Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Punjabi Deli. Place for Many Happy and Delicious Home Style Meals

Punjabi Deli. Or should i say THE (one and only) Punjabi Deli is one of the most popular, and justifiably so, places to get home-style vegetarian Punjabi food in New York City. Located on East 114th 1st Street (basically at the intersection of Ave A and Houston Street), this place has become a local favorite.

Started by some Indian Sikh Cab drivers in the early 90s as a place for cabbies to come park there (yep, wonder if you re driving a cab, where would you take a leak, if you have to, without having to go crazy finding a parking spot) and get some home-style Indian food. To be precise food eaten in the northern state of Punjab.

Over the years, this place has become immensely popular just on the basis of word-of-mouth advertising. Whoever, eats here comes back and tells their friends. And the place does serve the same delicious fare, day after day, hour after hour - yes, its opne 24X7, 365 days a year. And before i get to the food, i must mention that the staff at the Punjabi Deli is just absolutely fab - they are always welcoming, polite and just look cheerful. And you are likely to hear a lot of good punjabi music - folk music, movie or devotional songs.

Getting to the food - they have several veggies - spinach, mixed veggies (carrots, potatoes, cauliflower mix), black lentils, chickpeas, indian cheese (paneer) with peas and a bunch of seasonsal stuff. Then they have an assortment of breads - plain wheat bread (roti), or wheat bread stuffed with potatotes (paranthas) and the most awesome of all, corn bread (called "makki roti" in punjabi). Watch their fare here

You can begin with light snacks if you like - samosas, potato cutlets (tikki) and fried battered potatoes and spinach - pakodas. I like everything but after so many meals, i have my favorite selection. here is a typical meal

1. Corn bread with indian butter
2. A plate of spinach - this is just awesome - the spinach with garlic in it is a perfect thing to eat your corn bread with - this combo is a staple diet for the hard-working farmers in Punjab who have this in the morning before hitting the fields
3. Then go for the peas with cheese (paneer) mixx
4. And have the number 3 with the parantha - the stuffed potatoes bread

Hmmm. i cant stop salivating. And here is a recommendation - add a "Thumbs up" (indian cola) to your menu as you savor these delights. Or just step out and eat in the open air ont he sidewalk (inside too you have to stand and eat as the place is really narrow)

And yes, i have yet gotten to the dessert -end your meal with an Indian Ice Cream - the Kulfi. Kulfi is made from condensed milk frozen with a mix of saffron (that is the saffron flavor), or pistachio or almonds.

You will be a very contented person after this meal. And all for like less then $10 - most of the items sell between $1-$2 !! Yeah, if you are full but not fully contented, then get some food packed for the other days.

And yes, if you happen to visit this place after 1 am on fri or sat nights, expect it to be quite full - people flock to this place when they are hungry after their party nights, as i often do.

Thanks Punjabi Deli for making home-style , delicious food available always!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beset with Nostalgia. Last Night of a Most Memorable 4-mth Stay

All good (even great) things come to an end. And so be it. My 4 mths sublet in Stuyvesant Town or Stuy Town (just on the border of east village) comes to an end tonite. This has been the best 4 mths in the 5 yrs i have been in New York City. And that means a lot because i have stayed in several neighborhoods, year on year as my life as an urban gypsy, who moves from one sublet to another and always has a reason to go out and enjoy to the hilt.

Stuy Town was special. Its one of the hidden gems of NYC. A large residential complex with large apartments, nice manicured walkways, tennis courts (can you imagine - tennis courts right outside my apartment building), own park with a fountain and a great community of young professional people and aging boomers! And then i had a great room-mate who has been a chef, actor and now a school teacher (lets call him M) who has been living in stuy town in the same apartment for 20 yrs now and taught me how to cook a Toad in a Hole.

But what made the 4 mths special was the neighborhood - specifically the few blocks from 14th street to 4th street and av B and av C. There was the awesome local cafe , b cup in which i spent so many weekends just pondering, watching, and brainstorming with my friends. Then the many nights of mad partying at China 1 or the Sun Burnt Cow and then heading off to Muhammed Falafel Five Star for Lamb Gyro , or to get some corn bread and spinach at the Punjabi Deli.

Then there were the people - from the owners and staff at B cup , who are now friends and actually ask me to bring them Bollywood Films! The awesome , unforgettable staff at China 1 (yes each and every one there). Then the great Syrian falafel magician, Muhammed, who is always welcoming. The memories would be incomplete without the supremely talented Daniel , who plays the Drums at the Sun Burnt Cow, on whose rhythms i have spent hours dancing. And yes, the revolutionary, political journalist, O. And then the myriad friends - sab, barb, dy, lor, marn, ros, reb, tab, and, stv .....

I will miss these 4 mths. Not to say i am going to move far from where i am - i may still find a sublet in east village - but stuy town was special - everything just was great. And that will not be the same again. Of course, i sublet because i move on and usually find more interesting and exciting places.

The night also coincides with Obama's Historic Speech for Change at the DNC. Yes, time for a change and to move on. But as one does that you take these beautiful memories along to keep you moving on and on and on.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Party Like a Rockstar at China 1

If there is one place where, i party and party more, it is China 1, a restaurant with an underground, all brick-walled antique-laden bar and a separate cavernous lounge. If there is one place, that scores high points for customer-friendly service and an overall awesome party experience, it is this place.

China 1 is situated on the intersection of 4th and Av B, right across the other famous nightspot in east village, Le souk (which has great music and a really hot crowd, but lousy, pain-in-the butt bouncers, because of which i rarely ever go to this place). And it rocks (well you sure can say that based on the pic on the left!).

What rocks about this place is it layout. You walk into a very nicely decorated restaurant but beneath this veneer of serenity and calmness, lie two hidden and underground party spots. As you walk down the cavernous steps, into the underground, you come across two large rooms; one serves as the "antique" bar and the other a well decorated, dimly light (even bordering on romantic or sensual ) lounge.

But that is just one of the reasons, why this place rocks. The other is the great staff - from the bartenders (m and mg) to the table service cocktail waitresses Tab, who is pictured above (ok, its just a picture), Reb and Ros, (names abbreviated, go ask them yourself!). If they see you are party animals who are there to enjoy, they will pull out all stops to make you feel at home and have a great time. Specially Ro, an Italian-Columbian beauty (with an awesome figure and some really nice tattoos), who, along with Tab, are personal favorite (its mutual admiration, i hope).

I have had countless nights of fun in this place - for instance my birthday bash on June 14th (see pics) , where we literally blew the place away (doesnt it seem from the big cheers in the picture?)

The place is packed on Friday and Saturday nights (read that as skin to skin, at times , after 1 am) and the two rooms buzz with hip-hop and other dance music. China 1 is popular with Asian, Indians and even the local east village crowd and is specially a place for many birthday parties.

And i havent even told you about the cool and really awesome owner, A, who really looks more like a California surfer who has attained internal peace and enlightenment. This guy has literally built the place to be a party house and is so loved by his staff (i repeat, gorgeous staff) and other customers, that many would just give up anything to be in his place. I have promised A, that one day (very soon), i am going to throw a party at china 1 that will just blow the place apart. He is waiting, along with his awesome staff for that party to happen.

As for me, i have had a multitude of experiences at this place - from nights of high adrenaline dancing (i am not sure how many people have taken pictures of me, gyrating in my full abilities and posted them on facebook or myspace. No Kidding) - well, i do have proof , of my moves, as on my birthday, a friend did take some pics. Then there have been nights, when literally, people have "grinded" me from all sides, specially when my body begins to do its sensuous dance moves (the pic on left can give you some indication).

And then there are always the big hugs, kisses and the genuine affection of the staff - Ros and Tab. Tonight, even reb, opened up (she is half Vietnamese and half Irish and i must say, simply stunning)

If you are short of ideas for a weekend party place and dont know where to head to, tune your GPS to point to China 1. You wont be disappointed - yes, the place rocks.

Of course, Daniel and his folks rock more, when it comes to pure music, at the sunburnt cow, on Saturday nights (after 12.30 am), but China 1, holds its own place in my nightlife chronicles.

Long live, the dragon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Fever And Watching History

Things have been quieter on the nyescapades front after the crazy, high adrenaline party last saturday.

But then the Olmypic fever has swept me and i was almost on the verge of buying a ticket and flying to beijing to join the flow of adrenaline. But then, i decided to wait till 2012. Btw, the olympic logo on the left is really cool. It is a slight twist to a symbol in the chinese script which actually stands for "bejing".

Just saw Michael Phelps win his 7th gold medal to equal mark spitz's record. The victory was just a fingernail of a difference; infact, i think he got lucky because the silver medallist was ahead through out the race and probably thought he had reached the end and so instead of powering home, just glided in tamley while phelps took a last swing and reached out his long arms to out-touch the serbian cavic

The whole stadium, including phelps mom thought phelps had finally been bested but the result board showed he had squeezed in to nail down the 7th gold. Should have seen phelps mom's reaction - total disbelief and then joy.

If you have been watching phelps winning his other races and then being interviewed by the NBC reporter, you may have more than scratched your head to wonder why the reporter asks him such stupid questions - "how did you feel in the last 5 mins", "what do you think about this victory" - not only is the guy just getting his breath back but such questions cant elicit more than a "great, it hasnt sunk in ... .blah blah blah. " but then this is our media !

Last nights women gymnastics all-round final was quite thrilling in its own right - the fight coming down the last 3 routines on the floor. Nastia Luikin always looked the better (and the mature one compared to the much younger lin and shawn johnson) and was my favorite. And she did it.

Many such exciting moments make the olympics the real sporting deal. But the real deal for me is still to come - track and field events. Have been out of the loop on the 100m scene for sometime but then just saw usain bolt, asafa powell and tyson gay in the 100m heats. Havent seen some one run a sub 10 sec 100m and look like it was a stroll in the park. Usain Bolt just did that (is usain actually Hussain? havent been able to dig the confirmatory answer). But the guy sure looks in compelete control and i am betting my money on him to bag the tag of the "fastest man in the world" tomorrow. And i think he will go sub 9.7 secs

Ofcourse, the hope is that the super confident and highly talented Indian Boxer, Akhil stunned the world champion to score a August 15th Independence Day win for India. He believes nothing else other than Gold is victory and if he goes on this streak, he could well match Abhinav Bindra who got the first Individual Gold Medal for India in the 10 m Air rifle event.

Oh yeah, time to get out and celebrate the Indian Independence Day tonite - the party spirit and vibe of the village is about to get into me in a few minutes. Will probably be china 1, again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Union square, a center for urban energy and youth

Union square, is a vibrant melting pot of urban energy and youth in the city of melting pots. Its a small park between 14th and 16th streets and university place and park av. All around are shopping centers from whole foods, barnes and noble, urban outfitters to starbucks.

But what makes union square a real center of city pop culture, urban kitsch is its youthful energy, year round. No matter when one lands up there, there is a always people sitting along the open plaza with steps leading in the park. In the summer, specially, the place is a buzz till late , late in the night.

You can see them all - single person strong anti-war protesters, to environmentalists to artists selling there wares. Throngs of college kids or late 20s , early 30s type gather here to do their own form of expression. Music rules here - not uncommon to see varied performances by single artisists or groups of them .

Just take tonight for an example. It was like 12.15 am and i got off the union sq station to head home in stuy town. The weather has been exceptional today and a gentle breeze uplifted my spirits (had just watch the latest Mummy movie which was really bad ).

I stopped by at union sq steps. A large gathering had come together in the center. It was an impromptu rap gig that was going on with some 5-6 dozens of kids rapping away to glory with a DJ giving them ample sound effects. It was pretty awesome - the music was really original and spontaneous.

A side group , of 10-12 were doing their own rap jam - a sort of continuous jam session but as rap. They had a guy who was play the mridangam (an indian drum). This group was really creative with each of the 5 rappers really going after one another (the topic was porn !)
I hung around for 10-15 minutes. Nearby bunch of kids were ploughing there skating boards and trying all sorts of antics. But the coolest dudes were the ones on BMX bikes (see above)- they had setup some barriers and each biker was taking turns at doing jumps over the barriers - twisting and turning and zipping through the air as they did their jumps!

It all reminded me of the carefree abandon of college days in india. In med school we would stay awake till 3-4 am and spent all the time playing cricket inside the dorms or carrom or chess with endless round of tea and eggs wrapped in buns would be served by the local canteen staff. It wasnt too long ago , but it wasnt yesterday too (some like 10-12 yrs ago).

Ofcourse, there is no local canteen guy serving, indian style tea (chai) - but the spirit and the energy is the same. As i walk past the park and head home, i see curious onlookers trying to decipher the running digits on the huge wall next to the regal cinemas - you may have noticed it too . Its the metronome and after a long time i finally figures that the numbers show the current time (running left to right ) and the time remaining in the rest of the day (from right to left). I save them the trouble and offer to explain the numbers.

And as the hustle and bustle of union square recedes, i wonder what Gandhi would have said about all the youthful energy and expression (yes, Gandhi's statue is set in the south west corner of the park).

I m sure he would have approved of these youth who have made union square a symbol of social and political activism and cultural definition. Perhaps, one day, i could get a new york film academy (located on the north eastern part of the park) grad student to do a documentary on this urban mecca!