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Devi


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Suvir was on "The Today Show" this morning (how I wish I'd known about that)....and from that link, this happy news:

His new Manhattan restaurant, Devi, is scheduled to open in September.

Those of us fortunate enough to have dined at Amma (where Suvir and chef Hemant Mathur prepared amazing Indian food) have been awaiting this news, as have those who missed them there.

Suvir, congratulations on your television appearance. Any word on Devi will be eagerly received.

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Yes, congratulations!

There is a recipe of his for lamb burger in the current (August?) Food and Wine (?). I saw it a couple of weeks ago while at brunch and wondered if I had missed the announcement here.

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Very good news. Congratulations and best wishes for continued success, Suvir.

"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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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I was in the area this afternoon, so I stopped in to Devi, still a work in progress. I spoke briefly with Hemant who told me that they hope to open for dinner on 9/27. The menu was still a work in progress, and I graciously volunteered my time and taste buds if necessary.

The space, on 18th, just East of 5th, is cozy but not small. I didn't get a great look at it but one item I did notice was a beautiful white marble balcony on the upper loft level. Hemant said that the marble was imported from India. I hope they're able to place some lighting behind the marble because one of the outstanding qualities of Indian marble is its translucence. (Most other marble is opaque, or so I'm told.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although the investors own the Balucci restaurants (I have no idea who owns what in Devi), I think Suvir would wince a bit at the statement that Devi is part of the Balucci family.

I had the pleasure of eating at Devi last week. I'll have a review up soon.

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Stone is not the ony one to have had the great good fortune of having a pre-opening dinner at Devi. My husband and I were there on Wednesday as Suvir's guests.

Those of you who, like us, dined at Amma, will no doubt agree that the food Suvir and Hemant served there was sensational. It spoiled my husband and me to the point that it became near impossible to go back to any of the Indian restaurants that we had gone to in the past because, in comparison, they are so ordinary. When Suvir and Hemant departed Amma, we were crushed. Then, we heard that they would be opening a new restaurant, and we were thrilled, doubly so because their new location would be in our neighborhood. Now, Suvir and Hemant are back, and so is their sublime cuisine.

Much larger than Amma, Devi contains about 70 seats on two levels. The main level has a bar on one side and banquette seating on the other. A curved staircase leads to a balcony, a smaller space with about 25 seats, which is where we were seated. Downstairs, the walls, painted red, are covered with sheer white drapes. There is a canopy over the bar also draped in the sheer white fabric with a red fabric underskirt. Suspended from the red painted ceiling are clusters of pendant chandeliers with bright, multi-colored glass covers. The entire space has a very pleasing soft rosy glow, with the chandeliers adding a splash of colors. While the fabric on the downstairs banquettes is subdued (navy blue with a gold pattern), the banquettes lining the perimeter of the balcony and the entire walls above are upholstered in a smashing pink and gold fabric. At the front of the balcony, there are attractive white trellises. Overall, this is a wonderfully attractive space and, despite its large size, there is a feeling of warmth and coziness, particularly on the balcony.

The service staff’s excellent training was in evidence all evening. Our server was exceedingly well-schooled regarding every dish on the menu for that particular evening. There were six appetizers, eight main courses, two rices that can be ordered as sides, two additional sides, two breads, and three desserts. Only the names were listed, so he spent several minutes explaining each dish to us and answering any questions we had. We were encouraged to taste as many dishes as we wished, so we did something akin to a tasting and shared everything.

The meal began auspiciously with a delightful amuse: creamy eggplant in a small pastry shell with a tomato couli that had a hint of spice.

From the appetizers listed, we selected Bombay Bhel Puri, the Trio of Samosas, and the Manchurian Cauliflower. Having had the Bhel Pui at Amma, we couldn’t resist having it again. And it was as outrageously delicious as we remembered it – a sensational mix of crunchy rice puffs, cilantro, red onions, potatoes, mint, and tamarind chutneys. The samosas were perfectly deep-fried with not the slightest hint of oiliness. Each had a different, tasty filling, and there were two dipping sauces. Our server described the cauliflower dish as Sino-Indian. It was the spiciest of all the dishes we tasted. Cut into chunky florets, the cauliflower was coated with a fiery red sauce that got its heat, Suvir told us, from chile peppers. My husband, who relishes very spicy food, loved this dish. I have less tolerance for spiciness so that, while I liked the crunch of the cauliflower and the flavor of the sauce, I would have preferred the heat taken down a notch or two.

It was really difficult to decide which main course dishes to choose since they all sounded terrific. We settled on four: Parsi Halibut “Paatra Ni Machi,” Farm Raised Basil Chicken, stuffed eggplant in a peanut sauce, and a squash preparation. When the halibut was served, I realized it had been on our tasting menu at Amma. Cooked exactly as I requested, the fish was delicate and light, topped with coconut chutney and accompanied by lemon rice. A brilliant combination of flavors! Showcasing Hemant’s master’s touch with the tandoor, the grilled chicken was moist and suffused with the basil flavor while not being overpowered by it. Tomato chutney was a fine companion, along with lemon rice. I am an eggplant fanatic, so I was completely bowled over by the flavor-filled stuffed eggplant balls that were immersed in the lip-smacking peanut sauce. The squash dish, sort of sweet and sour, was the only choice we made that didn’t float my boat though my husband liked it.

We ordered onion kulcha, probably our favorite of all the Indian breads, and found it to be an outstanding version. Suvir had the kitchen send out a side order of Mint-Coconut Rice, which was very tasty. Having a side order of rice is good if one orders a course that does not come with rice, such as the eggplant with peanut sauce. However, since two of our main courses came with rice, this extra rice was a bit of an overload. In the only slight glitch of the evening, we had also ordered a side of okra with raita, but it never came. We mentioned this oversight in passing to our server. He apologized and said he would get it for us asap; however, we told him not to bother because, by that time, we were getting quite full and wanted to leave room for dessert.

Good thing because desserts at Devi are phenomenal. We ordered the Mango Cheesecake and the Pineapple Cake with Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet. When we were informed that they were out of the cheesecake, we weren’t terribly disappointed because we had had it at Amma. (It was one of the best cheesecakes we have ever had!) So, instead, we substituted the Kulfi Citrus Soup. And were we glad we had it! Saffron-flavored Indian “ice cream” in a pyramid shape topped with gold leaf (!) sat in a pool of citrus liquid. The rich, creamy kulfi played against the bittersweet, tart soup. Unreal! As for the little cylinder of pineapple cake and the sorbet, as I said to my husband as we scarfed it all down, how can you miss with layers of fresh, finely diced pineapple, whipped cream, and thin disks of cake accompanied by sorbet? Hardly!

I don’t drink, but my husband had shiraz by the glass with the meal. He plans to do some wine pairings during future visits.

At Devi, as was the case at Amma, presentation is akin to that found at the finest upscale restaurants -- different ly shaped china and different colors to match or contrast with the beautifully arranged food on the plate.

Despite the pressures of opening his new restaurant at the same time that his new book is being published (plus teaching a course Saturday evening at ICE), Suvir appeared quite relaxed. As always, he was the perfect host, delightful and charming, circulating around the dining room, making certain that all his guests were well taken care of. He stopped at our table a number of times to discuss the dishes we had ordered and to ask our opinions.

To sum it all up, as my husband and I like to say in French restaurants when the meal is sublime, "Cinq etoiles pour le chef!" :wub:

Devi will be serving dinner seven days a week, and lunch begins in October. You can see the menus and prices on their web site.

Devi

8 East 18th St., between B’way & 5th Ave.

Tel: 212-691-1300

www.devinyc.com

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rozrapp, thanks for the post.

It's so good to hear that Suvir and Hemant are doing so well.

"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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Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Devi, the new creation of Chefs Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur. The restaurant had not yet officially opened, and so I served as a guinea pig for the kitchen and staff. A happier pig I could not have been.

Devi is located on a quiet block of 18th Street, just East of 5th Avenue. The room is a comfortable size, allowing an intimate setting without any overcrowding. The ceilings are high and the walls are draped with thin peach-colored fabric. “Windows” cut into the fabric expose absolutely beautiful displays of authentic Indian artifacts. Large wood facades that seem to have been transported from the windows of an old home in India and marble carvings give authentic charm without being at all kitchy or distracting. The front door is framed, from the inside, with a spectacular carved wooden columns. The upper balcony is fronted with beautiful carved marble.

Many of the dishes on the menu will be familiar to fans of Amma and Diwan. We started with three appetizers: Bel Phuri, Crab Kulcha and Manchurian Cauliflower.

The bel phuri is as Roz described it. Excellent. The crab kulcha was also a pleasant surprise. I’ve often had onion and/or garlic kulcha in the past, which was a large nan, stuffed full of onion/garlic. No different here. But the nan was wonderfully soft, fluffy and moist and not the least bit oily. There was an ample amount of crab inside and it was served with a wonderful yogurt sauces. The manchurian cauliflower is also excellent, I almost asked for another order. Large cauliflower flowers are lighted breaded (in what appeared to be pakora breading), fried an sparely covered in a fiery red sauce. The sauce removes crispness from the breading, but the overall effect is for tender flowers with a crunchy stem.

For the main course, I ordered Phool Makhane Kee Sabzi (popped lotus seeds with chenna (indian ricotta), peas, fenugreek leaves, currants and cashews). This is possibly the most unique Indian dish I’ve had. If you’ve had lotus root, you’ll recall that it is often served sliced horizontally, and it has little holes circling the disc. Those holes hold the seeds, and I for one have never heard hide nor hair of them. Suvir has taken them and “popped them like popcorn.” He then mixed them with peas and put them in a wonderfully fresh curry. The combination is unique and compelling. At first I found the texture of the lotus seeds odd, and almost off-putting. My friend said that she simply didn’t like it. They are somewhat like popcorn, and if you imagine popcorn in a sauce, you’ll know what the seeds were like. Simultaneously crunchy and chewy, fresh and stale. But the sauce forces you to keep eating and the texture of the seeds quickly wins you over. The sauce was exceptional in my opinion, due to the underlying sourness from the chenna. This left a subtle sweet tang that greatly complimented the peas. Overall a terrific dish, but I expect many will not be able to get over the texture of the lotus seeds.

My friend ordered the salmon dish. It was a tower of fish and flavor that was expertly crafted, but slightly overwhelming. The main item were two large pieces of fresh salmon, cooked perfectly – moist and bright pink. On the bottom, mashed potatoes flavored with mustard seeds. In the middle, a dark malabar chutney (similar to Suvir’s tomato chutney, but with more spice). On top, the wonderful fried okra. (I wondered where these would appear.) Each piece of the dish is excellent, and they don’t class at all. However, they are each significant and may overwhelm some tongues.

I was disappointed that they didn’t have meats on the menu, but that night was the seafood/veggie night. I’ll have to go back as a paying guest.

When I have time I'll be more articulate and put up the pics.

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I forgot two things: They serve butter chicken as a side dish -- odd. I've never had "butter chicken" before, but my understanding is that it's pretty much the same as chicken tikka masala. Well, same or not, this was the best I've had. It tasted like CTM, but the flavors were much more developed. Not necessarily spicer, just fuller.

And the rice. Unlike most Asian restaurants, the rice played a small role in this meal. Three small scoops of rice. They were very good. But the menu didn't seem to have a basic basmati rice or nan option. I needed something to help scoop.

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Thanks for those reports, Roz and Stone!

I happen to really like lotus seeds, so I'll ask for that dish when I'm at Devi.

It does sound like at the moment, Suvir and Hemant are continuing to present some of the wonderful dishes they served at Amma, and that's only natural, but the lotus seed dish may point in other directions they may eventually travel toward. I really look forward to not only my first time at Devi, but to how the menu will settle in a year or two, when I hope their new venture is well-established.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I went to Devi last night and had a terrific meal. I ordered the tasting menu and was not disappointed. The restaurant itself was beautifully decorated. Lots of warm rich colors and plush fabrics. Half of the restaurant is opened high ceilings the other half has the second floor. I love the space, very similar to one of the ABC carpeting buildings. My date and I sat in the back of the restaurant that looks like it could be sectioned off for a private party.

Most people will tell you to not go to a restaurant when it first opens in order for them to get the kinks out. For Devi, this is certainly not the case. There really was no indication that Devi hadnt been opened for a long time. If this is them just starting, then I couldnt imagine them at full steam. The meal I had was amazing. The service continued to be gracious, and exact.

I am not going to go into a long description of each dish, but everything I had was amazing. Some of the highlights are the scallop dish, the veal bruschetta was really rich and decedent went sooo good with a glass of wine. And if the GIGANTIC shrimp served with fried okra and stuffed chicken was the only thing I ate instead of it being one dish in a long line, I would have left happy. One more thing, if you are going to go for dinner and get the tasting menu, dont eat lunch. There is really so much food being served and you really have no choice but to eat everything. I am still full this morning.

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My husband and I were invited to Devi last Wednesday as Suvir's guests. Since the restaurant had not officially opened, we had only a one page menu to choose from. But there was plenty to choose from. The meal began with a pastry shell filled with creamy eggplant filling served on a bed of tomato couli.

For appetizer this picky vegetarian chose the trio of samosas and my husband selected the grilled tandoori shrimp. I was served only the vegetarian samosas (I believe they have one meat samosa in the menu) Samosas were just the perfect size- not too big or too small, and they were not oily at all. And there were two chutneys for dipping. The shrimp was grilled perfectly. My husband couldn't stop talking how good it was.

For main course I had bangara baingan, stuffed small eggplant in a peanut sauce. The dish was very flavorful and the sauce was spiced just right. I asked for lemon rice but Suvir decided to send a trio of rices- lemon, coconut and tomato. My husband had farm raised basil chicken served over a bed of lelmon rice along with tomato chutney. The grilled chicken was moist and mildly flavored with basil. Suvir also had the kitchen send out two more vegetable side dishes - a sweet and sour squash dish and phool makhane kee sabzi - lotus seeds with chenna, peas, and fenugreek leaves. This was a very unusual dish which I had never tasted before. Squash is not one of my favorite dishes but my husband enjoyed it. Lotus seed curry was sweet, tangy and spicy all at the same time and the lotus seeds added a crunchy texture to it.

For dessert we chose kulfi in citrus juice. The presentation was beautiful. A pyramid shaped kulfi was topped with a sliver of gold leaf and was placed in a pool of lightly spiced citrus juice reduction. It was a great combination, but I wish there was a little less citrus juice.

Suvir was a perfect host and stopped at our table (at other tables as well) several times to ask our opinions about the food. He introduced us to Chef Hemant and was also kind enough to give me a copy of his cookbook.

Ammini

Ammini Ramachandran

www.Peppertrail.com

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I'm happy to recognize so many of Devi's dishes from Amma's menu -- I was afraid I'd never get to eat those tandoori lamb chops again! I'm looking forward to trying the new ones, too.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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  • 2 weeks later...

Allow me to talk about Devi, if I may.

I took the family there last night for a little celebration. It was great. Even my "I don't like Inidan food" dad, a.k.a. "Poppy Grumpus", thought everything was terrific.

Here's how the night started:

Dad: "Brains! They're going to serve us brains?!!"

Mom: "I'll have a martini." Good night mom.

Bradley: "I don't eat Indian food."

Andy, to the server: "Do you have any real Indian food? I don't see any aloo gobi?"

Well, things moved on from there. The table ordered three regular tasting menus, three vegetarian tasting menus, shrimp biryani and two orders of tandoori shrimp (for the point counters).

For an amuse we were served a small fried dumpling of ground lamb and lentil. It had the look and texture of a medium sized falafel. It had a nice flavor of the lamb and soft spices, but I found it a tad dry.

The next dish, papad & mung bean chaat was very nice. Not as memorable as the bel poohri, but very clean and crisp. A small pile of sprouted mung beans served with wafers of papad, with some chopped tomato and chutney. I liked it, but think it would be better served as a palate cleanser in the middle of the meal.

Next up for the meat person, grilled scallop, served with manchurian cauliflower, red pepper chutney and bitter orange marmalade. Excllent dish. The large, plump scallop was wonderfully fresh and moist. The cauliflower had improved since my last visit --it was crisper and the sauce was lighter, still with a sharp bite. The bitter-orange chutney was also very good, with new, interesting flavors.

About this time, they brought out three types of naan: keema, onion/parmesan, and cauliflower. The cauliflower was my favorite. The cauliflower was very subtle, at most an aftertaset. The bread was light, not at all greasy.

This was followed by the tandoori stuffed chicken legs. Actually, they seemed to be breasts to me, or else that chickens got some big gams. good sized rounds of meat, stuffed with minced chicken and spinach. I expected these to be dry, but they weren't. The meat had a very smooth texture to it.

The vegetarians got the idly. I didn't try it, they said it was terrific.

next Up was the grilled tiger prawns. Very straightforward presentation of prawns that had been marinated in yogurt, garlic and spices. These were the hit of the evening. Unbelievably large, moist and tender. The flavor was incredible.

I also ordered a dish of the puffed lotus seed, chenna and cashew sauce for the table. I warned everyone that they may find the taste a bit off, but surprisingly they seemed to like it more than I did. really a terrific and unique dish.

The halibut was good, but a very small cube sized portion. Not that anyone was complaining. By this time, I was ready to explode.

Last up was the lambchop. Mixed reviews, based on the texture. The chops are marinated in papaya, which starts breaking down the meat. Some thought this was very good, others found the soft meat a bit offputing. The tandoor also fails to get a strong char, but I thought this was more than compensated for by the marinade.

So, in addition to all this, I got to eat much of the shrimp biryani, cause one of the "I don't eat Indian food" contingent just picked out the shrimp. It was terrific -- filled with nuts and bits of onion and sitting in an aromatic cream broth.

I also got bits and pieces of the vegetarian tasting menu much of which was larger portions of the meat menu side dishes. One standout was the yam kofta.

By the time the meals were over, we were all stuffed to the gills. Perhaps the one criticism was that the meal took a long time -- about 3 hours. The breaks between the courses of the tasting menu could have been shorter.

Then they brought out one of each dessert on the menu. We pretty much ate them all. I rarely feel that the dessert portion of a meal stands up to the entrees, but these were unbelievable. chai pannacotta, banana flan, kulfi with gold leaf, mango cheesecake, and more. Not everone loved everything, but I was shocked by the range of the beautiful presentations. every bit as good as I've seen at any other restaruant.

So, by the end, the bill, with tip, was $800, for ten people. About $100-125 was drinks. I've heard people question whehter $55 is too much for an Indian tasting menu. Maybe it is for "real indian food", like aloo gobi. But not for this. Unless you don't like Indian food.

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