Inn, 2788 Hamburg St., Rotterdam, 355-9495. Serving lunch
Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Sun, Tue-Thu 5-9:30, Fri-Sat 5-10;
brunch Sat-Sun noon-3. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $10 (black lentil stew) to $24 (rack of
pleasant hotel restaurant
hailed Karavalli when it open-ed in Latham a couple of years
ago for offering a more diversified menu than the standard
Indian-Pakistani restaurant provides, rounding it out with
an attractive dining room and helpful service. The price for
this luxury is literal: It’s a little more expensive than
No doubt emboldened by this success, they’ve opened two more
local units. The newest is at 24 Caroline St. in Saratoga
Springs; the most challenging is in Rotterdam, at what’s now
the Quality Inn on Hamburg Street. Other hotels, other restaurants
have stopped at this spot, with another Indian eatery the
The weekday lunch buffet—a staple of such restaurants—makes
unusual demands on the place. I witnessed the ambitious rise
and inevitable fall of that predecessor, but Karavalli seems
to have figured it out. “Between 11:30 and 12:30, we have
the GE lunch business,” says co-owner Santhosh Kochuparambil,
“and we fill up quickly and go through everything we put on
the buffet at least one or two times. After 12:30, it gets
That’s when the kitchen has to make those chafing dishes look
full and fresh, so even more diligence is required. During
a visit I paid toward the end of buffet time one day, I was
pleased to see the lamb ulli peralan (a piquant stew
with shallots) refreshed, the vegetable saag inspected
for signs of a too-long sit, a new serving of rice replacing
(not just supplanting) the old and, of course, the tandoori
chicken beckoning from its bed of translucent onions.
The selection changes from day to day, always featuring a
couple of meat dishes (tandoori chicken is a mainstay), several
different veggie items, salad, starters, and dessert. On Saturday
and Sunday, a much more lavish buffet is offered.
Even as we assembled a meal from the dozen available items,
a succession of others soon put paid to the notion that this
afternoon’s business might be slow.
When I wrote about the Latham Karavalli nearly two years ago,
I feared that the complimentary starter of crisp lentil wafers
called papadum would be a short-lived phenomenon, but
it’s still part of the experience. That and the traditional
threesome of sauces (tamarind, spicy mint and onion) got us
off to a pleasant start.
The appetizer list offers the first clues that Karavalli is
different. Their signature dish is dosai, which arrives
looking like a rolled-up windowshade. It’s actually a rice-and-lentil
crepe that comes plain for $7 (which still includes dipping
sauces) and spiced up for $8. In the latter category, I chose
mysore masala dosai, which has a filling of potatoes
and peas and side sauces that include a fiery pepper mix and
a cooling chutney.
The same sauces accompany idly ($4), a smaller version
of dosai in which rice and lentils go into a cold patty.
Vegetable sa mosa ($4) is unexpectedly attractive, the deep-fried,
potatoes-and-peas-filled pastries decorated with cucumbers,
cabbage, carrots and other, less-alliterative garnishes.
Other starters in clude crispy eggplant ($6), kabobs of lamb
and chicken ($8), aromatic potato patties called ragara
($6), kalmi kabob (“our answer to Buffalo wings,” $6)
and more, including sampler platters.
My recommendation? Good as all this was, get a dosai for
your table and stop there. It’s plenty, and the entrées aren’t
It’s worth noting that prices haven’t changed in two years.
Rack of lamb is still $24, a Tandoor red snapper dish $20.
The bulk of the entrées run in the $12 to $15 range, including
several biryani dishes, which are labor-intensive rice
preparations featuring your choice of meat (goat is one of
them), jalfrezi (a pepper-and-onion intensive meat
sauté) and a number of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Most of the items have an easygoing hot-spice intensity, always
an issue for the Old Country Buffet set. Anything hotter gets
a two- or three-pepper icon beside its menu listing, and those
three peppers always draw my eye. (And you always can ask
to adjust the spiciness in whatever direction.)
So I’m a big fan of vindaloo, the hot, sweet sauce
that goes so well with lamb (and, in some Indian restaurants,
sometimes is the only choice that will prompt a sweat). Karavalli
offers more alternatives, such as megalu chicken chettinadu
($14). Hot pepper, of course, goes into this dish, but
the fieriness is rounded out with fennel, cumin, coriander
and more, on a foundation of garlic and ginger.
On the other side of the table, my daughter indulged her love
of grilled anything with tandoor seekh kabob ($16),
skewered rolls of ground lamb served on a sizzle platter with
its traditional garnish of grilled veggies.
We were given attractive, almond-shaped plates on which to
spoon our entrées, which also facilitates sharing.
Satisfying the demands of her ongoing mission to sample every
chicken dish known to mankind, my wife chose nilgiri korma
($15), the korma part of it promising a Mughalai
preparation in creamy sauce of mint, cashew and almonds.
It’s one of those dishes that ought to be a mainstream menu
Given the fact the Rotterdam Karavalli is closest to my home,
I’m wishing them continued success here. It’s a good spot
for a restaurant like this, and our experiences reassure me
that they’re up to the task.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
scraps: Bastille Day approaches, and there’s nowhere
better to celebrate than at Nicole’s Bistro (Quackenbush
House, Clinton Avenue and Broadway, Albany). Chef
Daniel E. Smith and owner Nicole Plisson present
a menu of French classics on Sat., July 14, with
choices including vichyssoise, escargot a l’ancienne,
grenouilles Provençale, gigot d’agneau and
mousse au chocolat—and much more, along
with an evening of jazz and international cabaret
songs with Sonny & Perley. Dinner is $50,
not including tax and tip, and you can reserve
seats by calling the restaurant at 465-1111. .
. . Tomorrow (Friday) night is Hell Night at New
World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties),
with a wine pairing to set off the hottest of
spicy fare. Actually, most of the food is only
moderately spiced, but you’re given the tools
to wreak havoc upon your palate—and the wine to
cool it down. Start with a Cambodian chili duck
salad and an Australian shiraz, then try the Mexican
five-chile streaked fondue with shrimp and mushrooms
alongside the St. Chapelle Sparkling Riesling
from Idaho. There’s much more, including a triple-chile
sundae for dessert. Six courses for $60; the event
starts at 7 PM. Call (845) 246-0900 for info and
reservations. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail food at banilsson.com).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..