Before I start this review of Ayurveda Cafe, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Dena Cheng, and I am currently a first year student in Columbia College. For the culinary blog, I will focus on great vegan and vegetarian eats you can find throughout the city of New York. I am so excited to share my opinions and excitement for food with you this year. I hope you enjoy!
706 Amsterdam Ave New York, NY 10025
Monday thru Saturday 11:30am-10:30pm
Located just past 95th street, Ayurveda Cafe is a great location close (ish) to the Columbia campus. If you are looking for some delicious Indian food, look no further! With a serene ambience, delectable foods, and welcoming staff, the cafe does provide you with a wonderful eating experience.
One of the most unique parts of the restaurant is that there is no set menu. The food constantly changes everyday, and you get to pick and choose from, essentially, a sampling platter. There is a range of different dishes within little bowls, so you can taste different types of beans, rice, and cooked vegetables. The price is very fair, with lunch at only $9.95 and dinner at $15.95. Moreover, one serving can feed more than one person.
I personally shared a dinner plate with two other people and was completely satisfied. The wonderful staff even offered papadum, lentil wafers, with various sauces beforehand. Servers also provided warm naan and a free chickpea dessert at the end. This was more than enough food for me.
I also ordered one of my favorite drinks, a mango lassi. Although it was not necessarily the best lassi I had ever tasted, it was quite delicious and sweet. The yogurt based drink was creamy and tangy without being overly syrupy.
Finally, I would probably rate my experience 4 Bobby Flays out of 5.
Overall, my stay at the Ayurveda Cafe was pleasurable, and I would definitely go again. Check it out!
Indian food! We all love it, at least I do. But I rarely get to enjoy it. My entire life I have been fascinated by the colors of India – both in the textiles and in the food. I have been craving Indian food for the past few weeks and when the time came for me to choose what cuisine to explore next, there was no better option. In order to find a good Indian food place around Columbia, I decided to ask a natural expert in all things Indian, my friend from Delhi. I ceaselessly ask her questions about the different festivals that she celebrates, the kind of food she eats, the way she eats it, and Bollywood films. Luckily, she is eager to teach me everything. Thus, I came to her with one request – bring me out for a good Indian meal, please. And so she brought me to Doaba Deli on 107th street and Columbus Ave.
She warned me that the restaurant was very casual (and by that, she meant very casual) and different from Indian food commonly served at restaurants, but more like home-cooked food. I had a feeling I was in for a treat, and boy was I right!
We walked into a make shift seating area with three tables, each with four chairs, and an area to stand to quickly eat. Up two steps was the way into the kitchen where you order your meal. There is a cart with the daily specials. The basic order is a tray with four special options and a side of naan or rice. Additionally there is an entire menu of different vegetarian dishes, different bread sides, and different desserts to order.
During my meal, I got to try a large selection of different dishes and they were all absolutely delicious. If you tend to shy away from Indian food because of the heavy spices, then you would prefer the food at this place as it was relatively less spiced than other Indian food I have had and it definitely did not feel as heavy. The list of the dishes is as follows: gourd squash, yellow curry yogurt sauce, mashed greens, spinach and potato, eggplant and potato, dal (lentils), paneer with peas, and chickpeas.
We also ordered a dish called ‘samosa chaat’, which was samosa (fried, potato-stuffed pastry triangles) and chickpeas topped with yogurt, coriander sauce, tamarind sauce, and a spicy red sauce. It was a burst of flavors, but well balanced. This is a typical Indian street food dish. The warmness and heaviness of the samosas was cut by the tanginess of the yogurt and the fresh flavor of the coriander.
I apologize for not being able to particularly point out each individual flavor in the dishes, but Indian food is all about the mixture of spices. To make up for this, I have done some research about the typical spices used in Indian dishes. Cardamom adds a fragrant flavor, chilies add spice, coriander adds a fresh and earthy flavor, cloves give a rich flavor, tamarind gives a tart flavor, and turmeric gives a bright yellow color. Most of the dishes include a variety of these spices in different proportions. Thus, each dish has a hint of each of these flavors, and depending on the dominating flavor it is evident which spice was used most heavily.
There is no fork or knife served with the dish, only a spoon for the rice. The rest of the meal is eaten with your hands. You rip a piece of naan and scoop up food into your mouth or spoon food into your bowl of rice and mix it.
During the meal, I could not help but notice all of the Indians coming in to get a quick dinner or chai tea. They were definitely regulars and were friendly with the old lady who served the dishes. It did not feel as if I were eating in public, but rather as if I was in someone’s kitchen. Many people shared their tables, if there was no other room. Do not expect to have a private or served meal. Instead, expect a very comfortable and casual atmosphere with no pretentions.
For dessert we ordered a gulab jamun (fried dough ball soaked in sugar and oil). It is good, but nothing extraordinary. In fact, it is quite bland compared to the rest of the meal. Before taking a bite, you should press it down to squeeze out the oil.
Overall, the meal was an incredible experience full of satisfying food and cultural immersion. It feels as if you have left New York walking into Doaba Deli and have stepped into a true Indian corner shop with the smells of the local cuisine and the sounds of the local language. There is even a small section to buy all sorts of Indian biscuits. Another benefit are the very low prices. A generous meal can easily cost between five to ten dollars per person. I am so glad to have found such a good, casual eat-out place right by Columbia. I definitely plan on coming again, and highly recommend it to anyone.
Today, a Columbia classic: Roti Roll, otherwise known as “that Indian burrito place on Amsterdam.”
Of all the places we’ve looked at so far, Roti Roll comes closest to being a true, cheap alternative to dinner in the dining hall. Only a five minute walk from campus, the whole-in-the-wall restaurant sits at the intersection of 109th and Amsterdam.
Their speciality is the eponymous Roti Roll, a type of Indian (or, as my Indian friend insists, Indian-American) street food that I touched on briefly last time. These are, in the words of my Indian friend, “random Indian foods mixed up and wrapped in warm roti,” a traditional and still popular form of round, unleavened bread.
Roti Roll offers 12 varieties of these rolls, 8 of which are vegetarian (and thus, to my protein-biased mind, not really options). My late-night standard is the Chicken Malai roll, “chicken marinated in cream and spices,” mixed up with vegetables and wrapped up, to which I add an extra egg for an extra dollar. It’s the most popular and probably the most conservative choice on the menu. Moist chicken, hot and fresh, a pleasant mix of textures and flavors, some of which I’m not familiar with and can’t describe nor remember very well. This is mostly because last night, I added extra spinach for $1.50 extra, which I would not do again. I was expecting fresh spinach, but I got a ground up paste. I would’ve been fine with this (the flavor was quite nice), but there was just too much of it. The spinach overpowered the other flavors and pushed the texture of the interior too much in the liquidy direction.
Otherwise, though, the food is awesome, and really cheap! My Chicken Malai roll was only $5.50; if I had bought two, they would’ve been $5.00 each. If you’re willing to go for an inferior roll in the interest of getting even more food for your money, I recommend getting two Masala Unda (Spiced Egg Omelette) Frankies for $6.00 (or, if you’ve got my appetite, 4 for $12.00). There’s no chicken, but two rolls for the price of one is hard to argue with.
The quality of these rolls is somewhat inconsistent; I’ve gone in the middle of the day and been served hard, not-quite-stale but far from fresh roti (the flat bread on the outside.) I don’t know why this would be; I’m not even sure if the roll are home-made. But still, rolls I’ve had late at night are consistently fresher and softer. The best rolls I’ve had have been after 1 AM. Maybe food just tastes better late at night. Even so, if you’re planning on going, go at night.
Roti Roll is perfect for those nights when you want something substantial and you’d rather smell like Indian spice than JJ’s grease, (or you don’t have the option to smell like JJ’s grease because it’s the weekend.) Thursday through Saturday, they’re open until 4:00 am, Tuesday and Wednesday they’re upon until 3:00 am, Sunday and Monday they’re open until 2:00 am. Late on the weekends, if you’re lucky, you might even get treated to some karaoke by the bar next door, through the wall. Last night we heard Ryan giving some Tay Sway his all; thank you Ryan.
Last week we dealt with the infamous ramen noodle. This time, my four buddies and I head into the world of Pho and vermicelli, the rice-based cousin of wheaty ramen. We do so at Saigon Shack, a Vietnamese sandwich and noodle shop at 114 Macdougal Street, a few short blocks away from Washington Square Park.
From the outside, it’s somewhat difficult to see the restaurant itself, as there is always a crowd waiting for seats and blocking the glass storefront. If you decide to be brave and shove your way through this crowd, though, you’ll see an equally packed, unpretentious interior made of brick and wood. The crowd was somewhat deceptive, though; we had to wait only 20 minutes for our 5 spots at a common table. Still, though, the wait wasn’t fun, and it would have been much worse if it had not been for Thelewala, an Indian Street food restaurant that we found right next door.
This place gets top marks for saving us from our pre-meal starvation without forcing any of us over our $13 cap. We got a Thelewala Chicken roll, (Chicken, fried eggs, red onions, house blend spices and lime wrapped up in a warm, soft roti) and a Chicken Malai roll (the same, with lime and house spices) for $5.50 each to split between the five of us. $2.10 per person, we thought, was well worth it. Thelewala’s approach is similar to that of other Indian street food vendors; neither of these rolls were unprecedented creations, but their execution made them stand out against their peers. They were packed with complex flavor, they were hot and substantial, and most importantly, because this is not the case with most other rolls, they were moist and tender. The rolls were relatively small, making them not ideal for five-way sharing, but they were good enough to makes us all happy with what little we got.
My only regret is that we had to eat them so quickly… As we were eating these outside Saigon Shack, our table was called after a reasonable 20 minutes (only 5 minutes longer than we were told it would take.) Bringing outside food into the restaurant is taboo, so we had to scarf our rolls down. Somewhat of a waste. Still worth it.
After being seated at the common table, we got settled in quickly with menus and water. We were so happy with out first 5-way appetizer split that we decided to do it again in Saigon. We got Grilled Pork Chop Summer rolls: $5 for 4 rolls of crisp greens wrapped up with noodles and a generous portion of meat by a wide, translucent rice noodle. (My friend Jen took one for the team and selflessly went without a summer roll; I’d like to take this chance to memorialize her noble action. Thank you Jen Chan. You, of course, missed out tremendously.) These, again, were delicious. Crunchy and chewy, warm and cool, they were just what we needed to clean away the lingering spice leftover from the Thelewala rolls.
Finally, it was time for the main course. All four of my friends got the $8 S.S. Spicy Special Noodle, a spicy compromise for the indecisive meat lover: rather than just one type of meat, it featured smaller portions of beef, roast pork, and vietnamese ham, all of which were very fatty and tender, stewed to perfection. Spiced with what I’m guessing was Sriracha, it was a little too much for my delicate palate; I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to spiciness. For the masochists, though, Saigon Shack provided us with plenty of extra chili peppers and Sriracha for an optional heat boost. The noodles themselves I thought were a tad over cooked. This may have been because I was only allowed to eat the scraps in the bowl fifteen minutes after it was first served, though, so I won’t be too harsh on this point. All four of my buddies, after all, gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up to their pho, the classic, thin Vietnamese rice noodle that they had all been homesick for. (There aren’t many Vietnamese restaurants around Morningside Heights)
I, for the sake of diversity, got Roast Pork over Vermicelli for $8, with an extra egg for another $1.50. The dish was simple, but high quality: roasted meat over dry rice noodles, covered with a layer of chopped lettuce, served with a pungent orange colored sauce on the side. The food was very accessible. Further, the portions, given the price, were fantastic. I actually ran out of noodles before I ran out of meat, which I’m pretty sure has never happened to me ever. 10 points to Saigon Shack for generosity with their protein.
I have only two regrets. First, I’m not sure the egg was worth it. It was a tasty egg, for sure, and it looked nice on the dish, but it was too small to really affect my experience of the dish as a whole. Second, our pork summer rolls were essentially a more expensive version of my dinner wrapped up in rice noodle, making my order somewhat redundant. Next time I’m back, which I’m sure will be fairly soon, I’m planning on either trying out another appetizer or ordering the roast pork vermicelli, sans egg, as an appetizer.
In spite of our imperfect ordering, we got out of a double-restaurant dinner at Saigon Shack and Thelewala for $10.35 each, (or in my case, $12.85, with the extra egg.) That’s a lot better than a meal swipe.
The cold has come upon us. It is time for hot apple cider and tomato soup and curry. Hot, spicy, delicious curry that will warm parts of you that you didn’t even know could be warmed. As I’ve said before, I love Indian inspired food for vegetarians and vegans because there is so much variety and flavor that isn’t necessarily a part of other regional cuisines. It’s nice to be able to go to a restaurant and be able to choose something to eat instead of sticking to the plain salad.
Anyway, I came across this unopened bag of red lentils in my cabinet and was seized by the urge to cook them up as piping hot as possible. I also happen to be a huge coconut fan, and I feel like I don’t use it in a great enough proportion to the amount that I love it, so I threw some coconut milk in for a bit of extra richness and flavor. Also, I like my spicy food actually spicy, so I grabbed some serrano peppers and tossed them in as well (a word of advice: liberally rub olive or canola oil on your hands before chopping peppers, it will keep the capsaicin from absorbing into your skin and giving you the most miserable burning feeling). I’d also like to say that the smell of sautéed onion, garlic and peppers is the most heavenly and comforting scent that I know.
2 cups dry lentils
6 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
5 serrano peppers, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 container (9 oz) of frozen green beans
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
1) In a large pot, sauté your onion over medium heat in about a tablespoon of oil until translucent. Add peppers and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2) Add the curry powder and cumin and continue cooking for about 30 more seconds (we don’t want the spices to burn).
3) Add the vegetable broth. Continue to heat on medium.
4) In another pan, quickly toast the lentils over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil. Don’t leave it on heat for more than a minute or so.
5) Add the lentils to the broth mixture, and bring to a simmer.
6) After the lentils have been cooking for about 7 minutes, add the cauliflower. 7 minutes later, add the green beans. Add the coconut milk, salt and pepper, and allow to heat through for a few minutes.
You might miss it if you’re walking at the typical New Yorker’s pace when you get off the subway stop at 74th street in Queens, but there it is, in between several shops dripping in diamonds and gold: Al Naimat.
From the window, I could only see a few glossy swirls of syrup soaked jalebis, but I was struck at the sheer plethora of colors and shapes when I walked in. It’s a little mind-boggling, but the shopkeepers completely understand and sympathize.
This gif pretty much sums it up:
After munching my way through pretty much half the case, I settled for a small box of sweets.
I decided to stick to the basics (Next time, I’ll be brave and get a few of the acid green ones.), and wound up with a couple of gulab jamun, a sort of fudge thing, and a few that tasted like variations upon crumbly condensed milk sweets.
I enjoyed them all, but the gulab jamun, fried balls of dough soaked in different syrups, were absolutely phenomenal. Light, sweet, and oddly refreshing, I ate three before sugar-induced jitters began to set in.
For such a small box, everything within packs such a large amount of flavor. I have a considerable sweet tooth, but I was quite unable to get through even half of it. But now that the box is empty, I’m feeling a sudden hankering for some more gulab jamun.
One of our many new bloggers, James is bringing our readers to dozens of new spices, flavors, and just weird eating experiences. In Curious Flavors, James will always make sure that you’ve got some new places on your New York dining bucket list.
Located at the corner of 26th street and 3rd avenue, Bamiyan is one of only a handful of places in the city where you can sample traditional Afghan fare. Because of the country’s location along major historical trade routes, Afghan food constitutes a sort of fusion between Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine along with some unique flavors. Bamiyan’s menu consists of a wide range of plates with many kabobs, dumplings, several curry dishes, a selection of Afghan pastas, and many other meat dishes with accompanying vegetables, nuts, and sauces. The menu also has a large and varied vegetarian selection of entrees and appetizers and many of the dishes are served with basmati rice to act as a base for the flavorful meats and sauces.
For an appetizer I tried the fesenjan, a “sweet and sour” chicken dish with a sauce of walnuts and pomegranate juice. The dish was wonderful, both sweet and savory, the chicken was tender, and despite the powerful sauce it was not overwhelming. I also managed to try the mosto khiar, a dish of cool mint yogut and cucumber, very light and refreshing. For an entrée I had the quorma sabz with lamb, sautéed spinach with herbs and flavorful melt-in-your mouth tender pieces of lamb served over basmati rice; while less novel than the fesenjan the dish was more than satisfactory. I also tried…
Indian food is one of my favorite take-out cuisines. It one of the few types of food that can stand up to a potentially long time between delivery and actual consumption, and it tastes just as good heated up the next day in the microwave. Even more importantly though, it is one type of cooking that I have no real experience in and wouldn’t have the first clue how to make. That is, until a couple weeks ago when I decided to make one of my favorite Indian takeout dishes myself: daal makhani.
Daal Mahkani is the name of a classic Indian lentil dish. It is made with a special Indian lentil called urad dal, which basically looks like mini black-eyed peas. The lentils soak overnight in cold water to soften, and then are cooked in a batch of fresh water with a few cloves of garlic, some whole gingerroot and a hot pepper. After the lentils soften enough to be squished with the back of a spoon, they are combined with a mixture of hot oil, more garlic and some Indian spices and a tad more water. Once the flavors have melded together, the dish is finished with some milk or cream and a healthy dollop of clarified butter, or ghee. The ghee is what really makes the dish… it turns a boring and bland dish of stewed beans into something silky and sumptuous. Served over fluffy basmati rice, it is absolutely delicious.
There are some somewhat odd spices required to make this dish that may not be easy to find in conventional supermarkets; however, any Indian supermarket will be sure to have them. I myself took a trip off campus to “Curry Hill” to pick up the spices I needed. Not only did they have everything I needed (including the special urad lentils), but the prices were more than reasonable as well.
Although the inactive prep time for this meal takes well over thirty minutes, the active preparation time for the dish is well within the thirty minute range. And don’t be afraid to make more than you will eat or serve in one sitting; the leftovers only get better the next day.
Make sure to join us tonight at 9 pm in the Lerner Ramp Lounge East for our Indian Dessert Study Break! This event is in partnership with Club Dimensions, a club that is dedicated to raising awareness for women’s and children’s rights in Southeast Asia. The club is promoting their upcoming Guria benefit, and to do so, Culinary Society has provided some delicious Indian-inspired desserts. We will be serving Chai-spiced Hot Chocolate, Kheer (similar to rice pudding), and Shahi Tukra (similar to bread pudding).
So take a delicious break from work/reading/problem sets, and enjoy some sweets on us!