The chatpata chicken is a cross between a triple-decker and a tea sandwich. But there’s a semblance of a panini and a hint of the Monte Cristo/croque monsieur in there, too. It’s one of 11 grilled layered sandwiches at Egg Mania in Iselin, and to label it my new favorite food would be shortchanging pretty much everything else on this small storefront’s beguiling, intriguing and highly original menu.
I thought my triple-decker sandwich-eating days had come to a crescendo the summer before I took off for college and worked at the diner on the old Somerville Circle. But Egg Mania’s grilled cheese sandwich lined with a chunky chicken salad energized by sriracha, slices of tomato and slivers of green pepper made me happy that I’ve never lost my teenaged appetite.
Nope, in fact, eaten in tandem with the samosa grill, a strata of melted cheese, chutney, smashed-flat spiced potatoes, onions and tomato, it primed me for more of what Egg Mania does with its triumvirate of featured ingredients—eggs, chicken and vegetables.
That was the plan at the original Egg Mania in Jersey City, and it’s the scheme five fellows who met in college hatched for their outpost in the more expansive Little India that reigns the Iselin-Edison environs. They missed, our amiable, informative server told us, the dishes they most loved in their native Bombay. So they put into the spotlight their most beloved foods, selected their favorite preparations and reimagined a thing or three to keep pace with emerging tastes.
Such as the lapeti, a burrito of an omelet crammed with shredded masala-infused, hard-cooked eggs and runny cheese, which you can slice and slide atop white bread served on the side. Eggs within eggs: It works because the omelet is soft and mild and the interior egg mixture firm and vigorously seasoned, giving the dish a spirited yin-yang. Surti gotala, a staple street food from Surat, also takes eggs prepared two ways—hard-cooked and sunnyside up—and mixes them into a kind of all-egg casserole meant to be scooped up with garlic naan. You know? The next time you sit down to watch a big-deal game, swap your guac for a bowl of Surti gotala and see if you don’t become so mesmerized by the flavors that you lose track of the score.
By all means, order the chicken seekh kebab, if only because the minced chicken is super juicy, vibrantly spiced and served with both a chop of fiery tandoor-roasted onions and a soothing herb-rich sauce. It’s a kebab that’s a long-jumper’s leap above the norm. And don’t miss the mint-infused egg-and-rice dish that’s revered in Hyderabadi for good reason. Pocked with mustard seeds, it’s got an earthy soul derived from time under the influence of curry leaves. Get me a bowl of that the next time skies are moody gray.
But my favorite dish of the night at Egg Mania, which serves a limited selection of beer, spirits and wine (only Sutter Home red, white and blush for the latter), was one we almost missed.
“What didn’t we order that we should’ve ordered?” I asked our ace server.
“Egg bhurgi,” he replied without hesitation. “It’s my favorite and the dish we all love.”
Call this bhurgi a scrambled-egg stew: There are masala-seasoned eggs, at turns minced and chunky, plus onions and a victory garden of finely diced vegetables and herbs. You can eat it with a spoon, you can eat it with a fork, you can eat it folded within slices of bread. You can eat it all day and all night, and not tire of its cascading flavors.
It was my favorite at Egg Mania—tied, I should say, with the grilled sandwiches, lapeti, minty egg rice, Surti gotala and kebabs. OK; I owe you a definitive favorite. Let me go back to Egg Mania and work on that.
Egg Mania, 1546 Oak Tree Road in Iselin. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 732-379-4959; eggmaniaus.com.Click here to leave a comment