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Restaurants & Bars 11

Kokum (on Lex)

Jim Leff | Oct 28, 201306:13 PM

Had dinner at Kokum (106 Lexington Ave), rhymes with "hokum".

Place was nearly empty. Standard Manhattan Indian model of an Indian manager straight from Fawlty Towers (both intrusively solicitous and bumbling) and a stolidly competent Nepali (I'm guessing) waitress.

Pongal - soupy rice with lots of cumin seed, curry leaf, and ghee - is one of my favorite comfort dishes. This was a marginally acceptable version, but it had no touch at all. No love. I would not be surprised if it was prepared by a Central American cook working from a procedural manual. That said, it was at least an authentic recipe, and even so-so authentic pongal is pretty good. Or would have been if they'd thoroughly defrosted the dish. Which they didn't - so amid the over-heated nuked portions lurked frozen ricey icicles. Ugh.

Similarly, Kumily Chicken Fry (chicken sautéed with green chilis and curry leaves) had the makings of an acceptable dish. Nothing wrong with it. But it tasted dead, as if it had been made ahead and griddled to order.

Crab Ullarthu (unshelled crab cooked with coconut, garlic & coriander), too, was correct-but-no-more, except for the thing that WASN'T correct, which in this case was salting. It was at least 30% too salty. We couldn't finish it. Neither the manager nor waitress seemed to mind.

The potato dish atop the veg section, whose name I forgot, was cubed spicy potatoes, and it was bullyingly salty. Just crazy. We hardly touched them. Nobody minded.

Chappathi were fine, but crazy small, and were left sitting in the enclosed chappathi vessel a few minutes too long before we received them.

Ah, well. Just another bumbling Lexington Avenue joint. Except for the 80 bucks (for two diners). With no drinks.

On the way out, we did our best not to disturb the hostile-seeming man repairing the pretentious curtains covering the doorway - and the manager, with whom he was arguing. We managed to sneak around both of them, though neither yielded an inch. Repeat: 80 bucks.

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