SEVA Indian Cuisine
This pocket-sized restaurant opened just one year ago and has already garnered plenty of mentions for “Best Indian cuisine in Queens”. It’s no wonder when you consider that co-owner and executive chef, Charu Sharma, was trained by her mother Shashi, who runs a culinary school in Delhi. Their school of cooking utilizes only the freshest ingredients, herbs and spices, and very little added oils, leaving the dishes bright and robust with flavor, not heavy or greasy. Co-owner Vinod Sharma explained that “Seva“ means “an act of selfless service”, such as when a guest arrives in your home. Indeed, the patrons at Seva are made to feel very welcome and comfortable with its serene environment and superior service. Until their wine and beer license is approved, you may bring your own.
Seva offers a nice variety of dishes prepared in the Northern Indian style and there are many vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu, making this an ideal place for all to enjoy a meal together. Vinod purchases all his meat, poultry and fish locally in Astoria, a boon to the community. They also swiftly deliver to a large swath of Astoria, for your at-home dining convenience and orders can be placed by telephone or on-line.
As we perused the menu, we munched on crisp, lentil wafers called papadam, served with two dipping sauces: sweet tamarind and spiced mint and cilantro. Vinod treated us to a tasting menu of all his wife’s specialties and so the evening began. Butternut squash soup, which is a vegan option, was served nice and hot, seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and a touch of pepper. Next, the lamb spring roll is worthy of all the raves it gets. Ground lamb, purchased locally, is mildly spiced and rolled into a crispy shell, with mint and yogurt sauce ($5). Vegetable or chicken samosas are golden triangles of pastry stuffed with potato, peas and spices, or minced chicken, coriander and mint, for just $3. Bok choy crispy curls are another popular item on the menu, dipped in a chick pea batter and fried until golden and crunchy. A sampler platter of appetizers is available, a great option for 2-4 people ($6). The very attentive waiter brought me a cool mango lassi, a creamy drink made with yogurt and fresh mango. Cardamom tea is also available, as well as lemonade and sparkling water.
Next, the tandoor clay oven produced the most tender, succulent and juicy chicken and shrimp I’ve ever tried. Chicken tikka is prepared with yogurt marinade, paprika and lemon juice. A mixed tandoori grill makes choosing easy, as you simply get all of these wonderful items ($12). Biryani is a meal in itself, where vegetables, meat and basmati rice are cooked together in a heavy pot, along with saffron, bay leaf and cardamom. The end result is a satisfying dish served with cucumber raita that provides enough for lunch the next day.
While all the herbs and spices used in Indian cuisine are robust, they are not all hot. Hot dishes are indicated and any dish can be adjusted to your liking, as they are made to order for maximum flavor. One of Vinod’s personal favorites is apricot lamb curry, prepared with coriander and cumin, apricots and cloves ($11). Only white meat chicken breasts are used in Seva’s dishes, and the fennel chicken curry has a delicious sauce made with roasted fennel seeds, garlic and onions that’s ideal for spooning onto the fluffy basmati rice that comes with entrées. Tilapia fish is stewed with a sauce of turmeric and other savory spices. We wanted the heat turned up and so ordered the green chili chicken and lamb vindaloo. We also loved the saag paneer, a stew of spinach and house made cheese.
At least a dozen vegan and vegetarian dishes are on the menu and are indistinguishable in their wonderful flavor from the other non-vegetarian dishes. Stir fried cauliflower, green peas potatoes, ginger and curry make a delicious meal, as does the baby eggplant with sesame tamarind sauce. Baby okra, onion and mild chilies can be
placed upon whole wheat roti bread, ideal for vegans. Other delicious breads include soft, unleavened nan bread, topped with either garlic, rosemary, cilantro, onion or fruit and nuts.
Seva’s prices are not to be beat, considering the quality of the food and generous portions. To add to the value, they are offering a price fixed menu for an incredible $13 which includes your choice of appetizer, entrée, basmati rice and a dessert! That specially priced dinner can even be delivered to your home. A lunch special is served from noon until 3:00pm that includes butternut squash soup, an entrée and rice for just $7. Cool off with a sweet dessert of gulab jamun, which are homemade dumplings soaked in honey, or creamy Indian rice pudding called kheer. There’s even a vegan dessert made with semolina, toasted almonds and raisins.
Seva lives up to its well-earned reputation and to its name, as it offers unyielding hospitality and service within its small space. Many blessings to Charu and Vinod Sharma!
30-07 34th Street • Astoria