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Chola is one of many (North) Indian restaurants on E. 58th Street, but it's the only one to have a full section of labeled vegan dishes. I came because that made it stand out from the rest; also, it seems to be ranked highly by various publications, and I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.

First the good: the ambiance is nice, the prices are reasonable (with some exceptions), and the service is friendly and attentive.

Onto the food: I had the "bhuni gobi matar" ($14) which was a pea-cauliflower curry. The portion size was large and the dish tasted fine, but nothing spectacular; pretty much any North Indian restaurant in the US could make a virtually identical dish and it would taste exactly the same. That's the downside of Indian restaurant food---you don't find that much deviation from the average.

They also gave me a free small portion of a stir-fry that consisted of beets and some kind of small green pod-like vegetable. It tasted fine and I liked that they used beets, because you almost never see that in Indian restaurant food.

Amazingly, Chola has brown rice, though it's not listed on the menu. This is an uber-rare thing in the world of Indian restaurants. I got the brown rice, but it seemed more like parboiled rice to me. In any case, I should have asked how much it would cost, because it was a whopping $5. That's right, folks: $5 for an order of plain brown rice. That's about the same price as an appetizer.

So, I felt jipped by that. I know restaurants need to make money somehow, but places that charge for rice are pretty low-brow. And $5 for rice is appalling.

I also had an order of tandoori roti ($4) which was fine.

Chola stands out for labeling its vegan items and offering brown rice (albeit at an absurdly high price). But is it great food? Is it unique and does it feel home-cooked? No. It's standard North Indian food. Don't expect much.

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