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Review: Chola

Posted by gambit50 on April 28, 2008

Chola, Midtown East, New York, NY

I have been to Chola many times over a few years. Both for the buffet lunch and for dinner. I do enjoy Indian food very much but I am averse to a large part of the cuisine so I will not sample everything or even most of what is available. Chola has a fairly wide range of choices on the menu for many tastes. Though this is somewhat Americanized.

It is located on 58th St. on the east side on a single block with at least three other Indian restaurants. The space is nothing special at all. A small bar at the front and most of the tables further back. It is all one space and the tables are not cramped together, even those 2 tops that are next to each other. Not horrid but not noteworthy and so I will move on. After all, what Indian restaurant has an interior that you will remember enough to give a description? Perhaps the “high-end” places, of which are only a couple and Chola is not one of them.

The food has turned down a bit, I believe since I first visited years ago. Not so much but I would like to note this. I have not had any seafood at Chola since I do not find it cooked well in Indian restaurants, in general. The chicken dishes are probably the best. Yes, I like chicken tikka masala and theirs is solid if not the best I have had. The lamb dishes are of an equal level of taste but, as happens with most places that are not really on point, it is usually tough. Not inedible but not ideal. This is due to overcooking and possibly the quality of the meat. If you are dining there do not avoid the lamb based on this statement this occurs all over. Spinach and tomato bases for the meats are offered in too many minor variations. The flavors are not so pronounced in each dish that they are very distinguishable. There are other choices, lighter versions, grilled, tandoori, etc. The heavily sauced versions are solid but not flavorful enough. I believe this is the biggest drop-off from Chola’s earlier days. Laziness, maybe cutting some corners, I am not sure. Also, too many choices with cream involved in the sauce. How many heavy cream Indian dish choices do I need? The dry items are fine. Not much else to say about them. Choose a dressing you like, there are many and you will probably be satisfied with your meat. I do not eat vindaloos or curries but I would say they are not the most fiercesome versions you would come across.

The samosas, dosas and other starters, many vegetarian, are good. They are the strongest part of the menu, overall. The naan is fine but certainly not the best. Perhaps, a buttered version would help. Desserts, don’t waste your time.

Chola offers a lunch buffet, 7 days a week, and if you plan to load up on quantity it is a really good deal. They bring you multiple little starters to your table plus naan and all you can eat from a fair selection of dishes. Tandoori chicken, basmati rice, of course. Usually, a lamb, spinach and potato dish are offered, also. For the buffet, the quality is very good, In fact, I do not think it is below the a la carte level. Something will strike your fancy enough to warrant the $14.

Finally, a few words about the service. Well, it is quite good during the buffet. Water is refilled promptly, the little starters are brought out promptly, plates cleared if necessary, all good, unobtrusive and pleasant. The service during dinner is pretty poor. The wrong dish has been brought to the table for various reasons far too often. I am not high maintenance and I am fine with mistakes but when you are quite sure they did not TAKE you order correctly and figure there will be a misstep somewhere along the line because of past experiences, it is not really acceptable. The wait staff seems friendly enough and not lazy just incompetent.

I am not sure if the above review properly reflects my feeling on Chola. While it was better in earlier times, I would still recommend it over any other Indian restaurant excluding those few that are more upscale. Perhaps, I wrote it with a bit of disappointment since it would be so simple to make noticeable improvements to the food and service.

NTG

Summary: A good Indian restaurant choice without much fuss. Extensive menu and a very good lunch buffet. Do not expect the Taj Mahal surroundings or service. Last visited, Winter, 2007. Cost $39/pp

Ratings:

Food – 80

Space – 78

Service – 77

Value – 83

Score – 81

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