Over the weekend, we popped into Tulsi, Hemant Mathur’s new Indian restaurant in Midtown. It’s been a big year for upscale Indian restaurants, first with Tabla closing and then Junoon opening several months ago. Tulsi isn’t quite as exciting as Devi (Mathur’s old spot), but the street-cart chaats were an unexpected hit, helping set the tone for the high points of the meal.
Indeed, several of the dishes we sampled fell a little flat, especially the sai bhaji and the Manchurian cauliflower, with its overly cloying sweet-and-sour sauce. But this appetizer ($7), made up of four different mounds of chaat, were multifaceted in flavor and texture. Chaats are savory Indian snacks, often served from street-vendor stalls or carts.
The photograph doesn’t quite do the dish justice, but the first dish (far left) featured sprouted mung beans layered between tiny sheets of pappadum; the second was made with sev, which are sort of like fried noodles made from gram flour; the third was soft and bready, doused in chutney; and the last was a bhelpuri, or puffed rice dish, lashed with herbs.
The combination of the different textures is what really makes this dish a must-order: the slightly crispy-turning-soggy rice and sev, the soft crunch of the beans, and the juiciness of the tomatoes. And unlike a real street snack, you don’t have to eat them out of a paper cone.
211 East 46th Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2011