Posts tagged ‘New Haven’

Marketplace Restaurant, or Mandala Bistro

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Sometimes a good restaurant is easy to spot. The decor, the menu, and the atmosphere all speak to you and they say, “this place is going to be good.” Other times, you find a gem when you least expect it, like we did at the Marketplace Restaurant on Temple Street last week. Situated across from the Criterion movie theatre, this restaurant seems unsure whether it is a deli, a cafe, or a sit-down restaurant. The menu only adds to the confusion, with its offering of American, Italian, Tex-Mex, Indian, and Nepalese fare – everything from chili dogs to penne a la vodka to nachos to chana masala.

As a result, I was really unsure about what to expect when Sean and I walked into Marketplace, but we were drawn in by the incredibly cheap Indian lunch specials and by the fact that we were hungry and had a movie to catch. At the very least, I expected a couple of edible curries for a decent price. As it turns out, we were blown away by the most delicious Indian food we’ve tried in New Haven – topped off with great service, and oh, those prices!

Marketplace offers a “Vegetarian Lunch Box” special that consists of two curries, rice, naan, and dessert for $6.95, which is what drew us in. Sean and I decided to split that and an order of vegetarian pakora ($3.95).

The pakora (vegetable dumplings fried in chickpea batter) were very good – not too oily, and dusted in cumin, which really made the flavours pop. Our $4 platter came with about a dozen pieces of pakora and was easily enough to share.

Our “Lunch Box” was generously portioned as well. We agreed that we could probably each have eaten a lunch box to ourselves (without the appetizer), but that we would be stuffed afterward.

The naan bread was not my favorite part of the meal. It lacked the buttery, yeasty flavours that I associate with really good naan (although the waitress did offer us butter to put on it), and tasted a bit more like pita bread to me.

The curries, on the other hand, blew us both away. Since we got two curries with the lunch special, we each chose our favourite. Sean opted for chana masala (curried chickpeas), which came with nice chunks of soft potato in a rich, dark sauce. I chose the matter paneer (peas and cheese in a creamy sauce), which I am prepared to say was the best matter paneer that I have ever had in my life. Both curries had a surprising depth of flavour, and they were also very different from each other. The matter paneer especially succeeded in being rich and creamy while still packing a satisfying range of spice and flavour.

The dessert that comes with the lunch box is one of my favorite Indian sweets. Gulab Jamun is a delicious ball – not unlike a better donut hole – soaked in sweet syrup. This particular Gulab Jamun was denser than I am used to (maybe whole wheat?) and the dough was spiced with ground cardamom, which gave it an added level of flavour that I have never tasted in this dessert before.

To top it all off, the service here was excellent. The waitress was friendly and attentive, and she really didn’t seem to mind that we were splitting a lunch special or that we had come in 30 minutes before the lunch special was over (it runs from 11am to 3pm). The place had the vibe of a new family-owned restaurant, where everyone is really invested in making sure that you enjoy your food and your experience.

I still can’t speak to the American, Italian, Tex-Mex or other assorted dishes on Marketplace’s menu, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll never try them. I am willing to say, though, that this was the best Indian food I have tasted in New Haven and in some cases the best I have had anywhere. I hope this place stays in business a long, long time.

UPDATE: We went to Marketplace again this week with a couple of friends, partly to get a picture for this review and partly because the food was just that good. The manager came over to talk to us for a little while and said that the place is getting a makeover. The name will be changed to Mandala Bistro, they’re renovating, and they’re paring down the menu. The curries and the current chef will stay but the lunch special has to go (it is, it turns out, to cheap to last). The new prices will make a curry about $8 for lunch and $11 for dinner, which is still completely worth it (in my opinion) – and it makes the prices similar to the other places in town.

On this trip, we also tried the palak paneer (spinach and cheese) and the navarattan korma (curried vegetables) and they were both excellent. The palak paneer was full of flavour and very different from the creamier matter paneer. The navarattan korma was packed with perfectly cooked vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, green beans, cauliflower and potato), which maintained their own flavour and crunch while working nicely in the sauce. Our whole party was unanimous in declaring this the best Indian food in New Haven.

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July 25, 2009 at 1:24 pm 1 comment

Settling In

Well, so much for my grand plans to blog everyday across North America. I did enjoy some great eating experiences on my trip and regret not blogging them all, but I am back now and things here at Peas and Cukes should be getting back to normal shortly. I’ve been exploring the town and I like its style. Rather than any large stores at all, there are lots of small locally owned grocery stores. I thought that this might be inconvenient, but the small stores seem to have everything that I need with less of the stuff that I don’t want. New Haven is also overrun with restaurants and nearly every place seems to have vegetarian options. The section of town informally known as the “restaurant district” is like a year-round international food fair, with choices ranging from Japanese to French to Turkish to Southwest and plenty in between. I can’t wait to explore everything and to tell you all about it.

August 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment


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*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.