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Amma


prasad2
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Thanks for your gracious words, Suvir. I'm glad your father's health is improving. My parents are fine and looking forward to their next visit.

Daniel, do go, and do get reservations.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Had lunch a few weeks ago at Amma and have not had the chance to describe. The only bad part was that they do not do the tasting menu at lunch!!!

I had gone the day before and asked if they wer doing dosas the next day, and they said that they would. When my guests arrived (4 of us in total) the waiter served us a wonderful appetizer of a dosa and idali with a great cocunut chutney and sambar. I have to say, and I am of Keralan descent, so I know my cocunut chutneys, that it was the best I have ever tasted (sorry mom). My only regret is that I was afraid that if I ate my idalis with a little sugar as I did as a kid, I might upset our hosts. 2 of us had the lamb chops --- BELIEVE the HYPE! They are out of tthis world. Others had the jumbo shrimps and the stuffed chicken legs, all of which was delicous. I forgot if we had dessert, but it was a great lunch and I had to roll myself back to the office.

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Thanks for the report, Foodguy!

Did you ask them if they'd make up a tasting menu for you at lunch, even though it wasn't on the menu?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I did. They said it was just too complex given the timeframe and number of turnovers -- I completely understand their perspective and the idiali/dosa combo was not on the menu, so they clearly were trying to please

Edited by Foodguy (log)
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I've never been to a restaurant more eager to please. They best part, though is that they accomplish it!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Suvir, I am so glad to hear that Amma is continuing to receive such accolades. Congratulations again.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I went to Amma last night and had an amazing time. Everything was perfect, from food to service, it was really a treat. When I arrived at Amma, I felt like I walked into someone's pretty home. We were greated by a lovely women who took our jackets, and greated by the rest of the waiting staff with a smile. I was instantly relaxed and assured the food was going to be great.

I ordered the tasting menu without the wine because the girl i was with had a prior business dinner and she was there to drink. The sommelier was more then gracious and spoke with my date about the different wines. We decided to go with the Shiraz from India which was really good. He and her began to speak about her becoming a sommelier and by the end of the dinner he was sending her information and packets. :shock: Oh that sneaky guy! Just kidding...

The food came out at a steady pace. It was perfectly timed as to enjoy the food, and my company, and to not feel hurried or forgotten. The tasting menu IMO is a lot of food, so the spacing of the food allowed me to eat more then i normally would. I cant really say which dish i prefered over another because they all were really were terrific. The tandori shrimp was fantastic, the stuffed chicken amazing! If one thing stood out, it was the lamb chop. Cooked perfectly, this thing was so good, I am not really overly familiar with indian spices, but i know that there was goat yogurt on it, that i am still thinking about. To make sure that all the meat was gone, i put down the knife and fork and had to pick this thing up. Also they had a halibut served in a spicy sauce that was superb! I am a big fan of spicy things, but i was surprised that a place would serve something this spicy without a warning. Normally most places make a big deal about a spice in a dish and then you are left underwhelmed. They happily surprised me with that dish and it definately gave me a little more energy during the 7th inning stretch. For dessert, i got this pressed rice dessert, which came with a pistachio sweetened milk . I would go to Amma and get that to go nightly if i could. Great.

This place is great and the cool thing is everyone there knows it is, and is proud of it. Its not like they treat you like you should be happy to be there, they treat you like they are happy to be there and that you have joined them.

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K. and I were in New York for five food filled days last week. Amma was on our list and indeed, we had the tasting menu (veg and non veg) and can only agree with everyone else.

The food was like no other Indian joint in our experience back home in Ontario. The service was great and of course, the heralded Bikki convinced us that beer is a poor second to a properly chosen wine flight.

We put ourselves into the hands of our jovial server and couldn't have been more thrilled with the variety and quality and sheer novelty of the items on the tasting menu.

We bow before you, Suvir and Hemant, not to mention Bikki and all the rest of the talented and charming staff of Amma.

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I am in New York City for another few hours. I arrived at 6 PM at the Waldorf-Astoria, and it took about two hours to get me settled into a room. Alas, I had to change into a FOURTH room at about midnight, so I am presently as jet-lagged and tired as I have ever been. Neverthless, I am going to transcribe the notes I made last night, when I dined alone at Amma.

I had no prior plans to go there, but my dining plans fell through at the last minute. So I called Amma (I'm only four blocks away) and was told they would hold the last table for me. I didn't indicate that I was an eGulleteer or anything. Didn't want to.

I was placed at a table I'd photographed previously, facing the door but not too close. I saw Bikky and Hemant almost immediately, and I settled down with my book. (More on the book in a bit.)

These are my notes and thoughts, below, for the most part. Green indicates "I'm adding this now, this morning. Oh, and a funny thing. Owner Anju Sharma saw me scribbling and thought I was trying to get the recipes so (ha ha hahahahahahahhahaha) I could cook these dishes myself. I told her that was impossible, but that I just wanted to take good notes to describe what I had so that Others Could Live Vicariously Through Me. :biggrin:

------------------------------

Wine #1: I asked Bikky to try something different. Why not the Indian Blanc de Blanc? I knew little about Indian wine (who does?), and trusted Bikky to bring me something wonderful. (Note: "Wine #1" was, in fact, the only wine I had all evening. I loved it and didn't want to stray from the infatuation. For the record, it was a Grover Vineyards Nandi Hills Blanc de Blanc 2001, from Bangalore. Bikky told me more about it, that it was produced in collaboration with Michel Rolland of Bordeaux, France, in what is, I believe, soon to be the biggest vineyard in the world.)

I am too tired to know what I am tasting or smelling -- to analyze or deconstruct it--but if I had one word: SUMMER. Surely this is Indian terroir.

Without even seeing a menu, a dish arrives. Hemant knows me: it's Bombey bhel puri. Also on the plate: cashew roll and spinach tikki (both cylindrical) with mint and tamarind sauces.

Bombay bhel puri: my love. There are little hidden tomato jewels that surprise this time. The cashew is warm and nutty, earthy like meat. It's perfect with the tamarind. The earthiness of the cashews is a nice weight against the lighter spinach and bhel puri, which is airy. All three sit prettily on a leaf-shaped glass.

(Note: I had brought my camera but was reluctant to use it after the results I'd had last time. I did eventually take some pictures but lack the capacity to upload them here, so will have to wait until I'm home.)

I take miniscule bites, savoring each bit. This technically wasn't the best strategy because Hemant was timing his courses like a pro, and I'm dawdling so long that the planes are stacking up to land, if you know what I mean. Soon, spinach chaat arrives, another favorite.

The mung beans are especially sweet and yet crisp. Like peas. The wine perfectly cools the heat—the effect of the sun and a dip in the brisk ocean. (I am especially happy that Amma is full on a Monday evening, and at 9 PM, no less.)

Now the flavor of the tempura crust, with the acid and softness of the tomatoes, come through and my mouth wakes up some more. But I think I "chaated" too much with Bikky and Hemant, as the crust is a teeny bit chewier than normal. I'm certain they held it back while I played "Slow Eater Tiny Bite Taker," and resolve to hasten the speed at which I am nibbling molecules, trying to figure out flavors.

Another trio arrives, and now I have to get out my camera. One is a normal-sized piece of shrimp with a basil leave (shrimp balchao), along with idly upma and a bread-like thing in the middle. It is my fault I couldn't get the name of that item, but when I post it, Suvir can enlighten us. The shrimp and its sauce taste almost Italian, but they are red-hot. Not too hot, but definitely Indian. Little fried basil leaves are a surprise: they sit under each item.

I wasn't sure how to eat everything, but the bread did a good job of soothing the heat in my mouth. No complaints. It was bracing. The opposite of a jump into a cold pool, and climbing out onto a warm towel. Reverse the sensations.

NOTE: There were two tables of Indians (that I saw) that evening. Would love to have their feedback.

NOTE: I didn't want to get out my camera but finally did if for no other reason than to get the names of the things I couldn't spell. As it turns out, I got what promise to be very good shots. I fully blame Bikky for my previous visit, for plying us with so much wine that photography and coherent note-taking were absent. :wink:

NOTE: Being a single diner, I appeared with a book--Bourdain's A Cook's Tour)--which I pretended to read. It gave me the appearance of having a reason to take notes, but some people were looking at me as though I were a food critic. Right.

The unbelievable and noteworthy, nay, STOP THE PRESSES! I actually ordered okra. I, who fled Georgia to escape the slime-trail of okra, have actually expressed my preference for it as a side dish to the tandoori shrimp I ordered. (I didn't go with the tasting menu, being not that hungry, as if that would stop Hemant from sending new things to the table.)

The okra is so wonderful. It balances the tandoori so well, with its light saltiness. The true flavor of the okra itself is liberated with Hemant's touch.

The tandoori shrimp are the size of rollerskates. Volkswagens. The scent is like heat and earth, and brings to mind those photographs of things shimmering in the heat.

My new favorites are the wine and the spinach tikki.

I'm trying to eat slowly. Each morsel is so flavorful. Why cram them into my mouth?

And finally, with two prawns and most of the okra left, I surrender. Almost. Nibble. Okra. Nibble. Salt, meet heat. Wow.

Around me, the Amma team hums and bustles. They move quickly and gracefully. I have noticed new background music, very beautiful, in the background. Now it's an aria, but I can't remember the name,

I am very glad I'm here "by myself," although I don't feel alone,. I have solitude between creations.

Hemant better understand why I can't order dessert, especially since I had told him, "I am committing chocolate blasphemy in saying this, but the coconut flan I had last time was the best thing ever."

I'm getting the whole thing to go. Otherwise I pop.

[END OF NOTES from the evening.]

-----------------------------------

Well, if all that wasn't enough, an amazing thing happened. A couple of times in the course of my meal, I heard the words "San Francisco" from the table behind me. Hemant was telling the man and woman there about the restaurant he'd opened in Sunnyvale.

At one point, he asked me if I would write down the details for the gentleman at that table. I turned around to meet them. The woman turned out to be Karen DeMasco, the pastry chef at Craft in NYC. Now that is a big WOW for me, as every word I've read about Craft is that it's just wonderful. And the references to San Francisco applied to her dining companion. She asked if I'd ever heard of Sharffen Berger Chocolates. Well, who hasn't? It's arguably the best chocolate in the United States. I met Robert Steinberg, one of its founders.

What wonderful people these were: and it felt like Amma wove some kind of magical spell that I got to encounter them there.

We talked for a long time about a lot of things, and the upshot is: I've got to get back to NYC and go to Craft, and I want to get Robert Steinberg to an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner. He knows some of the Santa Cruz farmers from the Ferry Plaza farmer's market.

He said something about some writer featuring Scharffen Berger chocolates as part of a "perfect day" in San Francisco...they're at the Ferry Plaza Market building. I told him (faux indignant) that I'd written such a piece myself, in response to a query in the California board about how to best spend four days in San Francisco. (I wonder what someone else had to say about that perfect day?)

So, that is my third trip to Amma in six months. It was simply wonderful. Wonderful to return, wonderful to dine and sip Indian wines...just so worth flying 2500 miles and finding such an evening at the end of my day.

I'll try to post photos when I return. I fly back to San Francisco tonight, and drive back from the city tomorrow afternoon. Then I have to deal with getting back online at my house. (DSL modem and router both died on the weekend.)

Thanks, Hemnant and Bikky and Anju and Team Amma. (Alas, I didn't get to meet Suvir this time, so I'm pretty sure he's invisible or only appears to good children or something like that. :wink: )

Amma. Sigh. :wub:

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Suvir,

I'm a frequent visitor to NY and unfortunately never happened upon your resto. Its sounds very good. I have a question about your vegetarian meals. Are they cooked in separate pots (and served on different plates) than non-vegetarian meals?

I'm hoping to bring my "amma" this summer and she's very strict on this point. Meanwhile, I should be there in a few days and don't have those restrictions and thus will make an effort to try out your place.

Ravi.

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I finally got my pictures downloaded. I think next time I will eat when there is still some light outside, as the lighting inside is tricky.

Nevertheless:

1) Appetizers: Shrimp Balchao, Nan (?), Idly Upma.

i5222.jpg

2) Indian wine (so good!)

i5227.jpg

3) Main course: Tandoori Prawns (right) with okra (left), and not certain about the green rice in the center. EDIT: it's mint rice.

i5226.jpg

4) Dessert. Swoonworthy. Rose Panna Cotta (front) and Coconut Flan (rear). Heavenly. Just heavenly.

i5223.jpg

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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I think the rice is the jackfruit biryani. Those photos bring back some delightful memories, although I haven't had the panna cotta and flan.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think the rice is the jackfruit biryani. Those photos bring back some delightful memories, although I haven't had the panna cotta and flan.

The menu says it's mint rice with the Tandoori prawns, so that's what I put in.

A good friend is visiting NYC next week and I insisted he eat at Amma. He will if he can manage it with his obligations.

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To All:

This topic has posts pending administrative review and will be locked until further notice. We will be posting an announcement regarding its status within a few days. As this may take some time to sort out, we would appreciate that you do not make requests for information of us via new topics, posts, PM and email while they are under review.

Update:

As mentioned in the New York Times and New York Post, Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur have left the kitchen at Amma.

Although it is not our usual practice at eGullet to discourage discussion about a noteworthy event in the restaurant community, we are taking a somewhat extraordinary step here due to the unique nature of Amma's connection to eGullet. One principal, Suvir, has posted extensively in this thread and elsewhere on the site regarding Amma and his association with the restaurant. We feel that this has created an environment in which it would be impossible to discuss the recent changes at Amma in an impartial manner.  Therefore, in the interests of fairness to all parties, we have decided to disallow any further discussion or speculation on this matter on eGullet.

Because Amma will have a new chef, any future posts regarding the restaurant and its food should be made under a new thread and we encourage all interested parties to continue posting about Amma in our forums -- just start a new thread and have at it. We wish all involved the best of luck in this and any future ventures.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

Foodies who Review South Florida (Facebook) | offthebroiler.com - Food Blog (archived) | View my food photos on Instagram

Twittter: @jperlow | Mastodon @jperlow@journa.host

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