Before I headed out to Austin, I got to celebrate my actual birthday at a restaurant I had been dying to go to: Jehangir Mehta’s Mehtaphor in Tribeca. You may know his name from the teeny-tiny Indian fusion restaurant, Graffiti, in the East Village, but at Mehatphor, he brings a similar flavor palette to a much sleeker, WAY more specious venue — the Duane Street Hotel.
It opened last October, but amongst my friends, it only recently because a hot topic. My friend Such had visited Mehtaphor a few days before me, while my other friend Mahati had also been recently. On top of that, Time Out New York (also my friend?) featured Mehtaphor’s Indian street style burgers in a recent issue. So basically, it was high time I paid a visit.
So off I went on that rainy birthday night last week with my boyfriend and brother. Although the boy is a vigorous meat-eater, after a recent string of work-related steakhouse dinners, he was more than happy to join my brother and I for the vegetarian dinner menu. See, what’s so great about Mehtaphor is that they have two separate menus — one with meat and the other with vegetraina spins on all those meat dishes.
I’ll spare you the veg vs. non-veg menu comparison this one time because we had everything off the veg dinner menu, save for the truffle goat cheese pizza and potato green stir fry. Want some meat? Check out the non-veg menu here.
So like I said, Mehtaphor’s set-up is a total 180 from Graffiti’s. That means space, space and more space. Go to Graffiti on a rainy Tuesday night without a reservation and you might not get in; go to Mehtaphor on a rainy Tuesday night without a reservation and you can get prime seating.
We started with some cocktails: Jack on the rocks for my brother, a virgin lychee martini for me and a coconut chili fizz for my boyfriend. Mehtaphor touts their drinks quite a bit, and though they were lovely, I wouldn’t necessarily call them mind-blowing. What’s that, you say? I shouldn’t judge because mine was sans alcohol? Well, the boy didn’t seem blown away, so there.
We started with this walnut salad that included guacamole SORBET. Crazy town, right? Well, it was really just cold guacamole. I’m not knocking it because it was still an interesting component in the salad, but I’m just saying it’s not as wild as you’d think.
One of my favorites was the vegetable dumplings. The sweet chutney were perfect and even with all that was going on, the crunchy topping didn’t get soggy. A miracle!
Here we have fried onion rings on top of tofu. I mean, can you really ever dislike battered and fried onions? Impossible. These were crisp and crunchy and probably “bad” for me, but hey, there was tofu underneath! The tofu was soft, which isn’t quite how I like it, but with that coriander chutney, I didn’t mind so much.
The mushroom gratinee was like home-cooking, and I didn’t sense any Asian accent, but none of us cared. We polished that dish up fairly quickly.
The cinnamon eggs was my least favorite, mostly because cinnamon in savory dishes just doesn’t work for me.It belongs, in my mind, exclusively in breakfast oatmeal and apple pie. On top of that, I love eggs at dinner, but I wish the yolk was more runny so it would ooze into the rest of the dish.
Well, this was the point when I thought I was going to book a hotel room upstairs and just pass out. But I persevered and tried a few bites of the Indian street burger. For Indians or those in the know, it’s really just pav bhaji. But I happen to love pav bhaji, and if I hadn’t been so full, I would’ve happily finished my share. And the fries, while great, tasted like ones from McDonald’s. Now, I love McDoanld’s fries, but I don’t love them at the Duane Street Hotel.
Even though I was about to call a stretcher to wheel me out of the restaurant, it was my birthday, so, duh, of course I was ordering dessert. I went for their namesake sundae, which normally comes with chocolate and Kahlua ice cream. (They thankfully accommodated my chocolate ice cream-only request.) It was topped with a lavender marshmallow, which sounded super cool, but lacked any pay off. I kind of, sort of smelled lavender, but it also may have been my senses forcing me to smell something. But apart from that, the chocolate pearls were fantastic. Much like ChikaLicious‘ pearls, they were like a fun, grown-up topping.
I think Mehtaphor is certainly worth visiting just because Mehta does have a knack for unique flavor combos, but I still think the food is much better at Graffiti. Plus, there’s something about eating at a hotel that feels too sterile and ordinary. At Graffiti, even though you may be squished in one corner of your table while seated with three other parties, it has more personality — and gives you a better story to tell your friends.
130 Duane St. (at Church St.)
1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers St.