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Category Archives: restaurant reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Hate high prices? Do you always feel like you over paid for food? Well empty your pockets and show Baluchi’s some money.
Food with spices from traditional & regional Indian cuisine can light up anyone’s taste buds. Baluchi’s, an Indian restaurant, combines both elegance and quality. Chandeliers of crimson and sapphire (exaggerating a bit) light up Baluchi’s, while the walls host several items that represent the Indian culture. While the restaurant passes the eye test, my wallet does not appreciate the price of admission to this miniature palace.
Baluchi’s has twelve locations throughout three boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. With ten locations within just Manhattan, it would be hard to find a difference between each restaurant. The Baluchi’s on 25th St. and 3rd Ave. is small but warm. The service is receptive even though one of waitresses may have got my order incorrectly if I ordered more than one entrée. The menu offers many choices such as Chicken Vindaloo, a spicy staple.
Tantalizing peppers, vinegar, and red Kashmir chilies make Vindaloo Curry. When one adds pure white meat chicken and potato with this spicy mixture, one creates Chicken Vindaloo. Compared to other Indian Restaurants, Baluchi’s Chicken Vindaloo is not very spicy. The chicken is great and the curry is thick enough to add more flavor into the meal. Even though it costs $13.95 do not expect a large portion. While it tastes very good, it cannot even fill the appetite of most people. Four chucks of chicken is not a meal!
Basmati rice and Nan are sold separately. Nan costs $2.95, which is ridiculous. You can not even get Pappad , Indian Nachos for free. For a meal that costs nearly two meals should have something on the side except water. If you’re sweating the prices then do not fret. Baluchi’s does offer a lunch special from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM. This lunch special offers a fifty percent discount on most items. This allows one bill into a new array of options.
As a person who actually likes soup, I was excited to try soup from an Indian Restaurant. I took the Chicken soup, which costs $5.95, and I was pleasantly surprised. This creamy blend of chicken and vegetables make a great blend. It could have been spicier but beggars can’t be choosers. Speaking of begging and choosing, I beg you to not get the Chicken Malai Kabab. It can be chosen either as an appetizer or as an entrée, which is priced at $8.95 and $14.95 respectively. In my opinion Chicken Malai Kabab is now the black sheep of Indian food. How can anything Indian be so tasteless? At least there was one cucumber and one tomato in the meal. I can not have rice but I can get a cucumber and a tomato. Oh did I mention there was a carrot too. This dish does not do justice to Baluchi’s. Baluchi’s is a good restaurant with a great selection of food. There are better Indian restaurants out there, but that does not mean Baluchi’s is a bad choice.
Keep your wallet close to your stomach.
Upon entering the restaurant, visitors are greeted by a large blue cow in the corner. Stringed lights adorn the ceiling, while worn bamboo-like place mats sit on the tables. The decor is low-key, but could use an update.
Named after the period in South India celebrating the end of monsoon season and the beginning of the harvest festival, Pongal attempts to mimic the harvest-like environment by serving up dishes from various parts of India with entrees such as Madras Thali ($7.95), Undhiyu ($9.95), and Malai Kofta ($9.95).
The Madras Thali is an assortment of seven portions of two types of rice, eggplant, spiced potatoes, soup, and two dipping sauces. A slightly greasy piece of poori bread and papad. The eggplant, which had an unexpected tanginess to it, and the potatoes were easily the most flavorful and memorable parts of the meal.
One of Pongal’s most impressive dishes are their dosais. The Masala dosai ($8.45) is a stunning wrap-like meal filled with potatoes and onions. Made from rice flour and lentils, the dough of the dosai is light and flaky, yet still satisfying. The mildly spicy sambar soup and coconut chutney are served alongside it. The dish would benefit from a bit more filling inside, but the excess can easily be used to dip inside of the soup or coconut chutney.
For dessert, subtly sweet badam halwa ($5.45) provides a nice balance to the spices of Pongal’s entree. With the look and consistency of apple sauce, the thick almond fudge is a filling addition to any meal.
The efforts of the waitstaff can be a little hit or miss. Sometimes slightly pushy and at others kind and patient, the one positive thing to mention is that the food is served very quickly.
Overall, Pongal is a decent dining experience, but lacks the necessary elements to make it stand out in an area saturated with similar cuisine.
The bulk of barbecue restaurants in New York City go through the fire of assessment by both seasoned and self-proclaimed food critics and turn to ashes in one’s mouth. For all that, Blue Smoke extinguishes that concept for the most part.
From the colossal blackboards that sky behind the counter being used for its display menu to the cornucopia of wood that all but blankets the rest of the interior, a neighborly aura is inferred the instant one steps inside the restaurant thanks to their choice of a cracker-barrel layout rather than imitating a commercial restaurant’s cheesy design.
Apart from the amicable ambience, timely service by the staff is provided along with joviality that just continues to reinforce one’s comfort as they await their food.
The look of the one’s order once it arrives and is placed on the table will as good as gouge out one’s inner gorger or create one. Listed under real-pit barbecue main courses is applewood-smoked organic chicken, and its price of $18.95 is too high to a moderate extent. Even so, its winsome shades of brown, induced by the apple wood, make it seem as if it is removed from the smoker right on time. Its smell is faint, yet its mild taste is awakening.
The mashed potatoes, topped with thin, crispy, bland onions, that come with the main course has a look and bite of softness that match the eater’s firm certainty that the flavor is not too saline at all.
Now, the meals will not degrade the experience, if your order does not hinge on assumption. Going into a barbecue restaurant, most would predict the ribs to be the jewel in the crown of the menu, but that surmise is flawed. The overpriced ribs have more bone than meat, and the bit of meat’s taste is as delectable as expired Wheaties without milk. Such circumstances can make one contemplate tossing the plate into to the gargantuan, metal bucket one is supposed to use to dispose the bones.
Be that as it may, while glancing at the crowd of fellow eaters that flock in during happy hour, it is apparent how toothsome the side of macaroni and cheese is. Short after the side is served onto a multitude of tables, multiple spoons dig into the dish at the same time.
Aside from the food, the Blue Smoke Original Ale (NY) embodies the intuition of authenticity that the restaurant gives off. Its price of $7.50 for a pint of that particular beer on tap is fitting. An ounce of their original ale swamps 40 ounces of the watery Brooklyn Pilsner (NY), which was one of the other beers on tap.
Charming service and homelike atmosphere assist the menu, minus the ribs, succeed in its attempt to have Blue Smoke rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the negative presumption of barbecue restaurants in New York City.
Why is it that a Belgian restaurant combined with the authenticity of an actual French menu and a team of heavy-accented French waiters makes one feel obligated to pull off the best French accent possible? “I’ll take the Gaufre Dame Blanche,” I said, almost pretentiously (I had a French midterm later that day, I was in the spirit). “Oui, Gaufre Dame Blanche?” the waiter said with perfection and a smile, annihilating any attempts of mine to copy his natural accent. Yet, outside of the menu and wait staff, a classic American essence filled the air through the setting—blue and white checkered tables and canary yellow walls give the allusion of your classic mom and pop picnic-styled diner.
Close to the East River is little Belgian restaurant Le Petite Abeille, literally The Little Bee, where the door serves as a portal into another land outside of New York, one that provides a home-style feel. Known for its selection of French wines and its Belgium waffles, the menu is nothing short of classic French dining. From les croques (ham and cheese sandwiches) to Omelette Parisienne (a Paris omelet), Le Petite Abeille provides an array of true French dishes that mostly fall under $20.
Of their specialties, the Belgium waffles seem the most appealing. During brunch, the waffles are on the regular menu, coming in eight possible variations, including plain.
Gaufre Aux Fraises ($8), or strawberry waffles, come heavenly prepared with a single Belgian waffle, loaded with fresh cut strawberries and a tower of whip cream, floating on a pool of strawberry sauce. Its preparation is far from any I’ve seen at my local IHOP, looking almost too perfect to touch. Almost.
The Gaufre Dame Blanche ($9), a Belgian waffle underneath an ice cream scoop with whipped cream and a side of chocolate sauce to pour over your waffle, is placed on the dessert menu during lunch and dinner. Yet, if you’re one of those folks that enjoy breakfast all day, this treat will serve as a good enough meal just like any other.
Both waffles live up to their looks in taste. The perfect crisp of the waffle combined with the sweet and delicious toppings prove these waffles to be ones to compete with and worth the nine bucks.
However, if you want maple syrup to come with this plate of beauty, then that will cost you an extra $4. Why? Their maple syrup is actually real maple. A choice of corn syrup is provided for free.
“Corn syrup?” I asked the waitress. “Wait, is that what we usually eat, thinking it’s maple syrup?”
“You’ve got it,” she said. “The truth is revealed.”
Beware your choices of syrup guys. We’ve been bamboozled.
Nonetheless, their waffles are specialty for a reason: they are without fault. Don’t worry, there are more strawberries and chocolate waffles to share at this little taste of Belgium.
There’s nothing like a nice sunny day, where fellow patrons can dine out with friends and families, letting the inner pig take hold as finger tips and dessert plates are licked clean. The beautiful stench of barbecue based herbs; spices and various sauces fill the air, captivating the senses of the entering customers of the Blue Smoke Restaurant.
Located on 116 East 27th street between Park and Lexington Avenue, Blue Smoke is hard to miss, with its large sign that reads, “BARBECUE,” vertically. Opening in 2002, Executive Chef/Partner Kenny Callaghan and Managing/Partner Mark Maynard-Parisi made the establishment a major Barbecue scene in New York City.
Taking the first steps in, the mind is taken on a wild adventure of seduction as the BBQ aroma dances through the nostrils. Continue and those steps become long exuberant and slightly infantile while making way toward a table to be served.
Near the entrance is a very large bar that holds some 42 different kinds of bourbon as well as wine and other alcoholic beverages. Booths and group tables fill the restaurant, but not to the point where there is cluster. The big red cushions on every seat or chair may come off loud and somewhat tacky, but sitting comfortably, allows some forgiveness.
Throughout the restaurant there is a wide display of various artworks, from mosaic-based pieces and metal crafted structures, to various photos that further animate the restaurant. Sitting in the back of Blue Smoke is where the full experiences can be grasped. Film-covered windows allow for a subtle amount of natural light to shine onto the tables rather than using bright light bulbs.
There is a very welcoming feeling as the host greets and the wait staff serves guest with heavy optimism in their facial expressions and conversations. “The waitress is so cheerful, it’s gross,” said a nearby customer after being served by one. While waiting, customers are entertained and their glasses are kept full.
The prices are fair for the various selections on the menu, and while the main course section may be lacking in variety it makes up for in quality. The Pulled Pork Sandwich, on a homemade Brioche Bun with Pickles and Sesame Slaw ($11.50) is filled with a barbecue zest. Though greasy, warranting questions on hitting the gym after, just one-bite into the succulent and spicy sandwich allows one slacking day.
The Texas Salt & Pepper Beef Ribs half rack ($15.95), with a side of sweet potato wedges was an unfortunate disappointment. The ribs have a nicely seasoned essence; however it doesn’t improve that it’s rather dry, tough and gristly. Adding Chipotle BBQ sauce helped the texture, but the mostly bone and fatty dish nonetheless was far from impressive. The sweet wedges fared better, despite how tiring they can get after a while, maybe the sweet sugary taste.
The dessert however, is always a delight, from the first bite to the last. The apple crisp, which is a personal favorite, consists of glazed baked apples, crispy crust and topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. The first try immediately reminded me of one the many mouth watering cupcakes of the Crumbs franchise, but not as sweet. The delectable dessert is well worth the packed gut and paining moans after a good meal.
On a sunny 55 degree afternoon, I found myself in front of Pongal, located on 110 Lexington Avenue, as I walked in, I felt like I have just left New York and entered India. The first thing I noticed was the dim lighting. What was supposed to be 12:30pm looked as though it was 8pm inside.
The waiter presented the menus, which offered more than 100 items, I sat in silence scanning the confusingly capacious list of vegetarian selections. Thankfully, aside from the original menu, was the lunch special menu, consisting of 4 choices. He explained that the thalis offer different small tasting. I didn’t hesitate and ordered the Madras thali. ($7.95)
There was no doubt, the decorator pulled out all the strings to make it look as authentic as possible. There were a few artful figurines and paintings hung equally apart from each other up on the wall, red cushions laid on top of the benches on both side of the restaurant, Indian music played in the background which had a smooth settling beat that was pleasing to the ear, and steel cup as drinking utensil.
My eyes widened in shock when the food came. The thali came with a wide selection of different dishes served in 7 small steel bowls on a round tray, 3 condiments, 2 petite vegetarian curries, and 2 different styles of basmathi rice. In the center was a round puffed bread, not nann, (sadly) but poori and papad, a thin, crisp cracker disc.
I started with the papad which had a delicate crunch to it. I dipped the poori into 3 different sauces, one consists of a tomato base, which was pretty watered down, and had neither depth nor flavor to it. The other sauce, a lighter shade of red was even worse, it tasted like tamarind juice: watery, acidic, and a bit spicy. The yogurt, a very common condiment in Indian cuisine sat there waiting for me to use, but it didn’t taste any better dipping the bread into it, it tasted like a cool creamy cucumber yogurt. This was the part where I wish I had some spicy tandoori chicken to go with it. The curry tasted exceptional.
The best part of the meal was the basmathi rice, it came plain and another with sautéed onions with spinach, cooked in a rich broth which gave the rice its yellow color. The way they made it with the special blend of spices gave it a tantalizing aroma and a delicious taste. In 3 spoonfuls, it was gone.
For dessert, I ordered the gulab jamun, ($4.45) a popular dessert in Southern Asia. It was 2 pieces of fried dough, similar to the size of a munchkin you find at Dunkin Donuts, covered in sugary syrup. The top maintained a crunchy exterior but mid way down, the dough was just mushy from soaking too long in the syrup. It had a hint of sweeten condense milk flavor to it and a rose-like aroma but it was just too sweet for my taste. I rather walk down an avenue for a glazed doughnut from Dunkin.