Taste of Madras is the most recent restaurant to occupy the storefront at 96 North Broadway in Hicksville, and I wish them the best of luck - just over the past four years alone, three great restaurants (first Apsara, then Masala Kitchen, then The Curry Club) have opened in this spot only to close. Hopefully Taste of Madras is going to stick around for awhile, because their food is some of the best in an area that's positively bursting with marvelous Indian food.
We've stopped by here three times, each at lunch. Where many local places do the Indian lunch buffet thing at least reasonably well (Burkhara Grill, New Chilli and Curry, Copper Wok and Diwan among them), Taste of Madras has sought to distance themselves from that routine by serving Thali at lunch. If you've never heard of Thali before (as I hadn't just a few weeks ago), it consists of a platter with several small bowls, each filled with a different dish. (The top picture and the bottom picture above show what Thali looks like.) So it's kind of like a personal tray of tapas-sized portions, only it's nowhere near as obnoxious as tapas, and nowhere near as pricey at only $8.99 per person.
Thali can be served either vegetarian or with your choice of meat. The dishes served with thali include entrees (including items such as curred dishes and wonderfully flavored dry chicken chunks), traditional vegetable dishes, pickled vegetables and chutney, small soup portions, yogurt, and a sweet dish (payasam or rice pudding or the like), usually a served around a small pile of white rice. I would suggest ordering a bread to complement the meal, in particular I recommend the onion kulcha. We tried an order of the lollipop chicken (middle picture above) and the drumettes were nicely seasoned and cooked perfectly. The waiter stressed to us that Taste of Madras always prepares the components of the Thali fresh, which is a nice change from the usual "reheated leftovers" situation that you get at many Indian places.
So, while we absolutely loved the thali, we wanted to make sure we stopped by to order off the regular menu at some point, as well. Last weekend we dropped in on my mom's birthday weekend and shared an appetizer and three delicious entrees. From top to bottom, pictured below we have: 1.) channa batura (top of picture) and homestyle Chettinad chicken curry, 2.) Nilgiri coconut koftas, and 3.) the paneer 65 appetizer.
I really can't overstate how delicious everything was. The gravies and sauces were outstanding, in particular that accompanying the kofta, which was creamy and smooth, and the channa, which was bursting with vibrant flavors. Having tried the chicken 65 with the thali during our previous visits, we tried the paneer 65, which was fried just enough to give texture while not seeming too heavy.
Anyhow, I'll likely be returning this week, and if you're in the area, I suggest you do the same. I've enjoyed each of the previous restaurants that have resided at this address, and hopefully Taste of Madras can find the success that sadly eluded its predecessors.