Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BFB "Homework" #1 and a Giveaway!

A couple weeks ago, I sent out the first BostonFoodBloggers.com newsletter. (You can view it here if you're not on the list; there's also a subscribe link near the upper left corner if you'd like to receive future newsletters right in your inbox. They'll be going out twice a month or less.) Each newsletter is going to have a "homework assignment" - a blogging prompt that'll hopefully get bloggers thinking outside of the box a bit. Completed assignments will be featured in the following newsletter and on BostonFoodBloggers.com. Since newsletter #2 is going out later today, I figured I should probably complete the assignment myself as well. The task: a restaurant review of 500 words or less with no photos, just descriptive language. For extra credit, words like "tasty" and "delicious" should be avoided.

My review follows, and details about a completely unrelated giveaway are below that!

Coriander Bistro: A Multi-Use Name

My hometown of Sharon, Massachusetts lacks nice restaurants. I can count the non-fast food spots on one hand, or maybe two. No matter; my family virtually lived at Mandarin Taste anyways, so there was no need for options. A few years ago, there was much excitement about the opening of an upscale French restaurant, Coriander Bistro, right in the center of town. It did well, but not well enough. Now under new management, Coriander is still Coriander, but it serves Indian and Nepali food, owned by the same people as West Roxbury’s Himalayan Bistro. The name seems a bit more relevant now, as coriander is found in Indian food more often than French food.

When I was home for a quick visit last weekend, we decided to pull ourselves out of the Mandarin Taste routine and finally try Coriander, which has been receiving encouraging reviews. We arrived at noon for the lunch buffet, a mistake. Like most Indian restaurants that offer a buffet, Coriander completely dumbed down its menu, offering only the most stereotypically American-accessible dishes. The line of copper pots held chicken tikka masala, chicken tandoori, chicken biryani, vegetable pakora, and the other usual suspects. The only “daring” dish in the line-up was a goat curry. There were no Nepali dishes, which I found very disappointing.

Our favorite: chicken tandoori, tender and flavorful. The biryani was the blandest I’ve had, and the chicken tikka masala texture was off. The buffet accompaniments were solid: garlic naan, soft and warm and glistening with butter, plus a surprise order of dosa, crispy potato-stuffed crepes. I found the kheer (rice pudding) to be an acceptable sweet ending, but my dining companions barely touched the gazar ko haluwa (carrot cake) that they had taken.

The ambiance suggests more hand-me-downs from the previous owner than just the name. The straight-backed chairs and layers of white and pale green tablecloths suggest a banquet hall (or stuffy French bistro, perhaps) rather than a taste of India, but the Taj Mahal poster loudly reminds you where you are. Subtle wood carvings do accent the walls nicely.

My experience seems at odds with the reviews I’ve read, and I’ll refrain from making a real judgment until I’ve ordered from the full menu, which features a wide range of Indian dishes (from several regions of the country) and Nepali dishes. From this experience, though, I’d recommend skipping the buffet.

And on a completely unrelated note, I have a $10 HSN Gift Card to give to a reader. The fine print: it's valid for HSNTV or hsn.com purchases, it can't be combined with other offers, and it expires soon - 4/30/2011. HSN provided this gift card to me as part of promotion for HSN Cooks Spring Weekend Event (presented by Bon Appetit), happening this weekend (March 26-27). HSN describes this weekend as the "ultimate kitchen and food shopping experience with celebrity chefs and culinary experts presenting high-quality kitchenware, time-saving appliances and tasty cuisine." (It is also aimed at "women who enjoy cooking." HSN, I'm sure it's true that your target demographic leans heavily toward women, but perhaps "people" would have been a better choice here. I know plenty of men who enjoy cooking, and maybe some of them are interested in the latest kitchen gadgets.) Anyway, featured chefs include Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi, Ken Hom, The Lee Bros., and Jacques "Mr. Chocolate" Torres.

Want the gift card? Here's how to enter; the first one is required and the others are optional:

1. (Required) Check out hsn.com and leave a comment here about what you'd like to buy.
2. Tweet about this giveaway (must include link). Leave a comment here to let me know that you've done so.
3. A little bit of BFB cross-promotion: sign up for the BostonFoodBloggers.com newsletter here:

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The giveaway ends this Friday (3/25/11) at noon.

Coriander Bistro on Urbanspoon

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