understatement!!!

However, I must say that they do breakfast better than lunch. First, my lunch and those of my colleges took what felt like forever to arrive. When it finally did it was not worth the wait.

The Petite Abeille Burger ($13.50), a 9 oz. burger that comes with fries, is made with BLT with cheddar on a brioche bun and their special sauce. Since I don’t like anything that remotely seems healthy I specifically asked that there be no L or T or any other veggie on my plate.

Not Happy 🙁

The burger, stated as Black Angus ground in house, tasted great. Think of a hot summer day where you are in the park having a BBQ and you watch that hot juicy burger being cooked over the coals and then you eat it. On the other hand I couldn’t fully enjoy it because even though I asked for no veggies there was a curl of purple onion on my bread. Safe to say I didn’t eat the bread.  Also my food was touching which I didn’t like!

The fries were blah. I could’ve taken McDonald’s French fries dipped them in water and they would have tasted better.

Add to that that my experienced was rushed because I had to make it to class on time. All in all there is a HUGE chance I will go back again for breakfast, lunch not so much.

The Group

The Group

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Blending the ingredients for a career as a pastry chef

Segufta Amin neatly slices a strawberry to make a simple smoothie.

Carefully selecting the right knife to delicately slice the ripe strawberries she picked up at the supermarket earlier that day, Segufta Amin brings the blade to the chopping board with a gentle and knowing touch. Preparing a simple smoothie, she quickly drops the slices into a blender, adds a handful of fresh blueberries and spoonfuls of sugar she doesn’t quite measure in order to concoct the sweet beverage. While my cousin may not look like the pros on the Food Network, she definitely knows what she’s doing. And it’s exactly what she has set out to do with her life: cook.

Growing up helping her mom prepare Bengali meals for the Muslim holidays, Amin discovered a passion for cooking early in her childhood and decided to make it her life’s career.

“When it came time in high school, when they ask you that question, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ I couldn’t find any answer that made me happy except cooking,” Amin said.

To that end, the 19 year old is currently completing her Associates degree in Baking and Pastry at Monroe College’s School of Hospitality Management & the Culinary Arts, for a $25,000 education.  Under scholarship and financial aid, the aspiring chef feels fortunate to scrape by.

However, feeling that she was embarking on an expensive career with an uncertain future, Amin’s parents were not immediately supportive of her ambitions. But they’re increasingly warming up to it.

“I want that she does whatever makes her happy and I wish her success,” her mom, Gulshan Amin, said.

Nevertheless, Amin understands her parents’ concerns. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pastry chef’s annual income is only about $21,000.

“Parents want you to have a stable future. They want you to have a career where they know you can always support yourself, that you can do fine on your own, when I guess, they’re thinking about the times that they’re not gonna be there,” she explains.

To both alleviate their worries and realize her dream to one day run her own restaurant, Amin is aiming for a Bachelors Degree in Hospitality Management after graduation this month. Business knowledge from this degree is a key ingredient to realizing her dreams of opening an eclectic “bar slash restaurant, just a very relaxed place with really good music and really good food.” But experience in the real world of the food industry is another.

A recent stint as a baking intern at Tribeca Treats, where she prepared cakes and frostings and sometimes decorated the goods, provided that experience. Amin says the internship allowed her to apply her education outside the classroom and see the business side of the kitchen.

“I learned a lot more about supply and demand because they would do things differently for special holidays. They would make things in advance, and they had a good gist of everything they needed.”

She exhibits that notion in her own recipes now. Her culinary arts professor Margaret Wong describes Amin to have ”that dreamy like quality about her [though] she is more comfortable and requires less supervision when executing a recipe,” than when she first started.

Amin's homemade almond tart.

Taking a bite out of a freshly baked almond pear tart she later prepares for me, I experience the labor of that execution. Made out of almond frangipane, topped with poached pears and almonds and brushed with apricot jam, it took her an hour to poach the pears alone, and another to prepare the tart dough and frangipane.

The crunchy pie crust crumbled on my lips, meeting with a contrast from the both creamy and nutty frangipane, while the soft pears melted in my mouth. The tart delivered a sweet burst of flavors from varying textures, especially with the tart glaze on top. The desert’s only flaw was that the dough could’ve been a baked through a bit more; it was a tad soft. Though the tart was scrumptious, I can tell that the young culinary student is still learning how to perfect the recipe to her career.

Likewise, Amin says she wants to train more, especially in high end cake decorating, sugar decorations, “and the stuff that it takes the real masters to do.”

Chef Wong seconds that, for “the culinary/pastry field is very competitive and can be very rough. Segufta will need to constantly push herself in the field of pastry,” she says.

“I think I have a lot more to learn,” Amin agrees, “I really enjoy that learning, it’s gonna take hard work to get to where I want but I’m willing to do it.”

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Barbecue HAM!

“Can we eat outside?” were the first words out of my mouth as soon as I encountered the hostess at Blue Smoke, that unseasonably warm Friday afternoon. It was near 70 degrees, and I couldn’t even fathom stuffing my face with barbecue food let alone having to do it inside the dimly lit restaurant. “I’m sorry, but the outside dining area is only open after five thirty,” the hostess explained. Of course it is, I thought.

Joe and I ready to eat!

Chris and Laura posing before the meal

The hostess led my group and I to a spacious booth with a great view of the outdoors, where we would not be dining. The restaurant was dimly lit, with a large bar running from the front door all the way to the back of the restaurant, where a couple early drinkers were already mingling. The bar was lined with bottles of wine all the way to the ceiling, despite the generous amounts of taps lining the wooden bar top. The waitress was very knowledgeable in helping us select beers to go with our meals, although our underage group member (who shall remain nameless) stuck to a soda.


Since Blue Smoke is a barbecue spot, (verified by the huge neon BARBECUE sign posted out front) I decided to be traditional and order the baby back ribs, which the waitress raved about. Now, I can’t vouch for my barbecue tasting skills, but when I took my first bite of those delicious looking hunks of meat, I was sorely disappointed. I had to stop mid-chew and decipher what in fact I was feeling. The ribs were dry and pretty tasteless, especially for a restaurant that boasted to have the best barbecue in New York City! Not quite.

I made sure all my group members tried to ribs to make sure I wasn’t just having an off day with my taste buds, but they all agreed with me. The ribs were a disappointment. I ended up letting Joe finish them up, which he gladly did, after slathering them in a baptism of barbecue sauce.

don't be deceived.. NOT as good as it looks.

There is one redeeming factor in any movie with a sucky lead: a great supporting cast. And I definitely picked the best supporting cast! The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food on the table by far. I swear when I had my first taste, I almost cried in happiness. Finally, I wanted to scream, someone has done macaroni and cheese justice! There was no wateriness, it wasn’t too crunchy, it was absolute perfection. Heaven smothered in cheese.

really excited about the food!

What’s a good meal without an even more amazing dessert? Luckily at Blue Smoke they have an amazing dessert platter, which allows you to sample their apple fritters, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate layer cake, and their key lime pie. I was mostly indifferent about most of these desserts; I’ve seen them done before, and usually better. The apple fritters however, was amazing. it was topped with a cinnamon ice cream and was just the right balance or tart and sweet to top off the beginning of my impending food coma.


Blue Smoke may boast the best “barbecue” in New York City, but if you ask me they should stick to sides, dessert, and drinks and leave the grilling to someone else.

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Baluchi’s is meat lover friendly

Normally I don’t eat at Indian restaurants. It isn’t because I’m a picky person or anything like that, it’s just because I usually don’t eat very often. I eat Latino food at home and if I do buy anything outside, it’s usually fast food from a local pizzeria or food cart. So when I arrived at Baluchi’s to dine with a group of students from class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know that Indian food is spicy but that isn’t a problem to me at all. As for what I had to expect in terms of taste and texture, I had no clue.

Small, quaint with Indian décor, Baluchi’s certainly sets the tone, making you feel as if you traveled to the east though I was a little disappointed there was no Indian music playing. Well there wasn’t any music at all for that matter. Another disappointment came when I tried to order Tandoori Quail. Too often, I find that restaurants advertise an exotic meat on their menu and when you try to order it, it turns out they don’t have it. That’s what happened at Baluchi’s, when I went there. To be honest, I’m not going to fault them for it; I don’t think many New Yorkers regularly enjoy quail to begin with. I just make it a point to order the most exotic looking meal on the menu of any restaurant I go to, just to see if they actually have it. Usually they don’t. Noticing my disappointment, the waiter suggested another meal I might like. He suggested to me, the Combination Platter for my entrée.

The appetizer arrived quickly. I had ordered Boti Kebab which is a cube of lamb marinated, cooked in a clay oven. Sounds tasty, yes? Indeed it was. Often, the lamb I eat comes from street vendors and has a warm, bold flavor and a texture that varies from spongy to gritty. This is where Baluchi’s threw me off. The Boti felt like chicken. Though it was not some dry poultry but rather a meat overflowing with the warm and bold flavor I had expected along with a pleasant mild spiciness that won’t have your tongue causing house fires. The brown meat holds itself together well and requires some chewing before it goes down, each clamp of the jaw releasing saliva producing agents upon your tongue. Also there was a lemon, tomatoes, cucumbers and some kind of herb to go along with it. The plants weren’t bad but average; nothing special. That was just the appetizer.

Next, it was time to feast upon the friendly waiter’s suggestion. Despite the fact that I was the last person to join the table and thus the last person to order, I surprisingly was the first one to receive his entrée. I liked that but did find it a bit strange until I saw the difference between my meal and the meals of my classmates. They had ordered food that was mostly non-meat. Now, I assume the waiter based his suggestion on my size and the enormous amount of masculinity I exude. I say this because as one of my fellow classmates pointed out to me when my plate landed on the table, it was just mainly meat. The combination platter is a large assortment of lamb, chicken and salmon. No rice, few vegetables, no herbivores allowed. Fortunately for my waiter, he was right on his assumption of me. Baluchi’s cooked animals do not disappoint. This lamb was prepared in a different style from my appetizer lamb. It was slightly sausage like in appearance with the soft, spongy texture I had expected earlier. The taste brought me back to familiar places. The fish, hot pink on the outside, was so tender; I had difficulty picking it up with my fork, it would fall to pieces. Once in my mouth, it unleashed bursts of tangy, salty goodness that tickles the tip of the tongue. The chicken filled up an impressive portion of the meal. A pretty shade of pink on the outside with a brilliant glowing white inside, the chicken doesn’t stand out much in terms of taste. It isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but it just doesn’t “wow” you. It tastes like chicken marinated with Indian spices. If you don’t know what to make of my vague description of it just keep this in mind: it’s satisfying but not exciting.

As I launched my meal into the event horizon of my mouth, I remembered something. I remembered that I was eating during Baluchi’s lunch special hours and that the entire meal is half off. Considering the quality of the meat that’s brought to the table, it’s incredible that you could spend just as much money on a single fulfilling entrée there as you would at McDonald’s which offers significantly lower quality food. This alone makes Baluchi’s worth visiting at least once. Other than price value, the food itself is great, at least on the carnivorous side of the menu.

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A Cloudy Review for Blue Smoke

Frantically pacing down Park Avenue, I was on a mission. I turned the corner and got to 27th street and before I could even pull out my Blackberry for the directions, I knew I had found it. That neon blue “Barbecue” sign hanging off of the building was like a north star leading me to barbecue heaven, or in other words Blue Smoke.

Upon entering the dimly lit fairly spacious restaurant, the overwhelming floor to ceiling windows allow natural light to flow into the restaurant and you are hit with a sudden sense of southern hospitality mixed with a modern metropolitan aura. The bar itself takes up half of the restaurant, with the entire back wall filled with bottles. Their alcohol selection is one of the largest, to the point where it takes up three pages on the menu, while their food options only take up one.

The Blue Smoke Burger (11.95), though simply named, could be a contender for one of the best burgers in the city. It is relatively small but makes up for it through its height. The moist and juicy beef patty, which is perfectly seasoned, is almost as good as the fresh ingredients that come with it. One bite and it leaves your taste buds mesmerized.

Their side dishes are rather impressive and could even be considered meals of their own. The French fries were the perfect balance of crispy and salty while their creamed spinach literally melts in your mouth. What really won my heart was the baked mac and cheese (7.95). Served in a deep dish, it was like a bowl of thick, delicious, melted cheese drenching the macaroni noodles.

The Kansas City Spare Ribs [half rack) 14.95(full rack) 24.95] were another story. “Big, juicy, spicy and sweet, slathered with our KC Sauce” makes them sound utterly delectable on the menu, but in real life they were quite a disappointment. The texture of the ribs was almost rubbery and made it more of a hassle to eat them rather than a pleasure. The specially advertised KC sauce was barely on the ribs at all. Luckily, they keep a variety of extra sauces on the table.

The dessert varied. Some of the amazing types were the apple crisp and the banana cream pie. The apple crisp consisted of glazed baked apples, crispy crust and topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. The banana cream pie tasted incredibly fresh with banana slices and whip cream. Yet, the chocolate mousse cake was dry and grainy tasting and the key lime pie tasted too tart.

All in all if you crave a chill jazz scene with good foods and good friends, Blue Smoke is highly recommended, but ironically enough, don’t count on their barbecue.

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Save Yourself the Money, Get Take-out and Eat Under a Blacklight

I consider Japanese food a safe bet. White rice, teriyaki meat, a couple of hand rolls and miso soup; what could really mess with that? I didn’t outwardly challenge the staff of Amber Gramercy to answer that question for me, but they gave it their best shot anyway.

If you're not cool with large religious icons watching you eat, may not be the spot for you.

My group-mate David made a reservation with the seemingly chic and highly praised restaurant a week ahead of time, apparently not early enough to guarantee a table for our group of five anywhere but next to the drafty windows and conveniently behind the only entrance, where David and I would have to lean in and suck in our guts each time a new diner needed to walk through the door. Naturally, we requested a new table and were brought up to the dining room the website had promised us, a cramped but large loft illuminated only by some red spotlights on the brick walls and on the enormous Buddhist statue in the center of the back wall.

David and Teresa sharing my confusion over prices and gramatical errors.

I strained my eyes and my wallet looking through the menu and found a few dishes that wouldn’t leave me without bus fare for the ride home. I was too hungry by the time my chicken teriyaki with steamed vegetables and salmon avocado roll arrived to notice that my miso soup, traditionally served as an appetizer, never made its way to the table. It did hit me, however, after a few minutes of sloppy chopstick maneuvering of the rubbery chicken on my part. Over the not-so-soothing sounds of Kenny G that were blaring from the overhead speakers, I could hear one of my group-mates notify the waitress who had finally stopped avoiding us long enough to hear our complaint.

Yeah, I was also too hungry to wait to eat until after the photo.

“Oh, do you still want your soups and salads?” she asked, practically willing us to decline.

Really? Nah, that’s fine. You just keep that money, clearly our immediate questioning on the student discount made us seem like we had the extra cash to throw around for nothing. No, I didn’t say it, and I couldn’t really hear myself think it, either.

Just when our patience and time were beginning to run out, our miso soup dessert arrived. At least, I’m told it was miso. My tunnel vision in the dark dining room could easily have caused me not to notice the waitress scoop my bowl into the tiny koi pond and plop the lukewarm water on the table in front of me, but I’ll keep assuring myself that that wasn’t the case.

I offered up my credit card to cover the bill and took my group-mates’ shares in hopes of ending the experience before I realized anything else was missing from it. I gladly accepted the 10% student discount and darted for the door, the light, and some air that didn’t carry screeching clarinet tunes to my poor ears.

Oh yea, the vegetables were good.

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Baluchi’s– Half Good, Half Bad at Half Price

Baruch students rarely find themselves on 3rd Avenue, unless they’re grabbing a drink at Fitzgerald’s, but next time you’re down to your last $10, you might want to consider skipping happy hour and heading across the street to Baluchi’s. The small Indian restaurant serves its entire menu at a 50% discount from 12pm to 3pm.

Taj Mahal or Dollar Tree?

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a classy Indian setting, Baluchi’s might not be the place for you. The half price discounts are well paired with the tacky ceiling lamps, which I imagine were bought at half price as well. If you try not to get distracted by the lamps, you can actually focus on the menu. With two categories for appetizers (Regular and Vegetarian) and five categories for entrees (Chicken, Lamb and Goat, Seafood, Vegetarian and Tandoori), there’s something for everyone.

The Samosas sport halos to prove they're heavenly!

Personally, the Samosas ($6.95), were my favorite thing on the menu. The appetizer comes with two fried dumplings filled with peas, chick peas and potatoes. It was a perfect mixture of doughy and crunchy, but I’m also partial to anything that’s fried.

Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Naan and Rice

I wasn’t quite as taken by the entrées. I was split between one I liked and one I hated, but I’ll start with the good news first. The Chicken Tikka Masala ($15.95) was excellent served in a tomato and cream sauce. It wasn’t too spicy, but provided just enough kick to tantalize my taste buds. The sauce doubled as a dip for the Garlic Naan I ordered on the side, which is fluffy bread seasoned with garlic. The only thing that didn’t thrill me about the dish was its size. It was considerably small compared to the entrée sizes of other Indian restaurants I’ve been to. It also didn’t come with rice, which I assumed was a given, and I had to order rice separately.


Now for the bad news. The Goan Shrimp Curry ($15.95) was a disappointment. The menu describes the dish as “cooked with sautéed onions, lime juice, spices and fresh coconut milk”. With all those exquisite ingredients, I was shocked that I couldn’t taste a single one. I’m sure there will eventually be a word to describe food that tastes like Styrofoam, but for now I’ll use the term bland. I found myself doing a lot less savoring and a lot more swallowing to get through the dish and on to dessert.


I wish I could say dessert saved the day, but alas, I was disappointed once more. The Rasmalai ($4.95) was another dish that looked great on the menu, but didn’t translate well from paper to plate. It consisted of two soft cheese patties, which were poached in a condensed milk sauce. The patties were completely flavorless and cold. In fact, the only thing I could taste was the condensed milk sauce, which was basically milk with sugar.

When the check came, I found that with the discount, I paid about $10 for a three course meal. For lunch, I’d say it was a good deal and I might go back for the Samosas and Chicken Tikka Masala, but I definitely wouldn’t go back for dinner and pay full price. $15.95 is way too pricey for entrées that tiny.

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Amber is Exactly Why You Should Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover.

There’s several things I have come to expect at any Japanese restaurant I have the pleasure of dining at — slightly tangy miso soup, succulent sushi, and, most importantly, attentive service. At Amber, I got none out of the three.

Amber, located on 27th and 3rd, appears promising at first — seemingly two stories tall, with a bar that takes up the vast majority of the first floor, and cozy but cramped seating on the second. Even the website seems high-end: entirely in Flash, it boasts features like an online menu and online ordering, while rotating HD quality pictures of the decor and various meals that get me salivating.

However, my awe ends there.

The coupons on the website date back to last year — which would’ve been excusable (hey, maybe they just haven’t gotten around to updating?), but for being placed so prominently at the top of the page, it’s a mistake that’s difficult to overlook. The “About Us” page was full of typos, and the reviews from Yelp and MenuPages (which they also feature prominently on the site) are mixed at best. Not impressed, but I still decided to give this place a shot. It just looked so good in pictures.

As me and my group entered the restaurant (with a reservation made a week prior), the hostess took no time to seat us — right in front of the door, which would force one of us to constantly have to get up and move his chair with every person that chose to enter or exit the restaurant. We complained, and were then seated to a much more comfortable booth upstairs that would’ve been infinitely more uncomfortable if the restaurant was even slightly more packed. The music, which transitioned from Japanese elevator melodies to Katy Perry, did little to spice up the atmosphere. Frankly, given the options, I’d rather eat in silence.

The menu was fairly extensive, boasting dishes that weren’t exclusive to Japan, like pineapple fried rice, pad thai, and Indian pan friend noodles (all $7 on the lunch menu). The sushi menu was average, with classic favorites like California Roll and Shrimp Tempura ($9 on the lunch menu) but was far too expensive for the unnaturally small size and the mediocre taste of the roll. Unlike a vast majority of other Japanese cuisine I’ve come to sample, the rolls were not presented with a flower or some sort of food art alongside the plate — rather, they were placed on a glass plate as unceremoniously as the food I put in my cat’s dish.

Not impressed.

While until then, I could give Amber a mediocre rating at best, what really drove me wild was the service (or rather, lack thereof), at this excuse for an overpriced Japanese restaurant. We had to wait a good ten to fifteen minutes for our water glasses to be refilled, and only at our constant prodding of the waitress. Also, she completely forgot about the group’s miso soups — which would’ve been excusable if the soup didn’t taste like boiled water sitting at room temperature for the last hour. We weren’t asked on our enjoyment of the meal, or if we’d like any dessert; the only time we were treated with any enthusiasm was when we received the check.

Overall, Amber is most definitely a restaurant that deserves to be overlooked, especially with hundreds of far more worthy Japanese restaurants in close proximity to Baruch College and at a much more reasonable prices with infinitely better service. All in all, two very disappointed thumbs down for this hot mess.

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Pongal, A Doughy Harvest In Need Of Spices

There are two things that I associate with Indian restaurants: An enchanting smell of spices and an overly eager host practically forcing me to eat at his restaurant. At Pongal, there were hints of both.

Despite its broad lunch menu, Pongal at noon was an empty sight...

Pongal, one of the many Indian restaurants along Lexington Avenue between 24th and 30th street is known for its all vegetarian and kosher menu. The name refers to the harvest fest, which in South India is celebrated along with the withdrawal of the southeast monsoons. But at this Pongal, a South Indian party felt far, far away.

Pongal does have the potential to be a cozy dinner place. The stylish décor and mostly mellow Indian music, combined with the dimmed lighting, is definitely an environment that could feel good on a dark chilly evening. But at noon on a bright sunny day, the quiet and dim surrounding felt more awkward.

The good thing with Pongal is its broad menu of lunch specials. For less than 8 dollars you can get one of their many Thali’s, which are like sampling platters of many different dishes. Besides the more traditional Indian dishes of curries and vegetable-stews served with rice ($9.95), the restaurant also offers a large variety of South Indian specialties, Dosa’s and Utthappam’s ($8.45-9.45). Made of the same lentil and flour-based dough, Dosa’s are thin crepes while Uttahppam are thicker pancakes. These two are then filled or topped with a variety of vegetables.

Overwhelmed by the different Thali’s with dishes that you never heard of, I decided to ask the waiter for some help. I got a quick explanation of some of the dishes, but more than this, I was told what I should order. When I decided to go for the Mini Thali ($6.95), the waiter shaked his head. He persisted to explain why the one-dollar more expensive Pongal Thali, was the right choice for me. The part that bothered me in this act was not the price difference, but why I was refused to order an almost identical dish, but with one less item. I accept the fact that Indian’s like to talk you over to get you into their restaurant, but when it comes to my food, I want to order for myself.

Pongal Thali, a Dough-Trio

The food itself did go in line with the overall ambiance of Pongal – a good try but not quite there. The first thing that crossed my mind when the Pongal Thali ($7.95) was placed in front of me was that it just looked like a big mix of differently shaped dough. And as it turned out, this was exactly what it was.

The Medu Vada, a fried doughnut, was quite tasty for the first few bites, but became boring in lack of spices other then the fried oil. Then there was the Idly, a total opposite, shaped like a white “cake” of dough that looked and tasted more like stale infant porridge.  The highlight of the dish was the Dosa filled with potato and onions. It had a good bite to it, crisp and warm just like you expect a crêpe to be. The filling of potato and onion was OK, but lacked flavor. And with all the dough-y items in front of me, I could not help missing vegetables to lighten up the meal. The three sauces that came with the Thali did not either bring that Indian-kick that my taste buds kept longing for. I was left with one big question – where were the spices?

Being one of my favorite Indian dishes, I had big hopes for the Palak Paneer, cottage cheese cubes in a creamy spinach sauce ($9.95). But again, my excitement did not last. The color itself was already revealing it’s taste – instead of a fresh green color it looked more like pure cream. The cheese was good and not too soft, but combined with the overly creamy base, the dish became hard to enjoy. The brightest moment at this harvest fest was definitely the “Mango Lassi” ($4.45). This rich yogurt drink had the perfect amount of sweetness, and a smooth cooling texture. But after all that dough, I only wished it had came in a take away cup…

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Baluchi’s, Not Worth Your Time

It is early afternoon at Baluchi’s, but the hanging lamps, masked by multi-colored shades of reds, greens, yellows, and blues, are turned on regardless, casting a radiant, warm glow on its tables and walls. Indian cuisine is hardly the first thing that comes to mind, with a name like Baluchi’s, but the restaurant serves authentic Indian fare.

For college students, eating out, especially in Manhattan, is never an activity that can be indulged in too frequently— but at Baluchi’s, worry no more. From 12 to 3 p.m. on weekdays, so long as it isn’t combined with the Thali lunch special or any other special offers, the restaurant takes a 50 percent off discount on just about everything else that is on its menu.

Baluchi’s has 12 locations, ranging from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to East Village to Queens. Clearly, the restaurant has done something right for it to thrive like it has in New York City, a hub for diverse ethnic cuisines. But whether that something is actually its food is up for debate.

For the price of $6.95, without the lunch discount, customers receive a plate of two samosas, which are vegetarian appetizers whose filling consists of potato, peas, and chickpeas. The samosas, though deep-fried, were much too greasy to sit well with my stomach. Even the scattered mix of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and onions that lay at the side of the samosas was a disappointment. On the whole, the appetizer left me with the impression that everything had been thrown down carelessly onto the plate, without any thought on the overall presentation and the restaurant’s customers.

Strangely, the entrees, forgettable and less than spectacular, did not include rice, which is usually, at least to my knowledge, also considered to be free-of-charge in other Indian restaurants like Delhi Heights in Queens.


Both Bhartha, a vegetarian entrée that consists of fire-roasted eggplants cooked with onions and peas, and Kerala Boatman’s Crab Curry, a supposedly spicy seafood entrée, seemed promising at first glance. In the end, however, both failed to excite my taste buds. To tell you the truth, I don’t even think I could really taste an immense difference between the two.

I think the only reason I would go back here is for its lunch discount and its close proximity to Baruch.

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