We had plans, great plans for Saturday night. We were going to dinner (some place fancy) in the east village and then stop by a friend’s party and maybe go out after that, too. Three engagements in one evening is quite unusual for my hermit-self. But as the minutes drew closer to seven, I started to falter and the evening, previously full of alluring social prospects, suddenly seemed daunting. I didn’t feel like teetering downtown in the ridiculous heeled boots I bought in a moment of rain-soaked weakness when my flat shoes were sopping wet. I was tired. I wanted to nourish my soul with South Indian food, specifically a masala dosa, and then go home to my bed with its five pillows and a book. Bye-bye party and the chance to “meet nice people,” as my mother would say.
So we stood on the corner of 24th and 3rd, debating what to do for ten minutes. Good thing I have the most patient friends in the world because I’m well aware that I’m ridiculous. We ended up at the party and of course it was fun, especially because I got to try Humboldt Fog with its pretty, ashy streak running through the rich, crumbly layers of goat cheese. And then, finally, it was time for that dosa. We almost ran back up the blocks.
I’ve been wanting to visit Pongal since last year, when S. told me that she loved it. The rectangular restaurant was packed save for one table adjacent to the door, which is where we promptly sat. While I did spot scatterings of South Asians throughout the room, the crowd was more diverse than the one that generally frequents Saravanaas‘s Sunday brunch. I had abated some hunger from nibbling on cheese, so we decided to share the Iddly and Vada Combo and the Mysore Rava Masala Dosa.
The iddly and vada were standard, good but not exceptional. I felt that the sambar was a little thin, lacking ferocity, but the red tomato chutney served alongside was irresistibly tart and gritty with mustard seeds. Spicy masala powder was smeared on the polka-dotted, angular layers of the Mysore Rava Masala dosa; between the layers was a pile of yellow potatoes wild with onion, cilantro and slices of hot peppers. Again, this was modest fare, nothing fancy, but I tore into it and it satisfied my Saturday night soul food craving. And then I crawled into bed, with my five pillows and a book.
Iddly & Vada combo: $4.45; Mysore Rava Masala Dosa: $9.45
Pongal is at 110 Lexington Avenue (near 28th street), New York, NY. (212) 696-9458.