Waqas and I ate at Devi during Restaurant Week.
About a year ago, I wrote a review of Indian Home Cooking, by Suvir Saran, Devi’s executive chef. I noted that the book was a refreshing introduction to Indian food, since it focused on regional cuisines across India, instead of just Northern India.
I was hoping that Devi would astound me by transforming these regional dishes into savory spice journeys, like Tamarind did. A notable dish at Tamarind was the Shitake Mushrooms with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Mushrooms are a rare vegetable in Indian cuisine, and they are so wonderfully juicy. I thought the idea of combining a vegetable that is slightly different for Indian food (mushrooms) with a spice that is an Indian food staple (mustard) was ingenious: it let me appreciate the spice in a new context, and let me enjoy the vegetable in a new dish.
Anyway, Devi didn’t quite match up. To be fair, the restaurant week menu was limited, so perhaps I didn’t taste the best of the lot. An item which intrigued me, but which wasn’t on the restaurant week menu, was the Jackfruit Biryani. Depite my mediocre experience at Devi, I kind of really want to go back to try it. I love jackfruit because it has such a meaty, full texture, and I feel like restaurants here never serve it.
But instead of the Biryani, I stuck to the restaurant week menu. For an appetizer, I ordered Manchurian Cauliflower. I knew it was a gamble to order this dish because Manchurian Cauliflower is a hybrid Indo-Chinese dish, and those are just strange by nature. But, I figured, it’s Devi, a restaurant that’s been awarded a Michelin one-star rating, so it should be able to produce a decent replica of the dish. In the Manchurian Cauliflower I’ve had before (at China Garden in Bombay) the cauliflower was golden and crunchy on the outside, and topped with a spicy, red sauce with scallions. Devi’s Manchurian Cauliflower tasted like sautéed cauliflowers covered with warm ketch-up. It was not good. It was unpleasant.
But, I still had high hopes. I blamed myself for ordering the Manchurian Cauliflower, and hoped that the next dish would be better. (Waqas got the Shammi Kabobs for his appetizer and said they were okay.) For my entrée, I decided upon these yam kofta (dumplings) in tomato gravy, because my other option was stir-fried paneer, and again, I wanted to try something different. The yam kofta were prepared to look like short little logs and brought to my mind mini lamb kabobs. I was scared they contained meat and made Waqas try them first. After he assured me that they were vegetarian, I dug in- only to get full in about two minutes. The koftas were dark and thick and sweet and tasted heavily of cheese. They sat in my belly: the pasty texture of the yams mixed with cheese and the lack of contrast provided by the uninteresting tomato gravy was a big disappointment for my taste buds.
But Waqas loved his tandoori swordfish, and I even tried a tiny piece- it was succulent and flavorful. And my dessert, a creamy mango mouse, swirled with a light cilantro sauce that led to a cold chunks of yellow pinnaple, adorned with fresh mango, was tart and refreshing, and provided the sensory awakening my mouth had been waiting for the whole meal.