The first was Mavalli Palace, on 29th near the corner of 5th avenue if I remember correctly. The citysearch review is something I have a little trouble agreeing with - sounds out of date.
We took my boss there, since it was his last day, and treated him to lunch. He chose the place, since it was one he liked a lot, and it's a vegetarian place and half of the Systems group (now 3/5 with him gone) is vegetarian.
We got there, and they had pushed a couple of tables together to seat us (I called ahead and reserved a table for 6, which is good, or we'd have had to wait for them to "assemble" it), so we sat down. The place is fairly quiet, and a little dark, but I consider those to be positive features. It's got that ethnic decor to it - it has wooden carvings hanging on the walls, and a few small statues and such around. It's done subtly and tastefully enough that it doesn't come off as garish, though, and honestly I don't remember most of it - a positive thing, I think. ;) I hate when the way a restaurant looks is what you remember most about it. That's just wrong.
So anyways, we ordered our food. Mine came out first - it was almost like a samosa, but wrapped in something like a crepe. Stuffed with the same stuff. The amusing part was the size - the crepe/pancake/thing was at least 18 or 20 inches across - several inches of it hung of each side of the plate. It was pretty good. It came with a little piece of white bread, that was almost like chinese steamed bread - like what a cha siu bao is made of. Man. It also had two sauce/things with it, a sort of vegetarian stew and then a white sauce, I guess the chutney stuff. (I know, I sound terribly ignorant, but I'm bad with names - I know I like this and that, but I don't remember what the hell they're called).
Three other people got the other lunch special, which was basically a big piece of poofy bread, that when stabbed would, with a little bit of coaxing, deflate. It looked like a balloon on their plates until then, though. It came with a bunch of different dipping sauces and side dishes - a little curry, a little this, a little that. It looked pretty cool.
The others got some stuff, I forget the name. I've had it before, it's good. Came with rice. Green, spinach based I think, like a curry or whatever.
God, my memory's going in my old age.
Anyways, the price was a bit high for lunch (around $10 a person, without counting tax, tips, or drinks), considering the size of the portions, but it was very good. (i.e. if the portions were bigger, or it was cheaper, it wouldn't have been a concern.)
The service was so-so, though - he didn't refill the waters nearly often enough, and it was a bit slow in general. Wasn't terrible, but not great either.
My boss made a comment at one point about how it was unusually cool in there - usually he comes out sweating. So, er, I suppose it's improved in at least one way. ;)
The second place I ate at yesterday (crazy, a 2-meal-out day!) was Khyber Pass, an Afghani restaurant down on St. Mark's Place.
I always like going down on St. Mark's Place; back when I was hangin' with the goths (I've since retired) I used to spend a lot of time there, and to the east of there. There were a lot of nights we'd go out for food after a night at a club, or party, or something. For whatever reason, though, I had never tried Khyber Pass. After penchantnyc kept talking about it, though, I had to give it a shot. We were nearby, anyways, to see the movie, so we walked on over.
The first thing I noted was the entrance - it sucks. It's hard to get into, and one of the wooden steps was loose and wobbled when I stepped on it. The doorway is also really awkward - one of those airlock style entrances, where you have to open the front door, step in, open the next door, step through - not a problem solo, but when people are trying to exit or enter at the same time as you, it can be difficult, especially since the door opens inwards, i.e., blocking off a decent portion of the airlock.
Once we got in, we found a cozy little place - mostly small 2 and 4 person tables, but comfortable. It was dim and fairly quiet, with some quiet music playing in the background (Afghani? It had a middle-easternish sound to it). There were some interesting things hanging on the walls - my brother in law noted the rifle and colorful rifle-holder hanging on the wall next to our table, and the table-cloth.
We started off with the Mantoo, some meat dumplings with (I thought) sour cream-like substance (I'm pretty sure it wasn't a mint sauce) and a meat sauce on top. It was tasty, but I think the stuffing was a bit overcooked and dry, and the pasta (or whatever you call the outside of a dumpling) was also a bit overcooked and dry. The sauce covered it up a bit but it was still noticeable (to me). The flavor was nice, though, and I enjoyed them.
I had the fesenjen for dinner, which was a chicken dish, a sort of walnut and pomegranate stew. I thought it was good, although I wonder if it's entirely authentic. It was pretty sweet, which surprised me, I didn't think it'd be that sweet. The waiter called it "sweet and sour chicken", which made me want to slap him. Please, I'm looking for fairly authentic, interesting food, and you call my dish sweet and sour chicken? I didn't try to pronounce it because I've got a little too much respect to mangle the language in my attempt to say it, but it doesn't mean I'm an idiot, either.
It was served in a little metal bowl, with a plate of rice, which seems to be standard fare from eating at Indian and other middle-eastern restaurants. I thought it was pretty good - a little thin, but I don't know what it's supposed to be like, which makes it hard to really judge.
He got some other stewy sort of dish (a lot of middle-eastern foods seem to be stews/curries or drier, bready dishes, or is that just my somewhat limited experience?) made with lamb and spinach. It had orange-peels in the sauce too, I think, but if so the taste was definitely not strong (at least in the spoonfull I tried). I wasn't as big a fan of his dish, but it was decent. It had a slightly better consistency, I think, not as thin and watery as mine (relatively) but I think the spinach wasn't the best, or maybe just the sauce - it was a little... I dunno. Bitter? Not really, but it wasn't what I was expecting, exactly. Maybe it was the dried orange peels - they can be a bit bitter, although it's a bitter orange flavor, which I didn't taste. Still, it was decent.
The portions were large enough to be filling, but not huge. The prices were good, but not extremely cheap, either. The service was fairly quick and pretty decent - not noteworthy, I'd say. I didn't feel like we got exceptional service or poor service - which, honestly, I tend to prefer. When you don't remember the service, then it's just about right. If you remember it fondly, that's not bad, but I go to a restaurant for the food, first.
The food was good, not great, but good and well worth going back to try again, I think. Overall, a pretty good place. I definitely liked it. I'll reserve a full review for my second trip, though. :)