Samudra, Vegetarian on 37th Avenue

samudra1Tucked between a Dunkin Donuts and a pizza shop on 37th Avenue, Samudra is slightly removed from the crowded center of Indian and Himalayan shops around the Roosevelt Avenue subway station. Two blocks south, you can have your hair cut at Punjab Barbers and shop at a Halal grocer, or a Bangladeshi or Indian grocer. But on 37th Avenue, you get your hair cut at Sal’s Barber Shop and buy your groceries at Foodtown. And from the outside, Samudra—with its tiny storefront and generic awning—does not look promising, as if the Dunkin Donuts had decided to try an Indian extension.samudra6

But the interior surprises: the space is long, with plenty of tables, and the menu is correspondingly long. Samudra has an excellent selection of South Indian foods, with over a dozen different dosas. They also have a North Indian menu—although everything is vegetarian.

samudra2I ordered rasam idli as an appetizer. Idli is a kind of cake made from fermented lentils and rice, similar to dosas but small and thick. In the dish I ordered, the idli is soaked in a tart soup, rasam, which is made from tamarind with cumin and other spices. The flavor is almost pungent at first, and then the spices begin to cut through the tamarind to give it a more complex flavor.

For the main course, I ordered paneer uttapam—a cake made from a similar fermented rice and gram lentil batter, but with potato, onion, chives, and cottage cheese mixed in. The result is a refreshing mix of flavors. It is served with chutney and masala on the side.samudra5

Samudra means ‘ocean’ in Hindi, and the interior of the restaurant evokes the beaches of Mumbai. The tables are topped with woven bamboo, honey-colored woodwork lines the walls, and a reed awning shades the tables on one side of the room from an imagined sun. Perhaps it is a little kitschy, but it is not the expected statues of Ganesh or pictures of Gandhi.


Samudra Vegetarian Restaurant
75-18 37th Avenue
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
11:30am-10:00pm every day
(718) 255-1757

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