Although I mention the Upper West Side quite a bit, it’s not true that I spend 64% of my time there. Studies have shown that that figure is grossly inflated. I will not reveal the precise percentage, because that’s just a little too personal. Sure, I’m willing to show you my lunch, and even tell you about it, but don’t push it. A girl has to draw the line somewhere.
So speaking of Sides, and speaking of lunch, today my friend Kyria and I continued our PaneerQuest2003 at Chennai Garden, on the East Side. You will recall that I had a wonderful experience there three weeks ago.
Oh wait. What’s that you say? I haven’t mentioned PaneerQuest2003 before? How silly of me. And what the hell is paneer? Oh, you silly silly bumpkins.
Paneer is the only cheese and the only dairy product I will consume.
And PaneerQuest2003 is Kyria’s and my mission to find mouth-watering saag (or palak, as it’s sometimes called) paneer in this city. Together we have gone on two missions: the first, last Tuesday; and the second, today.
Wait, though! Wait! Hold on! What is this thing called “saag” or “palak”?
Sorry, but you’re on your own for that one. I can’t be expected to do everything around here, can I?
So, anyway. Paneer. Kyria and I. Last week’s experience was less than extraordinary. In fact, it wasn’t even ordinary. It was subordinary. Subpar. We probably would have been better off at Subway.
Each of our dishes came with only one little cube of paneer. Take a look. Here’s Kyria, holding up her sad, lone cube of paneer at a restaurant whose name rhymes with “Joyal Jangladesh” (I feel sorry for the place and just can’t bring myself to type its real name):
The cube appears larger in this photo.
I apologize for the blurriness, but really, it doesn’t matter.
It was a sad restaurant experience all around. At the beginning of lunch, the waiter brought us Indian tea that neither of us wanted (we’d asked for regular tea). At the end, he brought us free desserts that we didn’t want. (We did take several pity bites, though.) And several times in between, he asked us how everything was, and we could barely eke out, “Uhmmm … OK.” I couldn’t even look the waiter in the eye. And to make matters even sadder, the “garden” where we sat, which was heralded as the restaurant’s big claim to fame, was more of a tent room festooned with what we interpreted to be the remains of a birthday party, complete with deflated balloons and a haphazard HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign. I can’t even bear to think about it.
Today’s experience was the complete opposite. The service wasn’t the best (there were some pretty hungry heifers huffing down the buffet offerings)(Kyria and I were the only people there who ordered from the menu), but after the third request, she finally got her tea. But hey, we were there more for the paneer. We were not disappointed.
Take a look:
I love you.
Sure, to you it looks like a bog. Sure, to you who don’t know your saag from a hole in the ground, it looks like a swamp. But to those of us in the know, those of us who are oh so very paneer-sighted, it looked divine. And it was perfect.
But wait. Does that mean that PaneerQuest2003 is over? Having found the perfect paneer, should Kyria and I move on to something else? I worried. Would she and I go our separate ways? Would we have nothing to talk about anymore, now that we’d had such grand success?
“Well,” she said, “the service wasn’t that great, so …”
… we’re going again next week! Somewhere new! It’s not like there aren’t at least 100 other Indian restaurants in this city.
We could be looking at PaneerQuest2004 and 2005.
P.S. We also had samosas (this photo does not do them justice).