Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nirvana Cafe

Nirvana Cafe - 218 3rd Avenue (off 19th) (Sri Lankan)

Last weekend, I found myself walking along 3rd Avenue - strolling southbound towards Astor Square. For once, the target wasn't food related. With Halloween--and the requisite parties--only a few weeks away, I was headed towards the megastore known as Halloween Adventure, in search of (extremely) elusive toy guns for my costume. (Darn those gun control activists!) But as I wandered along, a new awning caught my eye: Nirvana Cafe, specializing in....Sri Lankan food!

Sri Lankan? Now, there's a cuisine that's hard to find in Manhattan*. Indian? Sure - tons of it. Chinese? We're wallowing in it - from Cantonese to Hong Kong style. Even Malaysian has a larger selection of venues. But until recently, the only Sri Lankan restaurant was Sigiri in the East Village. A great place, to be sure...but us foodies want more choices and options.

A search on the web turned up little in the way of reviews. So I waited...one week. By next Saturday, I practically ran to Nirvana, determined to try the place for myself.

An elegant spot, Nirvana's only been open a few months - at least, as of this writing. But what it offers is promising. Yes, there are the standard items--instantly familiar to any fan of Indian food--such as curries, vada and mulligatawny soup. Then there are the Sri Lankan specialities (which of course interested me more) - including rice noodle bird's nests (known as String Hoppers), Kottu Roti (chopped roti mixed with veggies and egg), Hoppers (crepes served with egg and relish-sambol) and even Pittu (a rice flour dish, flavored with coconut, relish and curry.) Happily, they even have a side section of vegan options - though most dishes, they assured me, could be altered to veggie tastes. My options for the day? Mallung (a light, green leaf stirfry, flavored with a delicate hint of coconut) and Eggplant Moju (my favorite dish of the day - featuring fried eggplant, heavily spiced and curried.) And they even had Faluda - a drink/dessert that fans of bubble tea would love...a bright pink beverage, topped with bits of colored jelly (much like Malalysian Ais Kacang.) Now, that's something you can't get at Sigiri!

As for the prices? Well, they proved slightly steep, though normal for Manhattan - running $8 for a side, and $12 for an entree. But the service is extremely gracious - good enough for a special night out. And for those on a shoestring there's also a lunch buffet, costing less than $9.00. Not bad for a new place on the block. Let's hope it sticks around...because Staten Island is just too far to go for your morning nibble of Moju.

* For those located in the outer boroughs, there are Sri Lankan spots available on Staten Island. Willing to give them a shot? Bon voyage.

No comments:

Post a Comment