246 East 51st Street
New York, New York

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Lunch $12-16, Dinner entrees $14-30 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Casual but elegant
Cuisine- Northern and Southern Indian
Hits- Organic ingredients, price-fixe meals, reasonable prices, generous portions, tasty savories
Misses- Our friends weren’t as pleased with their vegetarian dishes.
Ah Superbowl Sunday… wings, beer, nachos, and jhal muri. This year, Rich and I kicked off the nation’s favorite February pasttime by joining another couple for a Restaurant Week Indian meal at Amma.  Although we didn’t actually order jhal muri, a dish I wanted to try after reading about it in Jhumpa Lahir’s The Namesake. With a variety of tasty options on the lunch price-fixe menu, we wound up with some other savories.
We were first treated to a plate of thick, soft, and warm naan served with a tzatziki-like dill-yogurt sauce.  Our accommodating and attentive waitstaff kept the naan coming most generously.
Our friends, Jesse and Jessica, ordered several complimentary dishes, so we got to taste most items on the menu.  Jessica and Jesse’s rawa chaat was a golden-fried semolina puff stuffed with chickpeas and potatoes.
Rich enjoyed tawa crab tikki, lump crabmeat tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaf, served with sweet tamarind paste and spicy mint chutney, which he claimed was delicious.  My allergy withstanding, I had to take his word for it.

My murg shammi kabab, griddle-fried spiced chicken patties, didn’t look quite as I expected but tasted great.  I had anticipated something more along the lines of sausage from previous experience I had watching kababs initially cooked and combined with spices, then blended, and finally reshaped into little meatball-like packages.  The dish had a more crumbly, carb-based inner filling.

My entree was chicken kolhapuri, which was served in a bowl of roasted red chili, tomato, and peanut sauce.  Mercifully, they relented to lower the heat factor for me.  The result was quite tasty.  Served with (clockwise from left to right in the photo below) saffron basmati rice with carrot chunks, spicy-as-all-get-up Manchurain cauliflower, and carrot-wrapped ruby taro.  Rich’s lamb yakhni
looked very much the same but was flavored with cumin, fennel, and ginger-infused yogurt sauce.

Both Jesse and Jessica were disappointed with their meals: (1) hyderabadi mirchi ka salan, a pepper stuffed with spiced potatoes, coconut, sesame seeds, and southern Indian spices and (2) bharwan paneer ke baingan
(spiced cottage cheese stuffed in baked eggplant with a tomato-onion sauce).  Frequent eaters of Indian, our friends thought the food was just okay.

Our desserts were pleasant but nothing extraordinary.  My sooji ka halwa was a light, honeyed semolina pudding with dried fruit mixed in and garnished with pistachios.  It was gritty in texture, but none the worse for that, and served warm.  It was easily a rather comforting dessert.

Jessica’s gajar ka halwa was quite similar, only it was made with carrot, raisins, and nuts (and an overexposed flash— my bad).  Also served warm, it was deliriously sweet and garnished with pistachios.

Rich couldn’t resist his favorite dessert, cheesecake, this time with mango.

Jesse opted for traditional Indian kulfi, or ice cream.  Presented delicately as a daintily quartered circle, it looked more like petit fours than ice cream.  Flavored and garnished with pistachio, it was rather cold and hard, and quite milky rather than sweet.

As always, the inevitable question is whether Restaurant Week samplings are truly indicative of a menu’s full potential.  Although our friends were not terribly pleased, the range and scope of Amma’s regular menu show a fierce interplay between sweet, sour, spicy, and creamy, and the menu seems delightfully authentic.  The ingredients are fresh, and I’m intrigued by the variety of tasting menus.  Seemingly humble and modest in its apartment-style space, Amma is a place I would return.  I could see visiting in summertime, drinking a tall, cold mango lassi to cool the hot Indian flavors… and the summer’s blazing heat.

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