Sigiri sits quietly on 1st Avenue, its understated signage almost out of place next to its flashier, kaleidoscopic neighbors. New to the avenue, this demure spot brings something unique to the neighborhood's full menu of Sub-Continental cuisine. Ascend the steel staircase and arrive in a long, narrow dining room painted in red and yellow ochre tones and decorated with straw basket lamp covers and ceramic candle holders. The twenty-some odd seats welcome with warmth both those who already know the food, and those who are looking to discover the unknown. The crowd here is one that seeks out traditional yet urbanized fare; the murmur of dining room conversation touched on the arts and letters. While there is no glitter here, the dining room sparkles with enjoyment. The simplicity of the space also suits the food at hand. Delicately prepared and plated on small earthenware dishes, the food leans decidedly towards authentic. Among the appetizers, the fish cutlets and fish spring rolls stand out. The cutlets consist of a fish and potato mixture generously seasoned with black pepper, red pepper and clove, then formed into a ball, breaded and deep fried. The balance of spices and the texture make this a nice starter. The crispy spring rolls also have a fish and potato filling, but the seasonings are sweeter. Among the more interesting traditional dishes are the Chicken Lamprais, String Hopper Kotthu, Devilled Grill, Aapa (Hoppers), and the Pittu. The Chicken Lamprais is made with a mince of chicken, fish and plantain topped with fragrant basmati rice, and baked in a banana leaf. Considered a "special occasion" dish, the Lamprais is a complex production. Whole cloves, black pepper, cayenne and a blend of curry spices give the rest of the ingredients a nice kick. The Devilled Grill specialties are seasoned with sautéed onions, capiscums (hot peppers), and a selection of herbs and spices. The spices here are no joke, so don’t try to impress your friends unless you can take the heat. (Note: the spicy shrimp is unpeeled so fingers are required.) The traditional Sri Lankan curries are called "black curries". This is due to the dark color of the finished sauces, which results from roasting the curry mixture before use. Other spices, such as cloves, fennel and cardamom are added. Black curries generally accompany meat dishes. While there, don't skip the Aapa (Hoppers), thin rice flour pancakes formed into little bowls and served with either onion sambol (caramelized onions, chili and spices)or coconut sambol (sauteed coconut, chili and spices). Several varieties of rice are available, including "red rice" (steamed whole grain rice), and yellow rice (flavored with saffron). Also good to try is the pittu, a log-shaped rice roll served with a pitcher of coconut milk. Teas and desserts can help extinguish the flame of the chilies and curries. Try the ginger tea, yogurt & honey and coconut puddings, which help round out the meal.
Sigiri is located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Long before the musical "Rent" brought in legions of pierced, tattooed teenagers from every corner of America (and drove up the rents), the East Village was an eclectic mix of elderly Ukranians and Poles, Dominican and Puerto Rican families, and assorted artists, wanna-be bohemians, punks, their followers, lovers and friends. (Did we leave anyone out?) Largely gone are the heroin dealers, all night parties, punk music extravaganzas and infamous Bagel Tree of the 1980s and early 1990s, but the real landmarks remain, including the Joseph Papp Public Theater, Tompkins Square Park, and Cooper Union. The Public offers some of New York’s finest Off-Broadway Theater as well as Joe’s Pub, with a diverse variety of live shows. Beautiful Tompkins Square Park offers something for everyone, including dog runs, basketball courts, a weekly market, outdoor music events, and occasionally local characters chatting late into the night to infrequent riots. To be fair, few other parks in America have played such an important role in radical or anarchist history. Many long-time residents complain of the neighborhood’s recent gentrification, and skyrocketing rents forced even legendary punk club CBGB's to exit the neighborhood, replaced by a John Varvatos boutique. And while there are truly many new restaurants and boutiques dotting Avenues A, B and C, lots of the famous watering holes, dives, and other unclassifiably scrappy bars remain. Some of our favorites include Mars on lower First Avenue, Zum Schneider on Avenue C, 2A on the corner of Second Street and Avenue A, and Lit Lounge, with its adjoining Fuse Gallery. Make sure to check out the Polish butcher stores on First Avenue and the nearby Italian pastry shops, walk along the Ukranian strip of Second Avenue, try one of the Japanese restaurants on East Ninth Street, and also walk along St. Marks Place, one of New York’s most eclectic streets. East 4th Street's Theater Row boasts cultural buildings which house eight theaters and twelve dance companies as well as a couple of community development groups. Among its members are New York Theater Workshop, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, Rod Rodgers Dance Co., WOW Cafe Theatre, Millennium Film Workshop, Duo Multicultural Arts Center, Teatro Circulo, Downtown Art, Alpha Omega Dance Co., Choices Theater, Teatro IATI, Cooper Square Committee and Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. The Nuyorican Poets Café is still going strong on East Third Street between Avenues B and C. Since 1973 its mission has been to create a multi-cultural venue that provides a stage for artists traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream media and culture. Poetry slams, theater performances, open jam sessions for hip-hop, poetry and jazz, as well as unique screenplay readings all take place on a weekly basis in this intimate cultural setting. For film buffs, we would be remiss not to mention the Anthology Film Archives on East 2nd Street, a local theater best known for consistently showing the finest in avant-garde and experimental cinema. We also recommend the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street, home away from home for those who enjoy great acoustics and the company of die hard independent film fans. The East Village is also home to the trendy Cooper Square Hotel as well as the charming Gem Hotel, making it a great neighborhood to enjoy your stay in New York.
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