Vegetarian Indian at Sapthagiri Worth a Trip to Jersey City
I'm a born and bred New Yorker. That means many things: it means that some of my earliest memories take place in Central Park or the Natural History museum. It means that I memorized (most of) the subway map by the time I was nine. It means that I never learned how to drive a car. And it also means that if you tell me you're from New Jersey, which I understand is quite near New York, I'll ask you, "Oh, what part?" and then I won't comprehend your answer at all.
Unless, of course, you say, "Jersey City." Jersey City I know. It's super close by. The PATH train stops there and I've been there, oh, twice. I've heard that place has really good Indian food.
I'd been wanting to get to Jersey City to eat some Indian for a while now, and when my roommate started working there a few months ago, I knew this was the time. So recently I headed to Newark Avenue, which boasts a sizable Indian population and many great restaurants, to Sapthagiri, one of the local favorites.
We stopped by on a Wednesday night, and I highly recommend you do the same: Wednesday is all-you-can-eat dosa and chaat night for $10.99. That means you can get as many made-to-order dosas, or thin crispy crepes stuffed with savory fillings, as you like, as well as an entire buffet offering several types of chaat, or crispy Indian snacks, as well as pav bhaji, toasted buttered rolls heaped with potato curry; mysore bajii, airy coconut-wheat flour fritters studded with scallions and served with a coconut-tahini dipping sauce; fluffy rice pilaf, and some kind of dessert.
Everything on the buffet was tasty, but the sleeper hit was the Papri Chaat, crunchy, greasless crisps of fried dough smothered in sweetened yogurt and tangy tamarind sauce. Our server told us that chaat are commonly sold on the beaches of Mumbai; this sweet-salty snack would make the perfect summer treat.
For our dosa we opted for the Onion Masala Dosa, a paper-thin rice batter crepe griddled and rolled around a filling of mashed potatoes, peas and cashews. The dosa's tasty, well-seasoned filling was concentrated at the center of the crepe, so we used the empty ends for dipping into the restaurant's mint and tamarind sauces.
If you go during a buffer you can still order items a la carte, and a north Indian dish of paneer makhani ($9.99) doesn't disappoint. The cubes of squeaky fresh panee in a super-rich, buttery tomato sauce are subtly flavored with crushed fenugreek leaves.
It's difficult for me to visit an Indian restaurant and not order aloo gobi ($9.99), that classic curried cauliflower and potato dish. But Sapthagiri's version was unlike any I'd ever tasted: much, much richer, the sour/savory aspects of the sauce—provided by dried mango powder and a host of ground spices including turmeric, cayenne and cumin, respectively—completely in balance.
Visiting Jersey City's Newark Avenue is a treat; the steeply-pitched street is lined with dozens of restaurants and a handful Hindu temples, and strands of multicolored lights hanging from the street lamps and power lines lend the area a festive air. The atmosphere alone is worth a trip; the excellent food at Sapthagiri is just one more reason to go.