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The Early Word on Hemant Mathur's Indian Restaurant Tulsi

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After months of anticipation, Hemant Mathur opened his Nothern Indian restaurant Tulsi two weeks ago. The Dévi founding co-chef brought along a strong team with him, including longtime friend Dhandu Ram, formerly of Yuva, and wife Surbhi Sahni, the former pastry chef at Dévi. Even with the closing of Tabla, there's no shortage of somewhat high-end Indian restaurants - so can Mathur stand out from the rest of the pack? To the early word:

The "Triumphantly Good" News: Mouthfuls forum member Sneakeater is mightily impressed. "Just as a technical cook, Hemant leaves the competition in the dust. Even as accomplished a restaurant as Tamarind Tribeca seems a bit imprecise compared to this...Flavors were subtle and complex, the cooking expert. I'd say the tandoori boar chops were especially -- even triumphantly -- good. On its own terms, Tulsi is already a great success, and I'm sure it will only get better. You've all got to hightail it up there." [Mouthfuls]

The Lovely News: Also at the table with Sneakeater was fellow Mouthfuls forum member Orik and the experience is similar. "Several of the appetizers - the chicken rolls Sneak mentions, the shrimp and crab stuffed papadums, and pesto marinated tandoori chicken (not really an appetizer but appeared at the table) were lovely and (I'm not sure if this is a compliment) much better than they looked like they were going to be." The one flaw he found were the drinks: "The cocktail list needs some serious attention - the tamarind peculiarity isn't bad, but is hard to recognize as a cocktail - more like a fancy version of the tamarind drinks you can find all over Asia. A second cocktail allegedly contained gin, key lime juice, lychee nectar, and some other ingredients, but tasted primarily like a near room temperature Margarita." [Mouthfuls]

The "Pricey But Great" News: Blogger New York Journal visits and gives it a higher rating than he did Dévi: "Most of the menu consists of more unusual items, such as the appetizers we tried, Tandoori Tofu ($9) and Manchurian Cauliflower ($11) in a chilli garlic sauce. Goat Dum Biryani ($24) was probably the most conventional of our choices, offset by the wacky but wonderful Pistachio Chicken ($22). We found the flavors spicy, bracing, and (at least to us) highly original - at least for New York." He does have a word of caution to management regarding the prices. "We ordered comparatively inexpensively, but most of the fish and meat entrées are over $25, and there are several over $30. I wouldn't mind paying those prices for food of this quality, but long-term success will require building up a cadre of regulars who believe in the chef. "[New York Journal]

The "Simply Outstanding" News: Rich, another Mouthfuls member, visits and it's another satisfied customer. "Simply outstanding - different than Devi. Can't say better or worse, but it's more athentic Indian, so in that sense, probably the best in NYC. Room is beautiful, but I would suggest slightly dim the lights. Nice bar, small, but interesting wine list including a 12-year-old California Cab that is served by the glass. Way too much food, but it was all good - especially the halibut wrapped in banana leaves...and surprisingly the Tofu with Indian spices." [Mouthfuls]

The Great News: All-things Indian blog Lassi With Lavina writes their review in a convenient list form, basically saying they like the place. "Ever tried Tandoori Wild Boar Chops? That's Hemant Mathur's specialty. Many Indians could not have tried wild boar chops but Mathur gets them from Canada and dresses them up in traditional spices, in the way it is in some parts of India." A final takeaway: "It's not your traditional Indian restaurant with the elephants, silk drapes and ornate touches - this is India dealt out with a showering can rather than a shovel, and the food is just as subtle, with a melange of regional dishes and a touch of fusion." [Lassi With Lavina]

The Very Bad News: For some odd reason, the one negative review on Yelp from United N. is filtered out. "Being an Indian, can vouch for the fact that there are much better Indian restaurants in the area - the food is much below average (never order their Spicy Chicken curry - thats not spicy at all). This is probably a brave attempt to cater to the Indian as well as the American palate, but fails miserably. Very expensive and tasteless at that. Poor service too - go at your own risk." [Yelp]

The "We Didn't Order That" News: Menupages commenter stephanie really does not like the service she got during her visit. "The food was great but the service was really poor. We ordered drinks by the bar (since our table wasn't ready) and it took them 30 minutes to finally bring us the drinks to our table. Lastly, our waiter seemed very disappointed with our order since we ordered close to nothing he recommended. He kept pushing us to order these banana dumplings but we decided to order the eggplant. When the order came, they announced our first dish as banana dumplings; we sent it back immediately and they took the rest of the plates with them. Finally after 10 minutes, our waiter returned with the dishes and put the same plates in front of us. We repeated that we ordered the eggplant and he replied that it was the eggplant. ....If I did not love the chef, we would not return. The restaurant is very new but hopefully service will improve in a few weeks." [Menupages]

The Wonderful News: From Twitter comes this tweet by @hchuaeoan, "tulsi chef hemant mathur should be more famous. Wonderful flavors. Inventive. Adventurous." [Twitter]
—Gary Wong
[photo credit]

Tulsi

211 E 46th St New York, NY 10017

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