Monday, May 28, 2007

On the Road #5: You Get What You Pay For (or So Many Indian Restaurants...)

My trip to AMNH yesterday was a tad exhausting, but I saw what I wanted to see, and it was very cool – worth all the trouble. Afterwards my head hurt from hunger. Mindfully bringing my bag along with me, I got out that Frommer’s cheap NYC guide and looked for some cheap eats. There were so many good suggestions and itineraries. Charm City Cupcake, a native Brooklynite (Brooklyn, NY, not Brooklyn Park, hon) suggested this great Thai place in Queens, along with a Hindu temple that serves a kick-arse South Indian menu. My itinerary, sadly, took me only as far as Downtown Manhattan, so I will have to shelve Queens for the next visit. But I did stumble quite accidentally onto a whole neighborhood full of South Asian restaurants. One could take one’s pick: Indian, South Indian, Bangladeshi, Punjabi, Sri Lankan, Tamil, and at a range of prices. I didn’t see any Pakistani places, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t one.

I am not a person who should ever be allowed to be president, because I can’t make a freaking decision save my own life, much less the free world. So try to imagine the headache I felt from trying to pick one of these places. Go on. Hurts, don’t it?

After an irritating cab ride around the East Village to find some unreachable restaurant, I got out somewhere around 1st St and 1st Ave and meandered around like a lost tourist – which of course I was.

Around 1st and 2nd Aves, and 6th St I found the embarrassment of Indian riches. The Sri Lankan place wasn’t open for another hour, and these dueling Indian and Bangladeshi maitres’d tried to cajole me into their respective restaurants. I hurried away from these crazy men and turned the corner. ***GASP*** MORE Indian restaurants!!! Plus ones selling Japanese, soul food and Peruvian to boot.

I finally settled on a festive little restaurant with flowers and chili lights (like you see in Arizona around Christmas) called Sonar Gaow. It’s Bengali for, um, I don’t remember actually. All I remember was the emptiness of the restaurant (it wasn’t even 4:45 yet) and a specials sign advertising a prix fixe menu for $6.95. That’s right, $6.95!!! That helped cement the deal. I went in.

You get a lot of food at Sonar Gaow for your money, which makes it a great place to eat. The quality of the food – well, it isn’t bad food, but I’ve had better, (Check here for a review from someone who, well, would disagree). It's kind of like a small, cramped Bengali Café Hon, only much, much cheaper. But with my entire meal coming to $6.95, I can overlook the weakness of the mulligatawny soup.

And every course was, to put it more mildly than the food here, a bit weak. The first, said soup, was very heavy on the cumin, and not tangy at all. But it was hot and brought to my table almost immediately. Next came the vegetable samosa, which had a lovely smell, and which was served on top of a pappadum that tasted a little cinammony to me. This samosa – my chosen appetizer from among several – was also not thrilling, but adequate, and worth the price (hey, if you do the math, it probably works out to, oh, $1 at most).

My main dish (also chosen among many) was the lamb dopiaza. It followed the same, conflicted path – served hot and immediately, but weaker than I’m used to. This dopiaza was light on the fat, and the gravy was plentiful but, again, the dish was weak. I did enjoy the naan the waiter brought out with the meal. But what bothered me was the rice. I usually expect basmati rice in an Indian restaurant. But what I got tasted strangely like gummy, warmed-over plain white rice. Bleah. But again, at $6.95 for the whole meal, I could even overlook that. Not for more money, but for that price, yes.

The final bill did include a Diet Coke (about $1.50), but the total bill still came to less than $10. Very impressive for a three-course meal, I think (they forgot my dessert, though). Would I go back to Sonar Gaow? No, I would not go back. And what incentive is there? There are so many other Indian restaurants that, even if I got to New York with any frequency at all, it would take too long to try them all.


charm city cupcake said...

I wish I knew you were going to that block of E 6th st - all the "Indian" restaurants are bad EXCEPT for Brick Lane Curry House. Oh well :(

Baltimore Snacker said...

That's the thing though: I had no idea that I was going there! I didn't see a Brick Lane Curry House. I went down (I think) 1st and then turned down 6th St, the one with the Gandhi Restaurant. There were a lot of maitres'd harassing people to come into their places. Very irritating!