Dining With Giants

| September 12, 2012

Situated on East 18th Street just off of Fifth Avenue, Devi is a welcome respite from the manufactured Americanized version of Indian restaurants with which many of us have become all too familiar. With fans that include culinary giants such as Gael Greene and Frank Bruni, we were in great company.

The brainchild of chef/author Suvir Saran and executed by co-executive chef Hermant Mathur, Devi left us excited and re-thinking what Indian restaurants  have  to  offer  in  Manhattan.  Saran,  a guest judge on Iron Chef America, seated on the academic panel of the Culinary Institute of America and author of the famous American Masala is a force to be reckoned with. Top to bottom, this menu smacks of innovation.  So much so, that last year the New York Times presented Devi with an award for Innovation in Cuisine — an award that was extremely well deserved. We will not go as far as to say that Devi is a fusion restaurant, that could cause some confusion; it is simply that they present their food in more of an American/European style; one that Varli Magazine feels is a bit more approachable to diners in this part of the world.

The ambiance of Devi while very upscale is traditional Indian. You are welcomed into an unexpected world of color and comfort. Draped in warmly colored fabrics, with a design theme of “windows and doors” which incorporate gorgeous antiques with imported marble, the restaurant, much like the food, is beautifully presented but not preten
General Manager Kunal Lamba runs the floor of this fine establishment with an elegant grace. Formerly of The Gaylord restaurant in London, Lamba seems to have an impeccable intuition and always seems available to his customers at the right moments. There is truly an art to being available, without giving the impresssion of hovering.

Vibrant, flavorful and challenging to the palate, Devi serves up a delectable array of masterpieces. There is such a large assortment of pleasing things on this menu that it would be imprudent that we not recommend that you indulge in one of the tasting menu options. The chef also offers a vegetarian version that will please even the most demanding of our readers. Devi puts an extraordinary spin on regional favorites and at times breaks away from tradition creating new classics.

The Grilled Scallops with Manchurian Cauliflower and Spicy Bitter-Orange Marmalade was sublime as were the Tandoor-Grilled Lamb Chop with Pear Chutney and Southern Indian Potatoes. This was a meal where putting down our forks became somewhat of a challenge. Never before have we raved about naan, but the Onion Parmesan Naan with the yogurt dipping sauce was something extremely special. This alone is a delectable snack and paired with Devi’s carefully crafted cocktail menu,  with  truly  satisfying  offerings  such  as  the  Cilantro  Tonic (Hendrick’s Gin, Cilantro and Tonic) and the Mumbai Margarita (Sauza Tequila, Mango Nectar, Elderflower, Lime Juice and Cayenne Pepper); the well endowed wine list becomes just a fleeting thought. With this in mind, a night at Devi would not be complete without an order of Kararee Bhindi (crispy tangy okra, tomatoes and red onions.) This is okra like you have never dreamed it could be prepared. We noted that some of the preparations at Devi are inspired by street food, which the most hardcore foodies know, is the source for some of the best food on the planet.

For those who have experienced many of the creations at Devi,Varli recommends that you stop in to try some of their newest dishes including Crispy Shrimp and Sweet Peppers, Masala Fried Chicken, Spicy Indian Slaw, Tamarind-Glazed Short Ribs, Tandoor-Grilled Venison and Spicy Mushroom Toasts.

The desserts such as the Mango Cheesecake and the Crispy Saffron Bread Pudding with Candied Almonds are highly recommended and were the perfect ending to this culinary masterpiece.

Oh by the way, have we mentioned that they were awarded a Michelin Star? In this world there are posers and there are players. Devi is most certainly at the top of the game.