November 12, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

Devi Returns with Pop Tasting

Suvir Saran confesses to fusion at Rubin Museum.  Photo: Steven Richter
Suvir Saran confesses to fusion at Rubin Museum. Photo: Steven Richter

        Power to the people at Devi means the team that created its brilliant and refined tasting menu is back, having bought out the boss. Faces you’ll remember tend the floor. The rainbow of tinted glass lanterns you wanted to steal for your next big bash still float overhead, a few feet too high.

        Chef/author Suvir Saran and co-executive chef Hemant Mathur have put together a marvelous new discounted $45 tasting menu. Of course, incurable gourmands will insist on the original longer feast, now $65 that frankly left some of us barely able to move. Such are the joys of excess.                

Hemant Mathur is Devi's tandoori guru and kitchen master.               Photo: Steven Richter

        Suvir has been a longtime dining pal of mine. I followed the crumbs of his snacking trail through the chaotic markets of Old Delhi for Food & Wine.  I’ve often careered wildly out of control at his own home table, seduced by his Indian riffs on American classics – the richer-than-Bill Gates mac’ and cheese, his remarkable corn bread, the classic American cakes he perfected for his early catering jobs -- dense lemon cake, upside-down pineapple.

        Before disappearing a few weeks ago on a publicity tour, he added buttermilk-brined fried chicken from his new cookbook “American Masala,” to the tasting options. (Yes, it is advertised here but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore it.)

Giant prawns and fried chicken                                                                          Photo: Steven Richter
        It’s a torture to choose on the abbreviated menu, but it was always a torture. Shall it be grilled scallops with Manchurian cauliflower and spicy bitter orange marmalade or the lamb-stuffed tandoori chicken or spicy mushroom toasts? Be four as we are and share everything.

        I don’t recall ever seeing larger prawns than these luscious monsters from the tandoori. Unlike the celebrated five-course tasting (prep by skipping lunch) where you get one velvety lamb chop or venison at the end, penny pinchers and cautious eaters get three chops.  I’m not sure how they make that math work. Perhaps by omitting a small sampling of garlic naan,  I think that’s a mistake. Still when dessert comes, you can face it cheerfully without a groan.  It might be crispy saffron bread pudding with cardomom cream or cashew-nut kulfi with falooda (voluptuous Indian noodles). While Devi was closed by it besieged owner,  it got dropped by Zagat but kept its one star from  Michelin.  Once the drums beat that Hemant is back at the tandoori with updates from Saran, you may need to book ahead.

8 East 18th Street 212 691 1300


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