Restaurant Review: Chennai Garden

Chennai Garden
129 East 27th Street
(between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue)
Kips Bay, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

With the highest concentration of vegetarian restaurants in the city, the Little India section of Kips Bay provides an overwhelming sea of dining choices. Distinguishing between them is not an easy undertaking; menus have nearly identical offerings and service tends to be very similar between each. Dinstinctions can be made in the atmosphere and quality of food, but these differences are not generally sharp enough to create a solid hierarchy (there are certainly restaurants that miss the mark, but most others exist more amorphously in a crowd where no individual establishment gives a particularly unique experience).

Chennai Garden comes the closest to breaking out of that crowd and remains our favorite Kips Bay restaurant. The dining room is large, open, and set slightly below street level, making it the most comfortable and relaxed space among the neighborhood’s restaurants. Although perhaps possessing not quite as much character as Bhojan’s dining room, it is the far more spacious venue. The service is warm and professional, with the same family-owned vibe we received from Bhojan and Pongal.

The menu offers no surprises, with all the usual dishes and drinks, including some Indian beers. But the food is all done consistently well, with the dishes more flavorful enough to make the restaurant our go-to place for Kips Bay.

Together with our evening’s guest, Jen Jurek, we chose three of our usual thali plates and two shared beers: a Flying Horse Royal Lager and a Taj Mahal.

The South Indian thali had many of the more savory dishes: several lentil selections (sambar and kootu), chappati and appalam, and the usual palate-cleansing pickle. The Gujarathi thali offered a broad selection of sweet and savory dishes to satisfy a more hungry stomach: kachori (fried dough balls), deep fried potato mash, a vegetable casserole, a date chutney, and a ramali dessert were the highlights to the platter. The eponymous Chennai Thali was laden with fried and baked treats: from fritters, to a fully stuffed dosa, to a coconut chutney served with idly (a white savory cake).

At $28 each, all inclusive, the restaurant is in the upper range of prices among the Kips Bay crowd, but the slightly higher price can be worth paying for the consistently good dishes in one of the better atmospheres offered by the Indian restaurants in the neighborhood. Though close to Bhojan in the rankings overall, Chennai Garden’s slightly stronger kitchen edges it to the top of the list for the Vegiboys.

Food (3.5/4)
Atmosphere & Service
Value (3/4)

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