Pooja Cuisine

by KimHo on November 26, 2009 · 4 comments under: Food,Restaurant,Travel



Pooja Cuisine
1075 Easton Avenue
Somerset, NJ
Pooja Cuisine on Urbanspoon

As mentioned previously, in this trip, I wanted to try different types of cuisines. So far, we have had diners, burgers, Latin American (Cuban), Southern/Soul and BBQ – in that order. For this post, though, I will have to break that sequence because of tomorrow’s post. As a sneak peak, it is about burgers (yes, again but… Let’s just say wait until tomorrow). But, other than that small burger detour, I kept that different cuisine line of thought. In this case? Indian food in Pooja Cuisine.

I must admit I did some homework before I went to Pooja. In fact I had another nearby Indian restaurant in mind: Hoysala. The difference between the two? Aside the fact Pooja has several north Indian dishes and Hoysala has southern, Hoysala also serves buffet style after 7:00 p.m. (They open at 5:30 p.m.). Reality is, I wasn’t really in the mood of buffets and endless food available. Then there was that wacky thought of ordering a la carte but having then a waiter go to the buffet and plate the food for me. OK, OK, it is possible they would actually cook it but I couldn’t shake that feeling. As a result, I ended up going to Pooja by process of elimination. (I must add Pooja also have buffet during lunchtime).

After I walked in, I was given the option to sit almost anywhere. Other than another table, it was pretty much the waiters, that other table and me. During my meal, a couple walked in so, pretty much it was a slow night. After looking at the menu and made my order, I got…

Papadum and chutney. These are not complimentary but part of a set dish I ordered (more on that below). I just tried a piece to taste the chutney and… Well, there wasn’t much to comment about. The chutneys did not have much taste at all which I found odd. Wasn’t it supposed to be minty or sweet/spicy? Anyway, since I did not care too much about it, I just let it slip.

To actually start my meal, I went for something… Unusual. Above, their coconut soup or, as per their menu, “Punjabi-style made with milk, grated coconut and nuts”. The reason I ordered it was because I like the taste of coconut and this really caught my attention. The end result was a bit mixed. It tasted like a warm, really thin sweetened coconut milk. It was probably a bit too sweet for my liking but, that aside, it was just weird. This is something I would have as a drink, not as a soup.

I know I am jumping back and forth but that was the order which I was served the meal. In this case, drinks, where I had lassi; however, unlike my previous visits to Indian restaurants, this is the regular lassi, not mango lassi, which explains why it is white rather than yellow-ish. I think I prefer this over the probably-over sweet mango lassi. As for the taste itself, if you ever had plain yoghurt, that is pretty much the taste of it but with a thinner consistency.

And, finally, the main components of my main dish… As you all know, when going to Indian restaurants, short of a buffet, the best approach is to go in a group. The main reason is to be able to order several dishes. But, when you go by yourself, well, the best you can do is hope they have a combination/set menu which allows you to taste several items. Fortunately, Pooja, did have such item and out of the four available, I ordered their house special which include:

Chicken tandoori. The lemon and raw onion was mostly for show as you can easily tell they were not cooked together. As for the chicken itself, taste-wise, it felt somewhat flat and, worst of all, somewhat dry. For goodness sake, it is dark meat!

Vegetable korma. When I first “stirred” the korma, I thought there was something strange, as if it contained something that shouldn’t be there and/or something missing. I did not pay too much attention to it and started eating it with the side naan (further below). Then it hit me… While you can use technically any vegetable to make the vegetable korma, I am used to what is served here in Vancouver, i.e., cauliflower, beans, carrots, sometime potatoes, et al. In Pooja’s case, the cauliflower was missing and instead of beans, it had peas. So, you do the math: peas, carrots… Does it sound like mixed vegetables?! The sauce itself was slightly sweet and creamy though not hot at all (I asked for the food to be spicy hot). So, my thoughts was that curry sauce was at par but the vegetable used was disappointing.

Lamb rogan josh. The sauce was similar to that of the korma, the difference here is that this one felt more oily. Since it is lamb, you would expect it to be game-y, right? Well, it was; however, there was something they did not manage to control: the meat was slightly tough. Now, not to the point you had to chew over and over but you could tell it wasn’t really simmered for a while to the point it starts to tenderize and fall apart…

The main carbs of the meal: rice and naan. The rice was average but did what it was supposed to do. One odd detail was that it was slightly lumpy. Not sure if I was expecting that. Out of the whole meal, I will have to say the naan was the best part. It had its share of butter/ghee on top which gave it an unique oily taste. And it manage to soak the sauce from the korma and rogan josh.

In the end, I was full. Despite it was an order for one, it was a bit too much food for a single person. However, it did not fulfill much. I have had way better Indian here in Vancouver from buffet or even below average Indian restaurants. But, then again, it might be an unfair comparison considering the Indian population here in Vancouver. Still, if I was craving for Indian in that area of New Jersey, that might not be the place I would go to.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 zud November 26, 2009 at 10:22 am

this whole series of posts makes me really appreciate vancouver and the lower mainland in terms of good food. we may not have the french laundry but our indian offerings can be pretty good! and what is it about indian restaurants being completely empty? maybe that’s universal….

2 Sherman November 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm

You are right Kim, the Indian food in Vancouver is pretty good. I’ve had Indian food in NYC and it’s not bad; but it’s better here! Same with Chinese food, better here than NYC. We are lucky!

3 KimHo November 26, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Zud, thanks for your thoughts. Food in Vancouver has its highs and downs, it is a matter to appreciate what we have. Sure, no French Laundry but we have Le Crocodile (which is pending for me to visit). We do not have Nobu but several highly regarded Japanese restaurants (and, no, I won’t mention certain Japanese restaurant whose name is four character long). And so on, and so on. It is just a matter of make sure we can find the good ones from the ones from the bunch…

Sherman, however, when it comes to things like street food, we suck!

Now, regarding Pooja, I must give them a bit of slack, as it is not in a major city plus the fact it was a weekday. Still, consistency is a key factor in the food industry…

4 raidar November 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I forget sometimes, until I travel (or see posts like this) how lucky I am as well. Edmonton has a great scene for Indian, so I never have to worry. But like you mentioned Kim, the ups come with the downs like everywhere.

I must say, doing the quick scan of the pictures, I initially thought they cracked an egg with the chicken. I ended up doing a quick double take.

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