Located at 42 East 8th Street, on the same block as Cantor Film Center, Soho Tiffin Junction [www.sohotiffin.com] is something truly new in the constellation of restaurants proximal to NYU – and seems poised to appeal to the sort of international students and faculty who comprise a growing segment of the NYU community. When I observed to proprietor Jawahar Chirimar that the menu options seem similar to Chipotle (a branch of which is just down the street), yet with a fundamentally different emphasis on cuisine, ingredients and seasonings, he conceded that is no accident – and it’s that very simple and healthful presentation of options with regards to placing your order that make Soho Tiffin Junction seem at once familiar while somewhat exotic.
To begin with, there are several fundamental dishes – a Tiffin Dosa (a sourdough crepe), a Salad, or a Tiffin Bowl (rice with other ingredients) – that form the basis of the meal presentation. One augments these with a limited variety of entrees, which range from Potato Masala, Baked Egg Whites, Pulled Pork, Kale & Vegan Cheese, Grilled Chicken and Shredded Beef, and then add various garnishes to the mix, including lemon rice, sprouted mung bean, chutneys, yogurt, carrots, mango and the like. Thus, as with Chipotle, the diner basically creates their own dish(es) with complements of ingredients and flavors according to their own tastes from the menu options. However, as Soho Tiffin Junction highlights South Asian cuisine and ingredients, the palate here is considerably different from Chipotle – and for that matter from anywhere else in the vicinity.
The number of extras on the menu are most reflective of this. There’s a Madras Spice Powder, which is in reality wet, not dry, and that has a crunchiness from the roasted lentils in it and a spiciness that suggests mango pickle; I found it addictive, and slathered my pulled pork dosa with it. There’s also a spinach yogurt reminiscent of the sort of raita one can find on the menus a few blocks east on East 6th Street. Drinks on the menu include Mango Lassi, Masala Coffee, Masala Chai and various beers on tap. Another aspect of the healthful nature of the cuisine here is that there is very little oil used, and no butter or cream – in addition to the fact that all their ingredients contain no gluten, nuts, soy, sesame, shellfish or cilantro, and that their rice bran oil is non-GMO.
Once the NYU community finds that they need not sacrifice the sort of convenience, low-to-moderate pricing, mix-and-match meal options and great flavors they have come to expect elsewhere in the neighborhood – while at the same time dining conscientiously and with no compromises with regards to the quality and healthfulness of the ingredients – it seems likely that Soho Tiffin Junction will establish itself as a new institution on East 8th Street.