Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wonderful Graffiti Dinner

I had a dinner at Graffiti, and it was wonderful. Graffiti is a sort of Indian-influenced tapas restaurant in the East Village. Entering it, the large stonework representation of Ganesh, the Indian elephant God, catched your eye to the right. The long, narrow, small restaurant is decorated with small mirrors with employees' names written on them, Indian stone and woodwork, and plenty of sticky notes that mention menu items & prices. The whole place is slightly zany, slightly exotic, idiosyncratic, and a find.

The menu is not huge, but they definitely accomodate vegetarians quite well - the chef & owner, who is very charming and was wandering through, greeting (and serving) everyone, helped me with my food and wine selections. I asked for his recommendations for a multi-course meal.

I first got a mango paneer appetizer, which hinted of an Indian mango pickle used in the cooking of the paneer. The paneer was tender, and was served with narrow strips of naan bread scented with cumin, and which were deliciously crunchy.

My second course was a vegetable dumpling dish -- this is normally a meat dish, but the kitchen has a vegetable alternative on request. The dumplings (think tibetan momo-style dumplings) were served with crisp semolina noodle bits (a typical Indian ingredient, though usually in chaat-style snack dishes), and, in a nod to the chef's history in pastry, a touch of grapefruit confit. The spice of the vegetables & the gluten of the wrapper, the crispness of the semolina, and the sweetness of the grapefruit all came together in a surprising and smile-inducing dish.

My third course was a special: an asparagus pizza made with a fried paratha bread with grilled asparagus and wasabi peas. The wasabi peas gave the dish a subtle twist and unexpected crunch. The paratha bread flaked off like puff pastry and melted in my mouth. The asparagus was cooked till tender, and the entree was addictive.

My fourth course was eggplant, beautifully tender and stuffed in between two pieces of Indian paratha bread (not fried like the last course), in a kind of small sandwich. It was accompanied by a lentil soup heavily spiced with mustard seed.

My final -- dessert -- course was a cranberry apple crumble served with black pepper ice cream. I was skeptical of the black pepper ice cream, but it did, as the chef promised, cut right through the sweetness of the crumble, and lend a refreshing contrast to it.

All through the meal I also had a lot of great wine -- the wine list is full of low-tannin wines that are all delightful, from a clean, simple German elbing roter rose to a glass of sherry to finish the night. Well, almost finish the night -- I really finished with a glass of kashmiri tea that had an incredible, sweet almond flavor to it. Amazing.

The warmth of the restaurant, the delightful and innovative cuisine, and the charming owner all the made this dinner a highly memorable treat.

Stars: 5/5

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