Reflections on Stripmall Eating

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Iran So Far Away

Name: Caspian Grille
Location: 539 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill.
Personnel: Me
What I Ate: Baba Ganoush, Cucumber Salad, Persian Rice With Apricots, Carrots and Raisins, Eggplant Stuffed with Ground Beef, Phyllo-Wrapped Chicken and Spinach, Whole Wheat Pita Bread and Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
Condiments: None
Bill Total: $34.28
Observations: I grew up in Lafayette Hill, and back in those days of piano lessons, Golden Dream Barbie grooming and Hebrew school, dinner out was usually limited to a pu-pu platter at the Golden Dragon, or a flabby slice of Vino's pizza. The past few times I've been back in the Hill, though, I've passed by this new addition to Germantown Avenue and looked at it longingly from the car window. I finally pulled into the parking lot and saw it up close today. Turns out it isn't a proper restaurant—at least not yet. It's more like a takeout counter/catering business. And, unlike the nearby Persian Grill, the Caspian Grill is not limited to Persian food. Its 25-foot glass display case is filled with salads, curries, rice, fish, moussaka, dolmades, and burritos. (The Iranian owner, a slight man with a snowy beard, also operates a stand in the Flourtown Farmers Market. He explained that Mexican cuisine was popular among American customers, so he is just keeping his bases covered.) In addition, he and his co-chefs had laid out some Thanksgiving items like a rolled turkey breast stuffed with apples and a pretty hot-rockin' pumpkin bread pudding. I wasn't so big on the chicken, which was mostly flavorless underneath its crisp wrapping, but the saffron-tinted rice was sweet and fragrant and the baba ganoush had the perfect smoky : tangy ratio. It is a friendly place, and even if you order as much as I did they will not make you feel like a total pig.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Little Gulab Jamon

Name: Uduppi Dosa House
Location: Galloway Road, Bensalem
Date: Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Personnel: Jesse, Jon, Me
What We Ate: House Special Assorted Plate (Medhu Vada, Masala Vada, Vegetable Pakoda, Samosa, Vegetable Cutlet and Bhajia); Tomato and Pea Uthappam, Mysore Masala Dosa, Malai Kofta, Alu Parata, Gajar Ka Halwa, Gulab Jamun. One Mango Lassi.
Condiments: Coconut Chutney, Tamarind Sauce, Sambar, Coriander/Mint Chutney
Bill Total: a paltry $41
Observations: We were greeted by Lakshmi, garlanded for Diwali, the festival of lights. (See below.) The all-veg dosa house is divided by a series of stainless steel buffet warmers which were disappointingly barren. Turns out the regular buffet is at lunch time ($6.99 on weekdays and $8.99 on weekends). On Wednesday night there's also a chaat buffet. Have to come back for that. A family behind us ordered thalis and knocked them back in record time. Uduppi staff were friendly and gracious. Our server gently walked us through the menu, acknowledging our indisputable Western-ness without making us feel especially ignorant. In retrospect I believe we ordered too many starchy dishes—the lentil donut was no joke. We left feeling spongy, indolent, and just slightly stoned on chili peppers. Also intrigued by the many stripmall dining possibilities in Bensalem.
Bonus Errands: Old Navy (baby gift); Home Depot (faux wood-burning stove)