I went to Elettaria the other night, on W 8th St. between 5th and 6th, just past Macdougal. Its chef describes it as American cuisine influenced by, among other things, Indian spices. The space is a rectangular, with low ceilings made from aged wooden planks, which gives it a homey feeling. At the end of the restaurant opposite the entrance door is the open kitchen, where the chefs prepare the food in a graceful ensemble process. Red velvet curtains frame the staircase leading down to the bathrooms and 2nd kitchen. A large bunch of white flowers and other small mementos pepper the rest of the space, which is filled with small tables, each pretty close to its neighbors.
The menu here is not gigantic -- a handful of appetizers and slightly fewer entrees. I ordered a cocktail off their menu called "8th wonder," which was a bourbon infused with chai and a couple of other ingredients. It was strong and spicy -- not entirely to my taste, but then I need my drinks girly. The complimentary bread was a naan dusted with sea salt, which was chewy, slightly sweet, and delicious.
I ordered a "rice cake" appetizer, which is inspired by the South Indian "iddli" dish. The small rice cakes were ensconced in lentils, tomato, ginger, and garlic. Everything was cooked to the right tenderness, and the combination of the soft rice cakes, the slightly more crunchy vegetables, and the tender lentils made this a delicate and aromatic appetizer.
The entree was a lot more disappointing. I ordered the "mattar paneer" -- in quotes because this dish is actually ricotta malfatti with peas, carrots, and fried onions. The accompaniments were fine, but the malfatti itself was heavy, dense, and kind of flavorless. A poor showing.
Finally, for dessert I got the anglicized "fried milk doughnuts" -- Elettaria's take on the Indian "gulab jamun." They served the doughnuts without the traditional accompanying syrup and instead sided it with a quenelle of chai-flavored gelato. The sweetness of the doughnuts was cut nicely by the cool moist spice of the gelato. The doughnuts could have been more tender, though.
All in all, as much as I wanted to like Elettaria, I was disappointed by it. 1 good dish, 1 mediocrity, and 1 bad dish do not a great meal make. And the prices are not particularly cheap, either. I hope this place grows into itself and becomes more refined over time, but for right now, I can't recommend it.
The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/