Had a very disappointing meal at Madras Cafe (2nd ave/5th st) this weekend. My g/f and I usually go to Madras Mahal on Lexington, but since the E. village is so much closer to the F train, we decided to try the Madras Cafe, especially since it came highly recommended from all the fellow chowhounders.
Unfortunately, I think it has seriously gone downhill.
They seemed to be seriously short staffed (only one waiter and one host/manager for the whole place), so it took FOREVER to get water, drinks, order our food, etc. And it took even longer for anything to come out. I tried to be good and not overload on the carbs (evil atkins!), so we ordered rasam (spicy lentil soup), saag paneer, and a mixed vegetable curry with one roti.
what seemed like 50 years later, our rasam came out. I'm used to having this at Madras mahal, where it is incredibly spicy, and incredibly flavorful. Here, it was watery and vinegary. Deep down it was good, and somewhat spicy, but the broth was so thin that it was really a disappointment.
50 more years pass (and our poor waiter was doing the best he could) and out come our entrees. The saag paneer was watery, bland and undercooked -- it basically looked like someone poured hot milk on some steamed spinach. and the veggie curry really didn't have much flavor at all -- it wasn't aromatic, and was filled with little chunks of some sort of soy protein (yuck!). I didn't try the rice, but it looked fairly plain. My roti wasn't very good either -- it tasted burnt and doughy at the same time.
I'm not really sure if this was just an extremely bad night for them, or if they have really gone downhill, but it was a pretty horrible meal. I noticed that most of the positive comments about this place date back to 2000/2001, so perhaps it has slipped.
Thankfully, we saved the evening by heading over to Bar Veloce, at 2nd ave and 11th st, for a bottle of wine. I think this place has become one of my favorite places in the city. Even though it is tiny, it still feels comfortable to me, and I love how sleek the space is. I also love the all-Italian wine list -- it's apparent that the owners really take wine seriously and present it as such. We ordered a bottle of primitivo, a southern Italian grape (that, depending on who you ask, is either related to zinfandel or is zinfandel). It was great -- lots of fruit, well balanced with oak and spice on the end. They also have very nice stemware, which I think is really important if you want to smell (and enjoy) your wine.
I'm curious about the food. We had been there once before and just snacked on a very good fig and prociutto bruschetta. The menu looked really good -- kind of a simplified version of inoteca, which I really love. Any thoughts? And is the affogato at Veloce as good as the one at inoteca?
One last thing: Any other thoughts on East Village Indian food? I'm rather skeptical of the 6th street scene, and wasn't overly impressed by Haveli. I've been enjoying vegetarian south Indian cuisine lately (at least at Madras Mahal), but sometimes miss the meat......