Who is that angry guy who reviews Indian restaurants for a bunch of websites like Oak Tree Road? (Typical Angry Guy quote: "It was as if Josef Mengele's twin brother was lurking in Udupi Village's kitchen practicing his cruel and hideous experiments on innocent diners." Pleasant.)
I emailed them asking for an interview, but was never answered. All I know is that this guy is on a mission—to find the best Indian restaurants wherever he goes, and to bash all the others to shreds. Since he’s never named or pictured, I have two distinct mental images of him. The first, a typical Indian guy from the neighborhood, with a real chip on his shoulder; eating with gusto and tossing inferior curries and chutneys at servers who should know better.
Other times, I imagine him as a New Jersey superhero, zooming from restaurant to restaurant, leaving the bad food in his wake and finishing at one of the very few places he loves.
Since I was unable to get in touch with him, I set off to visit several of his favorites—just to see if his anger was justified.
The first thing I noticed when my wife and I parked in the huge lot in front of Jhupdi was that it was exactly the sort of restaurant I’d never go to—or even admit publicly to going to. Too fancy to be a “find,” and not fancy enough to be “fine dining,” it was in that middle ground of places I hated to spend my money on. Add the funky décor to that, and I was out of my league.
Basically, the Jhupdi menu leaves you with two choices: a long list of unexplained small items and four different thalis, as set meals are known in Indian restaurant jargon. Unless you’re pining for a specific thing, go for the thalis; they’re complete meals and even include a glass of spiced buttermilk. Not than any of this is surprising, or even unusual. Rhalis are thick on the ground in Edison. The surprise is in the taste; there is a dimension of flavor that you just don’t find elsewhere. This place is a whole different league better than anywhere else on Oak Tree.
Oak Tree Road restaurateurs spend so much time agonizing over spiciness that they wind up with tasteless sludge all too often. Not here. The food has just a touch of heat (except for the garlic pickle—that packs a proper punch) and a kaleidoscope of flavors.
As we were leaving, my wife and I stopped to chat with the large crowd of people lined up to get inside. One person asked us “Is it too spicy?” “No,” I replied, “it’s that every place else is tasteless by comparison.”
Our angry guy describes this place as “Manna from heaven,” but he leaves out one detail: it’s a buffet. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a buffet when he reviewed the place, but it’s one now. (And he’s had years to update.) This is saddening for one reason; the staff here is so good that you want them to do more for you.
The Chettinad Chicken, Chicken Fry, and biryianis were full of flavor, and the small dosas and idlis that the servers brought around just made us happier. The pinnacle of the meal—and perhaps the pinnacle of Indian food in New Jersey—was the Uthappam: that rice and lentil crepe that’s normally a starch bomb but here was sparkling with color and flavor.
I normally hate walking around buffets, squeezing my full plates and fat belly between other people’s tables, but the atmosphere here is so warm that you wind up chatting with customers and staff as you go by.
My worst moment at Hosala? Seeing what I could have ordered from the menu if I had skipped the buffet. No decision is without consequences.