This week’s Eats section is a special South Indian extravaganza. Our Man reviews Tamil Nadu Bhavan, a new vegetarian South Indian restaurant on Lexington Avenue. Meanwhile, I discover three Hindu temples that all boast canteens, two of which focus on South Indian fare.
First up! Our Man at Tamil Nadu Bhavan, where he finds 20 varieties of dosas, including rarer finds like the ghee roast (a dosa swimming in clarified butter) and the self-explanatory “5-foot dosa,” which is so big Our Man notes that it could be used to wrap up a good-sized child.
Our Man also finds serviceable South Indian thalis (full set meals of rice, several veggies and bread), along with all manner of lentils and rice aplenty. The best rice option, Our Man finds, is a one called curd rice that comes swimming in yogurt. It has a “puckeringly sour effect. Little Miss Muffet would have approved,” notes Our Man.
Turn the page, and you’ll find FitR (that’s me) at three Hindu temples: two in Queens, one in New Jersey. Hindu temples often have kitchens to prepare prasad. Those are small food items (usually sweets) that are first offered to the gods, and then eaten by devotees as part of the worship.
These three temple kitchens, though, evolved into full-fledged canteens. (Well, one is more of a sweets/snacks shop), You can sit among a hubbub of families and eat all kinds of dosas, uttapam, idli, daals and other, rarer, regional specialties like pongal—a buttery yellow split pea and whole peppercorn soup—and bobbatlu, a sweet, grainy flatbread served with milk poured over it.