Chennai Garden has branched out. Last month its owner opened another south Indian vegetarian restaurant called Tiffin Wallah, a block north of the original. The menu is nearly the same as Chennai Garden’s, though Tiffin is a bit cheaper. Dave Feldman reports luscious uttapam (rice and ground dal pancakes) with onion and green chiles, excellent dosa podi, and a delicious, fruity mango shake.
Beyond southern specialty items, the menu offers chaat (including fresh, lively bhel puri) and a selection of Gujarati and Punjabi curries. Palak paneer is well seasoned and pleasingly creamy, reports shmooperdooper. Tiffin Wallah also lays out a $6 lunch buffet that’s “head-and-shoulders better than any of the other vegetarian lunch buffet places,” says buriedpaul and, like the tiffin wallahs of India, delivers. For now, Dave gives the new place the edge over Chennai Garden: The food is comparable, prices are lower, and the owner is in the house and trying hard to please.
Around the corner on Lexington, cabbie hangout Shipa Kasturi is hitting on all cylinders. One of the few Bengali places in town, it remains a go-to spot for mach (fish), torkari (curries), dal, and mishti (sweets), says Ami bangla jani na. At this no-frills steam-table joint, around $6 buys a couple of dishes plus rice. If they have it, don’t miss lal doi (sweetened yogurt).
Chennai Garden [Murray Hill]
129 E. 27th Street (between Lexington and Park avenues), Manhattan
Shipa Kasturi Pavilion [Gramercy]
83 Lexington Avenue (between E. 26th and 27th streets), Manhattan