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Amma


prasad2
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Suvir, congratulations. You, Hemant, Bikky, and the crew must be flying after that fabulous review.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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On the heels of not one but two glowing reviews this week, the New York Times. The whole review is wonderfully positive.

The intro paragraph:

INDIA is a big country, but Amma manages to cover most of it. Its menu is a whirlwind tour that extends geographically from the northwestern frontier to Goa, and stylistically from refined Mogul cooking to lunchbox fare and street snacks. Suvir Saran, one of Amma's owners as well as one of its two chefs, is the travel agent for this culinary adventure, and he has a not-so-secret educational agenda. For years he has taught a popular course on Indian cooking at New York University. Amma is his opportunity to reach a different kind of audience, in a different way, and he has jumped for it.

This snippet mentions my favorite dish which "shows off the kitchen's clean, precise way with spices"

Bombay bhel puri, another humble appetizer, also shows off the kitchen's clean, precise way with spices and aggressive flavors. The dish is a gaudily colored, interwoven stack of crispy rice puffs and chickpea flour noodles, arranged for maximum crunch, with a tart, aromatic onslaught from tamarind and cilantro chutneys. Potatoes, tomatoes and red onion bring it back down to earth.

Wow and wow again, Suvir and all of my friends at Amma! I am so happy for you all.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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HA! Cross-post, Hitchmeer. I'd edit but I think I will just let it stand.

But now I have to complain about the system of eGullet...I came here to post, and clicked the link to "first unread post," which should have taken me end of the previous batch of posts. Instead it skipped me past everything new and took me to the end of all the posts, which didn't let me see that this review had already been mentioned here.

Sorry for the silliness and grr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r eGullet Systemware. This happens too often.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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I opened the food section first thing this morning---pre coffee!--and the first thing I read was Grimes's review. Even if I'd never heard of Suvir, or tasted his tomato chutney, I would still have thought: "I want to go to this restaurant. This week!"

Warmest congratulations.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Suvir, the NYT review is probably the one to send to your mother! :raz:

Many, many congratulations. William Grimes was much more on the mark with this review than with his Diner's Journal review. I am so happy for you and everyone at Amma. This is turning out to be some holiday season for you, huh? :smile: - Jayanthi

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There goes the neighborhood  :smile:  The good thing is that it seats only 40; bad news is that walk-in lunch and probably short-notice dinner reservations go out the window  :smile:

Cannot imagine what would have happened if eGullets management had dined at Amma and written about it in the same manner as they did about Mix.... :unsure::shock: the lines would already have filled our non-existing seats.:raz::rolleyes:

Strangely, Hemant and I are moved, alas in tears to see the support our little restaurant has received in the press outside of eGullet. We are a very small restaurant, and hired no publicist, wrote no press releases... and did no mailings (postal or email or facsimile). Something tells me Indian food and its popularity have given us such attention. We have been lucky and blessed.

Thanks everyone for your support.....fellow members have been very bold and encouraged us in the absence of much participation from eGullet officials. We were far smaller than the likes of Mix... and certainly no one connected to Amma has the celebrity of Alain Ducasse. We may have wanted to share our foods with our beloved Fat Guy and Mrs. Fat Guy (great fans of Hemant and my food at Diwan and champions of Indian food and all things ethnic and small) and Jason and Rachel Perlow (who had loved our tomato chutney and suggested we bottle it. Whose undying enthusiasm for the chutney, made me dig for recipes of so many more chutneys and pickles, all of which I thought they would help me bottle... hehe) and others from the sites management, but we appreciate the time and effort they place in keeping eGullet alive and active in the discovery of Mix and other restaurants that could use the extra press and have enough room to seat those people that are inspired by their online words of encouragement. I have been blessed to have had the association of these minds here, and I am lucky to also have the encouragement of each of you. Our official thanks to you for saving us from more people at our doors.... and from having us feel hurt as we have to send away more people who come walking in. You have given us a gift as you have been busy appreciating other fine establishments opening and making a new impression in our wonderful NYC. In India, it is always said that when the Janta (masses) participate without encouragement or endorsement of the officials of the state, the cause is really dear and noteworthy. That again, tells Hemant and I that we are lucky to have been cooking Indian food at a time when it is gaining interest in a country where it is still new and mostly undiscovered for its many finer and subtle nuances.

New York Magazine (preview and discovery - Gael Greene), NY Times (announcement from Florence Fabricant), NY Times (Diner's Journal - William Grimes), AM NY (review), Columbia Spectator (Jayanthi Daniel), NPR (Splendid Table), NPR CT. (Faith Middleton), New Yorker Magazine (Tables For Two - Dana Goodyear), New York Magazine (review - Adam Platt) & NY Times (review - William Grimes) have all been very kind and generous to us. The publications and their representatives have sought us out without our solicitation. And have given our unique effort in bringing the foods of Indian homes and regions, not overly exposed in the restaurant kitchens their endorsement through their attention. In doing so, it is our belief, they have helped the two of us in taking our food and our love of Indian food at its most basic form, into the next logical step. A place where the recipes of India, as one has known for millennia, find a place of pride without having to get lost in the accidents that easily take place in slipper slopes mostly afforded by mindless fusion.

The neighborhood while modest in this block, charmless in our closest vicinity, still has a large population of residents and day workers that are exposed to the world and its rich diversity in a bit greater depth than many other areas. The UN, plays a very important role in our blocks. The ambassadors of countries, their officials and visitors, are all dining around the restaurants in our area. These are diners that have a great level of awareness of what is authentic from the many countries that make up our globe. At Amma, we have found quick approval from our customers that are part of this group. They understand rapidly what Hemant and I are sharing... and to most of them, what is new to some others, is easily understood as food found in homes or certain establishments of India. Hence, this charmless block and the connected neighborhood has been actually a blessing as well.

Our having 40 seats makes our life easy as we try and share dishes that are not the usual suspects on popular menus in Indian restaurants. Believe me, it is plenty challenge dealing with those that come looking for Mango Chicken Curry (and certainly not made of green mango, which would be quite delightful, but made of mango juice, sweet and dreadful), Bright Red Tandoori Chicken and Fish Vindaloo. Our biggest challenge, and one that leaves me most sad, is our having to turn away scores of supportive customers that come by expecting tables but find no room in our small little room. I wish we had room to seat each and every one that ever entered our doors.

Anju, Hemant, Bikky, the team of dedicated and gracious employees of Amma and myself, all thank each of you on eGullet that have given us encouragement from day one. Perhaps in time, as those of you that live in NYC or vicinity, and those that come visit NYC from farther away make visits to Amma, we can share with you our thanks through service and food that we strive to take to greater levels each day. We are already working on new dishes that shall be introduced soon after we go into the next year.

I shall write more later. But the last few days have been rather busy at the restaurant and we have also been swamped with creating meals that we serve at Amma in remote locations for patrons that have been kind enough to open up platforms for us to share our food in outside of Amma in settings where Indian food would not usually find easy welcome. All of this is most encouraging to us at Amma, for it speaks of a new age of appreciation of Indian cuisine.

Certainly through your continued support of Amma, the Amma team shall do all it can to work alongside you, sharing with you and learning from you, as we move from where we all are today in this time and place in the world of Indian cuisine towards where it will logically end up in the next decade or so. It will be great to look back in time and realize we were here together. Thanks for all your posts of encouragement and appreciation. You shall always be remembered by us. :smile:

Edited by Suvir Saran (log)
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This is already being discussed on the New York Board, but AMMA has received yet another glowing, this time more lengthy, review in the New York Times:

The Food of India, From Top to Bottom 

Congratulations again, Suvir!

Yes, as I mentioned there and firmly believe that one or two dishes in Amma will outshine to become as well known as Motimahal's (Delhi) butter chicken :smile: It might even become sublime in its satisation of the hungry.

anil

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Yes, as I mentioned there and firmly believe that one or two dishes in Amma will outshine to become as well known as Motimahal's (Delhi) butter chicken :smile: It might even become sublime in its satisation of the hungry.

Anil, the members of eGullet have been champions of Amma. Many, many thanks to each of you for your support and patient hearing....Could not ask for a better family of eGulleteers.

Would you mind sharing what these dishes are?? Maybe we ought to keep the discussion in the NY forum. Since that thread is the more active one. I am very curious now.... wondering what your favorite dishes at Amma are... ones that you are thinking in this instance.....

And thanks for this huge compliment. :smile:

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Suvir, there may not be any vindaloos to being tears to my eyes, but your post does. When there are so many chef-restaurateurs who couldn't care less about their customers (other than they don't bounce checks), your love and sensitivity for everyone who wants to dine at Amma is extraordinary. Congratulations on the Times review. I never saw a more laudatory, completely positive review. It was really one that belied the number of stars.

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Even if my asking the person who took my last-minute reservation this past Saturday evening if Suvir would be at the restaurant was the reason my wife and I were treated like family at Amma, I would bet the ranch that even if I had not invoked Suvir's name we would have been fawned and fussed over, at the latest, by our second visit

. I told myself that I would not let my past gatherings with Suvir and our messages back and forth cloud my judgment of Amma. I do not believe it did, nor in the case of my wife either, who doesn't let anything cloud her judgment.

Fundamentally, Amma is the proverbial breath of fresh air in the Indian cuisine dining scene in New York. We decided to order two dishes that were new to us--the spinach chaat and the Parsi halibut--and two that we could compare with other experiences--the behl poori and the tandoori lamb chops. We loved all of them, with the only small flaw being the temperature of the halibut, which could have been warmer. But I do not want to forget the best raita in a lifetime of ordering raita. The fried spinach leaves placed on top was a touch we had never encountered. It imparted a delicious crunch. It should be a side dish one should order every time out. Desserts were great as well; a rashmali and panna cotta, if memory serves me correctly.

I am a staunch beer drinker in Indian restaurants, but after allowing me to have an Indian beer that was new to me (Iron Horse), Bikky began championing the glories of wine with Indian food and shared with us his quest that takes him all over the world to find wines that compliment with Indian spices. He gave a marvelous Australian Shiraz that went well with my halibut and another Shiraz and a French Chardonnay. He was almost all ours, it seemed, for our entire visit. Rarely have we received such attention, let alone in a restaurant where people were waiting for a table. Anju, Amma's proprietor, told us that this was his first restaurant and how fortunate he was to have Suvir, Hemat and Bikky.

Hemat checked up on us a few times in his most warm and gracious way. We enjoyed his cuisine at Diwan, but here at Amma, it is clear he is enjoying the opportunity to branch out and be challenged by dishes that are not clichés.

We missed seeing Suvir who was just returning from a trip. But we will back very soon and look forward to seeing him. After all, Amma, as I told him, is our new culinary home away from home, which we left praising it highly. Amma is astonishingly well-run with service that is considerate, unaggressive and, during our meal, never missed a beat.

Robert, I had begun writing a response to your wonderful and encouraging post, but have not been able to finish it between juggling time at Amma, home (with a couple hours of sleep), hospitals and test kitchens and other stuff.

I have every desire to finish that note and post it soon.

Please forgive my tardiness. :smile:

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Suvir, there may not be any vindaloos to being tears to my eyes, but your post does. When there are so many chef-restaurateurs who couldn't care less about their customers (other than they don't bounce checks), your love and sensitivity for everyone who wants to dine at Amma is extraordinary. Congratulations on the Times review. I never saw a more laudatory, completely positive review. It was really one that belied the number of stars.

Robert our posts crossed each other. :biggrin:

The NY Times review and Mr. Grimes, have been very kind to us. I know Mr. Grimes, the paper and their reviews are open to much bashing here at eGullet. I have always wondered why we bash something we consider so less important. :unsure: But as a chef and a NYC resident, I have always believed in the importance of this paper, even when I hate it and call them to say I am ending subscription.... and then do so and call back and start it again..... It is love and hate... but never one of bashing for the sake of it... or for any selfish reasons.

We at Amma are very lucky that Mr. Grimes was able to have many a favorable meal at Amma. Yes, his review was very laudatory, but perhaps he was championing a cause he believes in.. and we have been lucky to have been at the right place at the right time. Not all in life is about just one issue (read our cuisine here), so many other issues are connected to a review.

What can I say.... it is the customer that fills our little room, the customer that gives us our daily bread if you may, and the customer that helps create the buzz that food writers rely on when a restaurant as small of us does not have a publicist. I did not even mention this restaurant till its opening day on eGullet. We knew we are a very small little space... and just our presence with a new menu would increase curiosity.... little had we expected that credible journalists from very credible dailies and magazines would seek us out and review us. And now, we have reviews that are largely positive and a space that is largely small. Customers who have never visited us, find it a challenge of great proportions to not find a table at Amma. Their frustration and their anger, does make my heart bleed and wonder what we could do when we have no options.

Robert, your congratulations mean a lot to me. I hardly know you well, have only met you at eGullet events, and not too many of them either. But I do remember you have always had the following and immense respect of the likes of Bux and other officials of eGullet. I have also been greatly impressed by your wife. More so than any other person I have met in a long time. In our one and only meeting, I quickly realized she had taste, patience, curiosity and class. How is she? I am sorry I missed you at Amma. But the hospital was calling me.... :sad:

Do come back to Amma.... I cannot wait to see you.. and this time, spend some time giving you a journey through India with the foods of its people. If you give us some warning, we are able to prepare dishes that are not on the menu, ones we plan for those regulars that have already exhausted and repeated every dish on the menu.

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