8 East 18th Street,
New York, NY 10018
212-691-1300 Visited: Dinner July 29, 2006
Devi is such a romantic setting; they make wonderful use of antique window screens and carved arches for their decor. The vibrantly colored hanging lamps, patchwork velvet banquettes, dim lighting and draped silks set the stage for a lovely dinner. There is also seating in the upstairs balcony.
Devi has targeted the upper echelon of Indian cuisine. We think that they intend diners to share dishes, as we were presented with large white plates. But with entrees ranging from $15 to $30 and most falling in the mid-20s, it’s difficult to get many tastes on your plate without having a larger party to dine with.
I ordered the Bhel Puri because it was one of their signature dishes. Jack liked it a lot, but I was unimpressed. The okra crisps, which Devi are also noted for, were missing from the Poori Bhaaji, but I found them in the Biryani; very thin crispy dark brown okra slices resembling burnt okra and tasting much like ash. The Poori Bhaaji was a strange dish for the vegetarian category. Poori (small disks of puffy fried bread), yogurt and potatoes go well together but is more of an appetizer choice than an entrée and seems steep at $22. The Shrimp Biryani was excellent, with wonderful shrimp cooked perfectly and the rice was flaky and moist.
Overall, the food was quite spicy and too hot for Joanne. There was not much to cool it down – even the yogurt and breads were spiced. We were not warned about either – even though we were dining with an almost 4 yr old. The first Shrimp Biryani bite I took practically ruined the entire meal for me as I could no longer delineate flavors.
The Breads were a treat – both the Onion and Lamb Kulcha sang with the addition of cheese – but are sort of a flashback to the samosas filled with the same stuff. In retrospect we should have ordered one or the other. The bread is pricey too (four quarters in an order), but the food doesn’t seem to need much. The poori were little round disks served with yogurt sauce (spiced) and potatoes. Chicken Tikka Masala was good albeit packing too much heat as well.
Jack sent the lamb back to get cooked past raw and was rewarded with medium-rare - he enjoyed his dinner. The food steamrolled the Deiss – but no options other than cocktails and wine were presented to us. They made a special cocktail for our young diner to accommodate him – a bubbly fruit punch which he enjoyed very much and which was not too sweet.
Service was odd. we were presented a cocktail list instead of a menu and had to request a wine list. It was not until after the wine was chosen and poured that we received menus. The sparkling water of the night was Pellegrino.
An amuse arrived before the appetizer: a spicy corn in a tiny phyllo cup.
A difficult menu and spicier food than we desired, made for a mixed dining experience. I would not rate Devi kid-friendly as the seasoning is too strong for most young palates. I would have preferred beer with dinner despite the force-play on wine or cocktails as I find it helps cut through some of the heat of the spices. An unseasoned raita would be a good addition to the menu.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.