Having now tried all the Indian restaurants in Lower Bucks and Philadelphia, it was time to try New India Cafe, which popped up sometime this year I believe in the Pine Watson Shopping Center in Langhorne, by the junction of 213 and 413. Last week my wife and I stopped by and got a take-out menu. I took it to my in-laws who live in nearby Newtown and pored over it, highlighting menu items I hadn't seen anywhere else. My excitement grew, and so did the mockery from the in-laws. My sister-in-law asked if I wanted a few different color highlighters, and my mother-in-law asked if I was going to make a spreadsheet. Feh on them. They can eat their frozen microwaved chicken breasts. The menu had the the usual 80 or so dishes, but there were an additional 15 which looked pretty interesting, like tandoori scallops and a corn curry. A few different chaats and cachumber. I dunno, it looked like maybe there was some interesting regional stuff here rather than just the same old moghul/bengali stuff. And no beef.
So this evening we dropped off the baby with her grandparents and drove over. There seems to be at least three levels of decor, no doubt from the two previous tenants. There's a narrow strip of wallpaper about chest-high above the wainscoating of French cafes, boulangeries and such. Another remnant are the large, possibly Mediterranean murals. Also there are a number of wall anchors with screws still sticking out of the walls. But you don't notice these at first, because the ambiance is quite pleasant, the a.c. was in the mid-70s, and the piano music was vaguely ethnic. A few other tables were occupied, but it was almost empty.
Free papaadum with the three chutneys, so we were psyched. The mint chutney was dry and bland, with virtually no heat, but the tamarind chutney was thick and perfectly sweet and the orange oniony chutney stuff was delicious, so we just avoided the mint. We got a chaat, I think it was like Aloo Papdi Chaat or something, which was amazing. Cold, tangy, salty, crunchy, hot, smooth. Been a chaat-seeker since that article in the Times a year or so ago (From Mumbai to Midtown), so I was much happified.
But then, sadly, the main courses arrived. My wife ordered the Vegetable Patia (mixed veggies in a mango sauce), and I the Bindhi Masala (Okra with like other stuff). The Vegetable Patia was like bad Chinese take-out. The veggies were obviously from a freezer, with about zero flavor, plus it was almost all peas, with one or two tiny pieces of broccoli thrown in. It was gelatinous, and tasted vaguely like General Tso's. It seemed to thicken the longer we stared at it.
The Bindhi Masala was equally horrifying. The okra were slimy, and they were in some kind of tomato sauce, but it tasted like tomato puree right out of the can, not like they put the puree in and then cooked it. The other veggies seem to have been thrown it at the end also.
OH!! And there were no spices!! Like, no evidence that any spice had been used. Not by flavor and not visually.
So after a few bites we sat there looking at the food and at each other. The waiter eventually came over and asked how we were enjoying it, and I told him that the stuff wasn't so good and it tasted like tomato puree.
Then he did something really sweet - he brought us some vegetable korma, compliments of the house. Very sweet of him, but this was really the third strike. The korma was... well, where should I begin? I've eated my fair share of korma, and wife has eaten far more than her fair share, in act we think korma helped push our baby out, and I've cooked it for her and she for me fairly often, so we know a couple of things about korma. This was basically onion-flavored cream with some steamed frozen vegetables tossed in. I mean, like you got to brown the onions before you start the sauce, and if you aren't going to stand over the stove for a half hour you need high btu's and lots of oil. No oil in this dish, and it wasn't thick enough to have any browned onions. Nor was it the right color. Korma has whole spices in it so that they don't discolor the sauce... but there were no spices at all. No cardamom, no cloves, no nuffin'. And there was no tartness from the yogurt that was supposed to be mixed in at the end, and the vegetables clearly weren't cooked in the sauce.
So I pretended to like it and ate some and my wife grimaced through some. He brought us some rice pudding, compliments of the house. Again, very sweet of him but not very good. Not bad pudding, but you can buy better stuff in the supermarket.
Very sad, but Desi Village is just a mile away, and even though they're under new management they're still light years better. But it would have always haunted me if I hadn't tried it.