210 E 58th Street
Recently, I have taken a love of Indian food. Looking back, it was inevitable. I am vegetarian and love spicy food, although my first few encounters with it did not favor to my fondness. But I kept trying. Or rather, my friends kept trying until they found me the perfect Indian place. I can tell you what that place is not—a Midtown East eatery called Dawat.
A restaurant’s atmosphere can make or break a dining experience. Dawat’s broke mine—twice.
The first time InterSportsWriter and I visited, we were seated next to an overtly loud woman with a noticeable Southern accent and what appeared to be her colleague who listened indifferently as she dominated the conversation. Usually, this is not bothersome except the place was empty.
The second time we visited, we were seated at the exact same table in the nearly empty restaurant, and once again the woman adjacent us dominated the conversation in unusually loud undertones. She did the majority of the talking in between taking numerous phone calls in front of her colleague; the only difference was she lacked the Southern accent of her predecessor. This time we asked to be moved, and fortunately the server granted our request immediately.
Regarding the food, we started with the following:
Onion Fritters (crisp light, chickpea flour batter dipped, onion fritters)
Vegetable Samosa (spicy seasoned potatoes and peas wrapped in light pastry)
We shared the Vegetarian Thali consisting of the following:
Farasvi Bhaji (green beans cooked w/ freshly grated coconut)
Saag Paneer (spinach puree w/ cubes of paneer cheese)
Gobhi Aloo (potatoes, cauliflower & Indian spices)
Sindhi Karhi (vegetarian stew made w/ chickpea flour & vegetables)
Pulao Rice (Indian rice)
Poori Breads (deep-fried puffed bread)
plus a variety of Chutneys & Relishes
I am obsessed with samosas and found theirs amazing. They were just right in terms of crispness on the outside and flavorful on the inside. The fritters, however, were slightly dry and bland in taste.
The entire main dish was wonderful. The Vegetarian Thali appears to be a small meal but is just right for 2 people without leftovers. My favorites included the saag paneer and the gobhi aloo. It’s hard to go wrong with either staple Indian dish, yet I still found myself craving more after they were finished.
The complementary papadum (thin crispy Indian wafers) served with a trio of chutneys at the start of the meal is a great way to wet your taste buds, but beware of where, or rather who, you are seated.
I have yet to visit India, but I imagine Dawat comes pretty close to the real thing. The owner, Madhur Jaffrey, is an Indian actress and food writer. If I worked in the area, perhaps I would order takeaway, but as far as a repeat visit in person, forget it. The outdated décor and older clientele who insist on taking personal calls at the table and practicing public speaking are too stuffy for my liking. The only thing “haute” about Dawat Haute Indian Cuisine was my blood pressure upon leaving.