Restaurant Review #268: Amma’s Kitchen (Edison, NJ)

At no time did I feel like I came to the wrong place. I was heading to Edison for something work-related, so I brought Justin along and figured we would hit up one of the many Indian restaurants in town. It is the capital of Indian food in New Jersey, if not the United States. In my area, there’s a pizzeria or Chinese takeout spot every five feet. In Edison, its an Indian restaurant. Northern, southern (and even Sri Lankan), sit-down, takeout, buffet, grab-and-go, they have it all. I had seen a sparkling recommendation for a place called Amma’s Kitchen on the Hungry Onion. Other online reviews were also excellent. Wanting something authentic and new, this was where we would grab lunch.

Amma’s is attached to another Indian restaurant called Desi Galaxy. There were at least four more in the same shopping plaza. When we first walked in, we were confronted by a small seating area. The decor was non-existent. No frills. The menu was handwritten on construction paper and taped to the counter. This was a true hole-in-the-wall, and I was excited. But then we glanced to our left, which was the other business. There was a steam table with all of the Indian “usuals”: tikka, makhni, curry, korma, paneer, etc. These would be northern Indian, which I am too familiar with. They all looked delicious, but we were here for something new. In all my experience with this type of cuisine, I never had a dosa. So Justin ordered one with curry chicken. In addition to that, I ordered Chicken Kothu Parrota (which I thought was a bread dish—more on that later), and Chicken 65 as an appetizer based on the worker’s recommendation.

There is no actual menu to hold, so as we were standing there reading the wall, the gentleman came out from behind the counter to help us. He was very friendly, and when I asked about an appetizer, he said that Chicken 65 was their most popular. Order placed, we grabbed a table. Each had a covered pitcher of water and plastic cups that we could help ourselves with.

Curry Chicken Dosa

About 15 minutes later, the food emerged. It looked and smelled amazing. However, the actual eating experience would be very hit and miss. Justin’s curry chicken dosa was the highlight. While it was semi-familiar, it was also quite different. There was dark meat used (in all of our dishes) and the sauce itself was darker. It had a nice spicy zing to it. The dosa pancake itself was large and fluffy. It was perfect for tearing and dredging through the curry. The meal came with two of these. I was 100% satisfied with this, but that feeling would soon start to dwindle.

Chicken 65

The Chicken 65 was perfectly fried to a crisp. There was no grease, the flavor was there, and it looked like it would be a homerun. Upon inspection, though, the pieces used were mostly fat and bone. I struggled to find any edible meat on them whatsoever (and for $9, even more disappointing). The raw onions and lemon would have been a helpful addition for some acidity and bite had I actually been able to eat the chicken.

Similar problems were encountered with my Chicken Kothu Parrota. This was technically a bread dish (strips of flatbread were mashed with the chicken and spices rendering them almost unrecognizable) but it was not what I expected. My first few bites were insanely delicious. There was a lot of flavor packed into this meal, and the portion was enormous. The spice was making my nose run, and it was accompanied by two killer sauces: more curry chicken and some kind of yogurt mixed with raw onions. Just as I was getting ready to exclaim this was the winner of the day, I crunched down on a large piece of bone. Not seeing it as a big deal, I put it aside and kept eating. That’s when I discovered more problems in the form of one bone after another.

Chicken Kothu Parrota

Some were large, some were as tiny as a cumin seed, some were shards that were so sharp they probably could have killed me. I would not have minded them if this was a grilled dish, but considering all the ingredients were practically the same color and mashed together, this made each forkful a hellacious game of Russian Roulette. It was so bad that halfway through, I had to stop eating. This was such a great dish marred by something that I could not quite forgive. I know this was authentic food, but it was not worth risking my life. I could not even enjoy the tremendous flavor, because with each chewing motion, my brain was wondering, “What will I bite down on next?”

I went to pay and the man asked me how I liked it. Rather than complain, I just told him it was good (it was, uh, kinda) and that most Indian restaurants near me were northern. He replied that Amma’s was southern and that the types of cuisine are “very different”. That’s the word for it. Am I disappointed? Yes. Was this bad food? No, not at all. There’s a difference between “bad” and “not my thing”. This certainly was not (with the exception of the dosa). Am I glad I gave it a try? Absolutely. This was indigenous, village-style food in a warm and welcoming environment. You will temporarily feel transported somewhere else. Aside from that, I will have to give them a 3 out of 5 stars. If not for those bones and my life flashing before my eyes, it could have been much higher.

Amma’s Kitchen is located at 1700 Oak Tree Road in Edison, NJ.

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