Monday, August 13, 2012

Bhojan Vegetarian

Last Friday hubby and I went to Bhojan Vegetarian for our date night. We actually came here to redeem my $4 Groupon - it's a $19 Group for a value of up to $48, and then I had a $15 Groupon special so it ended up being only $4.

This place is located in the heart of Curry Hill on Lexington. Coming up the street you can immediately see and smell the curry (don't worry it's not pungent) and vegetarian atmosphere.

I made a reservation (using my new Open Table account) for 7:15. But turned out that hubby and I were both starving by the time we left work, so we actually ended up going there early around 6:45. Nonetheless, the friendly lady welcomed us in. 

We were seated way at the back in front of the air conditioner. They served some water in glass jars that reminded me of how I always save jam/pasta sauce jars. Hubby assured me that these were new and ordered from a website (my only concern is how they clean the curved edges which is hard to scrub out from personal experience).

Ball jars (from a pharmacy?)

Everything about this place screamed exotic, from the window ornaments to the overhanging woks to the lighting fixtures made out of wine bottles.

Yes, these are wine bottles. (Don't worry they won't fall on your head)

The Groupon consisted of two small plates, two entrees and two lassis. Being Chinese, I ordered the most expensive things in the menu, which were Kachori Chaat (crispy flour puffs stuffed with moong, yogurt, and two chutnies), and the vegan Undhyu Pori (gujarats favorite eclectic vegetables with pori and sweetened yogurt).

Hubby on the other hand stuck to his usual India fare - Vada Pav (potato balls, garlic chutney on Pau bread) and Saag Paneer  (spinach and paneer cheese). His theory? The whole point of trying something new is to find the thing you like the best, and maximize your utility by ordering/using that every time afterwards. I don't completely agree with it, but I suppose it works for him.

While waiting for our food, the waiter brought over our rose and mango lassis. They came in the same Ball glasses as our water. I was really surprised at this because I read on Yelp that when you tell them you have a Groupon, they give you a pint-sized lassis like the table next to us, but somehow they gave us the normal size instead. Perhaps they thought I was a food critic because right off the bat I started snapping pictures left, right and center. (See? It's not so bad being an Asian taking pictures of food! There's apparently a site dedicated to snapping pictures of Asians snapping pictures of food =)

Rose Lassis

I've never had a lassi before so I didn't know what to expect. Hubby urged me to try his first, then mine, which he said was authentic.

The difference was incredible - his tasted mostly like mango juice, while mine was slightly sour yogurt, similar to the old Beijing-style yogurt of my childhood.

Mango Lassis

I actually liked his better because it was slightly sweeter, but I thought mine was more exotic with the (tasteless) rose petals.

The service was pretty expedient. I watched some of the other tables being served with a large tray of food selections, and another with interesting appetizers. I think most of these are Groupons because they came with an appetizer + entree.

Kachori Chaat 

Hubby and I were both starving when our appetizers arrived. My Kachori Chaat looked like a colorful culinary Christmas dish with red chutney over a bed of green mung beans.

A forkful of it will reveal an explosion of flavor - starting with the fried flour bread, which is crunchy and soft at the same time, to the mung beans that were surprisingly crunchy like soy beans, and an aromatic spice with the chutney balanced out with a drizzle of yogurt.

The Kachori Chaat is actually from their street snack menu, which are unlike your usual Indian appetizers like samosas. I would like to try their Hare Mattar Puri next time, which are green peas stuffed fried bread with marwadi aloo, whatever that is.

It was absolutely amazing! I was surprised by the texture of the mung bean because in Chinese dishes it's usually tender and cooked until mush like in congee or green bean paste.

Vada Pav

Hubby's Vada Pav looks like a potato patty. Actually make that an Indian sloppy joe. It was extremely soft at first bite, but the potato and garlic chutney really gives you a kick of spice. This is the kind of spice that makes you cringe a little bit before swallowing. Although I loved the texture (it's got potatoes!) I couldn't eat more than a quarter without downing gulps of the rose lassi, which I now understood why was flavored plainly, so that non-spice eaters like myself could wash down the spices.

So I worked mainly on my appetizer, and managed to finish it all =) Hubby too finished his share.

The waiter cleared our dishes for our entrees. Actually I was half full already because the serving size was quite large.

My vegan vegetables looked like a mush of potatoes and spices. It was a good thing hubby ordered a side of basmati rice to go with. It actually came with a side of puri (puffed fried whole wheat bread), which reminded a lot like the Chinese donut (you tiao) of my childhood.

Kachori Chaat 


It was a dry, garlicky kind of spice with lots of veggies. You can't really taste the freshness of the veggies because it was smothered with the spices. The veggies though was just like the description - quite eclectic with beans, potatoes, peas and other interesting veggies that I can't quite name.

I dared hubby to eat a large piece of pepper in exchange for a message. And he did it. 

I was googly-eyed in awe, until he told me that wasn't pepper, but an Indian eggplant. (In fact he knew it all along!) I tried another piece later - it was like a sour and chewy plant. I like its Chinese cousin better.

Saag Paneer
Hubby's saag paneer was a major hit with my tastebuds. Okay, okay, I guess he's right sometimes in terms of trying something new to optimize your selection. This was almost creamy, with the chewy paneers tasting like tofu. Loved, I mean loved this dish.

 Chapati (whole wheat bread cooked on open fire)

Hubby ordered a side of chapati, which is like an Indian taco bread, except harder and more wheaty. Didn't really like it because it was way too dry. I had to smother it with the saag paneer like jam on toast.

In contrast, the puri bread was so good and chewy that hubby and I were fighting over the last piece.

The basmati rice was so aromatic and soft that it was like eating cotton candy. It made my slightly dry entree much more enjoyable.

Towards the end, we still had a lot left over (possibly because of the appetizers). We had to take three of the dishes to go.

The meal came with a side of rice pudding, on the house. 

Rice pudding

It tasted just like the rice pudding you buy in grocery stores, but it was pretty thick and creamy.

I had to take some pictures of their restroom - it was like a bonsai garden inside with shrubs and an organic looking decor.

Natural wood basin

By the time we got our bill, the table next to us got their appetizers - the Kachori Chaat and sheets of puffed flour dough. So it turned out that I had ordered a favorite, because the lady was a frequent customer. There was also a large party of 8 who had already ordered for their missing parties, with neat rounds of yellow rice on the plates. I really wanted to try a forkful on my way out!

Bhojan Vegetarian
**** (4/5)
Kids-friendly (with reservations)

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