Monday, May 22, 2017

Chaat Corner

I've walked by Chaat Corner more times than I can possibly count.

I used to live a block away.  I walked by it daily on my way to work.  I walked by it every night on the way home.  Yet I never went, even when it was the only place open in the neighborhood.  Chaat Corner is open every day, and that area does not have many options on Sundays.  They are open until midnight every night, and it certainly isn't an area with late night options.  They are open for lunch, starting as early as 11am.  Yet these things still never encouraged me to visit.

Even since I moved down the street, I still walk by several times a month.  It has managed to stay around for years now, which should be a sign of something.  And I still never visit.  Why?  I have no idea.  I like Indian cuisine, and I'm always looking for good indian food in the city.  But this place just never jumped out at me.

Chaat Corner recently opened a second location near Union Square.  That too should indicate that they are doing well.  But Yelp reviews are fairly mediocre.  No one I know has ever mentioned going there.  "Meh", I thought.

And then one day I was at home and really, really wanted salad.  And naan.  And something with spice.  I quickly looked online at menus of indian places nearby, and saw that the intersection of naan and salad is fairly limited, but Chaat Corner had several salads that sounded interesting (Indian ceasar? Grilled paneer topped salad?), and a huge assortment of breads, so, Chaat Corner it was.

I placed my order online, and headed the few blocks to pick it up.  My order was completed soon after I arrived.

Setting

Chaat Corner is really quite large.  I was shocked by how much seating and open space they had inside.  It was 5:15pm when I arrived, and it was mostly empty.

It isn't fancy.  It has basically no charm whatsoever.  I was glad to be getting takeout.
Cashier at Front.
Right inside the door is a cashier station, with a menu board on the wall.  This surprised me a bit as I thought this was a regular full service restaurant, so I think they must do a lot of takeout (unless tables order and pay up front too?)

On the side is also a cooler with canned/bottled drinks (do tables get cans too?)
Seating.
Decor is not particularly interesting, fairly low end, lots of shiny materials and faux stone.
Bar.
There is a small bar with counter seating, where I was invited to sit while I waited for my takeout.  I could have watched TV while I waited.

Food

The menu is large, all standard indian offerings.  I didn't explore it much, as I had my eyes on exactly two things: salad and bread.  That said, they had an extensive selection of pakora, and I almost threw some battered fried onions into the mix too ...
Sometimes, you just need 2 spoons and a fork?
Things started going downhill as I opened up my packaging.

I was provided a fork and 2 spoons.  No knife.  Luckily, I was bringing it home anyway.
Tandoori Roti. $1.99.
I'll admit, I was overwhelmed by the bread selection.  I thought I knew indian breads, but, once I started reading the list, I realized I'm still uncertain.  One section was titled naan, with 13 different options, including 10 types of naan (plain, butter, garlic, garlic pesto, paneer, cauliflower, potato, onion, chicken pesto, ground lamb), plus tava roti, bhatura, and tandoori roti.  Then, another section, labelled paranthas, with 8 more options (plain, laccha, potato, cheese, onion, cauliflower, ground lamb, chicken).  Why were the roti and bhatura listed as naan?  And what is tava roti vs tandoori roti?

I fairly randomly picked the tandoori roti, thinking that tandoori items are usually nicely smoky, and, I like roti.

It turned out to be basically ... whole wheat naan?  Hearty tasting, but, very boring.  Dry, no butter.  Crispy bottom.

I guess fine, but highly, highly boring, although I suspect it was supposed to be?
Chaat Salad. $6.99
"Romaine lettuce, lentil chips, spicy chickpea noodles, cilantro and spices tossed in
tamarind and mint sauces."

For salads, I could pick the interesting sounding caesar (zesty mint caesar dressing!) or the chaat salad (lentil chips and spicy chickpea noodles!).  I opted for the later, based entirely on the promise of fun crispy things on top.  Since I had other food at home to finish, I decided not to add a protein topping, but I could have added chicken breast, chicken kebab, tandoori salmon, shrimp, seekh kebab, or paneer on top.

Since I got it to go, my salad came disassembled.  I appreciated this so it wouldn't get soggy.  The dry toppings came in separate containers, and the wet sauces even came with an extra protective foil wrapped around them.  Points for this.
Chaat Salad: Lettuce.  $6.99.
I did have to laugh when I opened my box though.  It was ... lettuce.  Just lettuce.  It seemed freshly chopped, not wilted, very crisp.  A decent base.

The menu said there should be cilantro too, and other people seemed to have tomato and cucumber in theirs (in the photos I saw), but mine?  Just lettuce.
Lentil Chips, "Spicy Chickpea Noodles".
Things got more amusing as I opened my other containers.

I quickly discovered the "spicy chickpea noodles" were ... just chickpeas.  Not toasted, no spicing.  Just chickpeas.  They seemed like they came from a can.  I had seen photos of this salad from others, and they did have chickpea noodles.

Since I actually hate chickpeas, I tried one, recognized that it was watery, slimy, and like from a can, and threw these out.  Chickpea noodles would have been nice.

The lentil chips were tasty though.  While I don't like lentils, I do like lentil chips (and likely would have liked chickpea noodles!)  I really liked the crunchy element, and the promise of the crunchy things is what made me order this in the first place.

I added a bunch of the lentil chips, but it looked like there was a bunch of rubble left in the bottom of the cup.  It was only later that I realized this is where the spices were added.  Doh.  I missed out on a lot of spice and flavor by missing this.  Not their fault though.
Tamarind and Mint Sauces.
The dressing for the salad is a mix of standard tamarind and mint sauces, like you use to dip samosa.  It was pretty strange putting these onto my salad as if they were dressing, but, actually, the result was good.  Obviously, normally it comes dressed for you, which seems less ideal, as you can't get the right balance of flavor that way.  I liked that I could add different amounts of each to create my preferred flavor (heavier on the herby mint, less of the sweet tamarind).

Both sauces were pretty standard, though I doubt housemade.  They didn't have that kind of freshness about them.  Still, it was nice to have some left to dip my naan in.
Cafe Chaat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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