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Semma, an Indian Restaurant in NYC

Christine Drinan, Founder

Semma NYC

There’s nothing like authentic Indian food. Once you get a taste of it, there’s no going back. You know what we mean; your favorite joint becomes a staple when you’re looking for comfort food. Semma and its sibling eateries are Indian restaurants in NYC that have taken the city by storm, impressing even the food critics. But in the end, we don’t care about any of that. Here’s our review.

Overview

I’m going to cut right to the chase; Semma was not for me. I appreciate that they’re delving into adventurous and unique dishes. But I found the food and the atmosphere lacking for my taste, which, full disclosure, tends more toward Priyanka Chopra’s Sona. So the point of sharing this is to take this Indian restaurant in NYC review with that grain of salt.

All the same, I do love traditional, home-cooked Indian food from the southern region of India. (Here’s looking at you, Creative Rajni.) The scene doesn’t have to be fancy or the food creatively plated. In fact, I do love me some Hampton Chutney Company and find their barebones perfectly suitable to eat the best breakfast dosa around with solid chutney options. So I really wanted to love Semma. I just didn’t get there.

Semma is the sister Indian restaurant in NYC to siblings Dhamaka and Adda, which are darlings of the foodies and food critics at the moment. The New York Times recently put Semma on its 2022 Restaurant List. It’s on a strip of old-standby restaurants and bars on Greenwich, so it scores high for location. And Semma is known for its no-fear approach to southern Indian cooking. It’s probably best for the more adventurous eaters, because it is unique.

Atmosphere

I totally support easy, casual Indian restaurants in NYC. But the atmosphere at Semma was one of the most underwhelming parts of the experience. This was especially surprising as other reviews added this virtue as a highlight. To nutshell the atmosphere from my perspective: You walk in the door, and the smell of food hits you like there’s no ventilation system in the restaurant. I love it when a restaurant envelops you in all the good feels. But I don’t want any cuisine to make me smell like it within five minutes of sitting down.

Besides, Semma is low on design. It could be any Indian restaurant in NYC or anywhere in the country. The service team also can’t really be distinguished from those walking in off the street, dressed in black T-shirts and pants. Overall, there’s no strong design or style identity to Semma. It relies heavily on the food experience, which doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive from the atmosphere. It’s the antithesis, once again, from Sona, a totally different Indian restaurant in NYC conceptually.

Food

This is where I diverge the most with all the reviews, and where I’m still scratching my head. I get it; it’s pretty cool for highbrow foodies to eat goat testicles and intestines. Also, to disclose fully, I’m a pescatarian, so this menu was hard for me. But even dishes likes the dosa, whose virtues have been extolled by many, was anticlimactic. The masala and sambar were basic for a place that takes so many risks. Even the uttapam didn’t wow me. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s not like there aren’t options here. But your dishes are made in the same space as the aforementioned goat intestines, which is enough for hard-core vegetarians to lose their appetite.

For those pescatarian meals, like the tiger prawn with green chili and curry leaves, they were heavy-handed on the curry. The Dungeness crab, one of their signature dishes you need to preorder, was a hot mess — literally to eat. You have to work for your crab here, which personally is not for me. I also found the crab’s curry sauce to be overpowering. By then, I also smelled like practically every dish in the restaurant.

Service

The service is heartfelt and the owners are quite hands-on. You can tell there is a lot of passion from the front of house, as well as the chefs, who create the cuisine at this Indian restaurant in NYC. These guys really want you to enjoy the experience. It’s casual, welcoming service at its best. But they really could upgrade the uniforms or do something to create more of a coordinated vibe. Overall, though, expect your food and beverages to be delivered without any drama and a smile.

Overall: 6.5/10

I know that people rave about Semma breaking barriers as an Indian restaurant in NYC. I think it’s best for those foodies who are into that sort of cult distinction.

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FAQs

Q: Do you need reservations at Semma?

A: Absolutely, yes. It will be hard to walk in as Semma is a buzzy, new-ish Indian restaurant in NYC.

Q: Is there a dress code at Semma?

A: No. You can wear whatever you want, but this is a casual restaurant at heart.

Q: Are there vegetarian options at Semma?

A: This is not a vegetarian Indian restaurant, though it does have decent dosas. Instead, you’re going to find signature dishes like goat, deer shank, and Peconic snails. If you’re used to piecing together a meal as a vegetarian though, there are a few options. But unusual meat dishes here shine.

 

 

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