Had dinner this evening at Salaam Bombay, a Tribeca establishment at the corner of Reade and Greenwich. The restaurant tries to be exotic and enticing, with embroidered cloth hanging from the ceilings and oddly elegant Indian music chiming through the air. It had a strange tackiness throughout, though -- its bathrooms featured beautiful washbasins but a grungy bottle of soap; the ceilings had the cloth but behind them were lots of fire sprinklers not too well hidden. And, unfortunately, the restaurant's service was lax and its food really bad.
Let me start quickly with the service. The server asked me if I knew what I wanted within about 2 minutes of my having gotten the menu. When I asked him for another minute, he essentially hovered within 5 feet of my table for that minute. Admittedly, this was at 10:15 and there were few other patrons, but still. This was intrusive. When dishes came, there was no explanation -- not even an "enjoy." They were simply served silenly. This might be some people's interpretation of super-refined service, but it isn't mine.
The food, meanwhile, was really the epitome of over-Americanized stuff. The dahi puri (small crisp very-thin fried flour puffs filled with a combination of lentils, yogurt, and mint sauce) was sour and had an odd spice profile that did NOT sing on my tastebuds. I also made the mistake of ordering a vegetarian thali for my entree -- a mixed plate containing several vegetable items, rice, dessert, and that came with poori bread.
Every single item on the plate, each presented in a separate little bowl, was bad. A lentil cake included as an appetizer was simply very boring. The okra and the "korma" that was a kind of sweet-spicy soup were undersalted and bland. The malai kofta (vegetable dumplings) was sweet and the dumpling tasted a little stale. The eggplant was tough and did not taste good. The lentils were mushy and lacking in flavor. The carrots and peas on the rice were undercooked, as was the rice itself. The pooris (supposed to be large puffy fried bread) were flat, undercooked, and tasteless. Even the dessert -- the dessert! -- was somehow mismanaged, and tasted sour.
How a restaurant created so many failures amazes me, but I think this is their idea of what Americans liked. Plus, on a different note, everyone looked unhappy at this place, starting with what seemed to be the female proprietress or head manager. Everyone looked dour and beat. I wonder if that had anything to do with the quality of the food.
Anyway, avoid this place like the plague.