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Indian restaurant in New York City


Suvir Saran
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First it was Nirvana (Shamsher Wadud as owner and Julie Sahni as consultant, recieved more stars than any Indian restaurant ever. Opened in 1972 I believe.. could be 1971 or 1973) then Dawat (Sushil Malhotra as owner and Madhur Jaffrey as consulting chef), then came Pondicherry (first of the "Fusion-Confusion" types, Chakor Doshi as owner, Jean Luc and Vijay Bhargava as chefs, and Ismail Merchant as consultant) then came Tabla (Danny Meyer as owner and Floyd Cardoz as chef and Michael Romano as some believe to be as its soul) and then Tamarind (Awatar Walia, formerly a partner at Dawat as owner, Raji Jalepillai Reiss, Hemant Mathur and Peter Beck as chefs) and then Diwan (Bobby Chikara as owner and Hemant Mathur as chef).......... These are some of the more famous names in the Indian restaurant scenes... several others have come and gone... many have stayed and served numerous good and some great meals... not always with great applause or media attention, but with continuity.

What is it that one should expect next?

What do you think is the next logical step in the world of Indian restaurants in NYC?

Are there trends we ought to be ready to embrace?

Is the so called, and mostly scoffed at "fusion-confusion" cuisine a thing of the past? Will it be able to find a new meaning or direction? Will it inspire some new chefs and new trends that could come alive in the future? Any idea what these might be?

Are we in for a new and serious focus into the world of inspired and largely authentic but Indian food of the 21st century? What defines such food? Who are the players we ought to look for? What dishes do you think would find place at the tables of these restaurants?

What are some critical points (at least in your mind) you feel you would like to share with those owning and cooking at restaurants and the future restaurateurs. What are some things you feel you want to see in the new defining restaurant serving Indian food in a NYC that is poised to be a key city in the US where Indian food will play a pivotal role.

Are there things you feel should be an absolute for this Indian restaurant of the new millennium?

Are there things the restaurant should absolutely not touch?? Are there recipes, trends, regional biases and influences that this restaurant should really embrace and champion?

What role would you find yourself playing in the life of this new millennium Indian restaurant?

What parts of Manhattan do you feel this restaurant ought to be situated in?

Do you think a restaurant such as this could be one that could be taken around the country?

Could it travel the country and still be fine dining? How difficult do you think it would be for a fine dining cutting edge Indian restaurant to clone itself? Would it be remotely possible? Can it still maintain its integrity and original focus as it reinvents itself in different cities? Or do you think it is not something a fine dining establishment ought to do?

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What is it that one should expect next?

What do you think is the next logical step in the world of Indian restaurants in NYC?

Are there trends we ought to be ready to embrace?

Is the so called, and mostly scoffed at "fusion-confusion" cuisine a thing of the past?  Will it be able to find a new meaning or direction?

Suvir ! What a post.

I have to take a deep breath before I can start somewhere on this topic. It should be very very interesting once we can get going. I will get back on this in detail ASAP, I promise.

On an immediate note, something to watch in the coming days is Cinnamon Club. I had the pleasure of having lunch with the principle the other day. Investment and the theme and the success is something we will look forward.

Edited undefined to Cinnamon Club.

Prasad2

Edited by prasad2 (log)
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.....

What is it that one should expect next?

What do you think is the next logical step in the world of Indian restaurants in NYC?

Are there trends we ought to be ready to embrace?

Is the so called, and mostly scoffed at "fusion-confusion" cuisine a thing of the past? .......

Well Suvir, I had hoped this never came up :smile:

It certainly ai'nt Taj Lounge

anil

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Suvir, what a loaded topic!

As someone who's beginning a crusade to make Indian cuisine mainstream, I can relate to many of the questions you've raised. I've thought extensively about why this great cuisine hasn't moved forward the past few decades.

First off, I want to comment on the restauranteurs you mentioned. I admire their success in bringing more recognition to the Indian cuisine while maintaing the elegance and traditional preparations that most people recognize in a good Indian restaurant today. However, they're not doing anything new. They'll continue to serve the first generation NRIs and people who grew up in the '60s and '70s well. Without being deragatory, they aren't looking towards the future.

To propel the cuisine to the next phase here in the US, we have to understand why it's stuck in a rut. What haven't restauranteurs done well to make it more acceptable. The biggest hindrance, I find, is the atmosphere in Indian restaurants. I characterize it as the single biggest reason for the stagnancy. Certain stereotypes:

1. The restaurants, kitchens included, in general are dirty as hell

2. The service is horrendous

(there are to many more generalizations to add)

The next step is to break every stereotype and start from scratch. Albeit the approach is extreme. It's necessary to create a comforting atmosphere.

Second, we have to let people know there's more to Indian food than Mughal cuisine (the chicken tikka masalas, naan, samosas, mint chutney, etc.). What about seafood, Goan meats, all of the light tropical flavors?? In preparing these dishes, we have to remember who we're feeding.

I think the key to successfully redefining it is simplicity. Forget all the heavy curries and complex layers of spices. Bring it to the bare bone essentials. Use only what's necessary to make it Indian. Once people begin to grasp the essential flavors of Indian cuisine, we'll have room for experimentation or as Suvir says, "fusion-confusion". Look at French food for example (btw, I'm by no means well versed on the cuisine.). The best French foods are simply prepared. The chefs don't confuse the flavors.

The audience for Indian cuisine is ever changing, yet the cuisine has been the same for the past 20 years. Something is wrong there...

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Suvir, what a loaded topic!

I've thought extensively about why this great cuisine hasn't moved forward the past few decades.

First off, I want to comment on the restauranteurs you mentioned. I admire their success in bringing more recognition to the Indian cuisine while maintaing the elegance and traditional preparations that most people recognize in a good Indian restaurant today. However, they're not doing anything new.

To propel the cuisine to the next phase here in the US, we have to understand why it's stuck in a rut. What haven't restauranteurs done well to make it more acceptable.

The biggest hindrance, I find, is the atmosphere in Indian restaurants. I characterize it as the single biggest reason for the stagnancy. Certain stereotypes:

1. The restaurants, kitchens included, in general are dirty as hell

2. The service is horrendous

(there are to many more generalizations to add)

The next step is to break every stereotype and start from scratch. Albeit the approach is extreme. It's necessary to create a comforting atmosphere.

Second, we have to let people know there's more to Indian food than Mughal cuisine (the chicken tikka masalas, naan, samosas, mint chutney, etc.). What about seafood, Goan meats, all of the light tropical flavors?? In preparing these dishes, we have to remember who we're feeding.

Suvir, what a loaded topic!

Loaded topic is right.

It certainly did move way ahead in the past decades.

Well Tabla is all new but anything old or stereo type.

A few steps at a time. The restaurants what Suvir have talked about have come far a head.

If we have been to Diwan Grill, Tamarind, Tabla, Sapphire, Kishti, Salaam Bombay, Pondicheri (In the Past), Jewel of India, Shaan of India, Ada and Bombay Palace, these are places with ambience and service

Most of the new trendy restaurants are breaking away the usual style and being creative. What is in your opinion a comforting atmosphere.

You are absolutely right that there is more food than the usual chicken tikka masala. To be honest there is not even one good Moghlai restaurant giving attention to detail in service and atmosphere. Though it's hard to get away from the usual, it's important to explore the regional cuisine without sacrificing the loss of existing and potential clients.

Prasad

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Anil

How is Taj BTW.

Have heard about it.

What,s the menu like? Who are the people behind it?

P2

I have to tread a tad carefully -

1. It is a Lounge - I do not know what this lounge want's to be ...... :smile: What do you expect in a lounge ? Forget reference to indian for a moment ? What are your favourite lounges ?

Will lots of cleavage make you ignore the quality of food ? :wink: The sorbet wih a hint of ginger and pistachio was yummy - Mind you, no dessert menu. Enough said

anil

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I rarely care about openings or closings - I however had hopes about Coconut Grove, it tried to do something with south indian dishes - It had some very good British Draft ales, and space between tables were comfortable for conversations. I was disappointed when it closed without ever evolving or coming of its own :sad:

anil

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I'd like to see a high end place focusing on South Indian food, something entirely different from moghlai or tandoori stuff.

I'd like to see a South Indian version of OTTO in concept. Some place where you can get all kinds of interesting chaats and dosas and stuff. And follow it up with gourmet indian style ice creams.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I have to tread a tad carefully -

1.  It is a Lounge - I do not know what this lounge want's to be ......  :smile:  What do you expect in a lounge ? Forget reference to indian for a moment ? What are your favourite lounges ?

Will lots of cleavage make you ignore the quality of food ?  :wink:  The sorbet wih a hint of ginger and pistachio was yummy - Mind you,  no dessert menu.  Enough said

Do you know the people behind the scene. I love lounges. As long as they can produce exceptional food and value it might be a venture looking full of success. I like LeBar Bat (Spell check?) as lounge, food, live music, Dj and a cigar lounge.

No, quality of food quite a must (Superior). Well, what's the menu like at Taj?

Will be in Taj this week and OTTO the next week.

Prasad

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What is in your opinion a comforting atmosphere.

P2, sorry I didn't take the time to define comforting. I don't even think it was the right word.

I think some restaurants should try and really focus on capturing a younger demographic (22-35) while keeping a moderate price point.

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What is it that one should expect next?

What do you think is the next logical step in the world of Indian restaurants in NYC?

Are there trends we ought to be ready to embrace?

Is the so called, and mostly scoffed at "fusion-confusion" cuisine a thing of the past?  Will it be able to find a new meaning or direction?  Will it inspire some new chefs and new trends that could come alive in the future?  Any idea what these might be?

Keeping authenticity of the food with the 20th century presentations is what I will expect. How does one educate the MEDIA or the clientale if a chicken tikka masala or a samosa with imli (tamarind) chutney is forgotton on the menu. Offerings basics and picking up menus of the seasons or regions in a specialty restaurant with the highest of talents of the chefs and the management might be the key to success in tomorrow's restaurant.

Look at Ada, I feel sad for the guy....

Keep in mind, smart casual atmosphere is an other key.

Fusion still makes sense keeping in mind the use of spices and the best available local ingredients. We did see the trio combo of three chef's Peter Beck, Hemant Mathur and Late Raji Jellapalli at Tamarind. This team offered fusion specials and many nights I visited Tamarind these specials were sold out.

P2

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I'd like to see a South Indian version of OTTO in concept. Some place where you can get all kinds of interesting chaats and dosas and stuff. And follow it up with gourmet indian style ice creams.

Will be checking out OTTO keeping South Indian in mind. Great idea.

yeah, imagine a Indian "enoteca" type place. I mean if you think about it, a dosa/breads menu (like Otto does with pizzas), with indian "antipasto" (chaat and chutneys) and perhaps a sophisticated Indian tea selection and pastries to do along with the indian ice creams/ice milks.

Sounds attractive to me.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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What is in your opinion a comforting atmosphere.

P2, sorry I didn't take the time to define comforting. I don't even think it was the right word.

I think some restaurants should try and really focus on capturing a younger demographic (22-35) while keeping a moderate price point.

Rks

Mmmm, Now we are talking. I have not meant to question your integreti or any thing else. Most of the restaurants I have mentioned, I thought they were pretty clean and well trained steps of service, you knoww... I did not think they were not dirty as hell..

I am with you on the focus of a welcoming, smart casual dining room / Bar to bring in the younger demograhics. Moderate price and casual stylish approach is what we should be looking forward for in the future. We have the masses in NY, it can be done with some one like Suvir.

Are we ready Suvir.......

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I'd like to see a South Indian version of OTTO in concept. Some place where you can get all kinds of interesting chaats and dosas and stuff. And follow it up with gourmet indian style ice creams.

Will be checking out OTTO keeping South Indian in mind. Great idea.

yeah, imagine a Indian "enoteca" type place. I mean if you think about it, a dosa/breads menu (like Otto does with pizzas), with indian "antipasto" (chaat and chutneys) and perhaps a sophisticated Indian tea selection and pastries to do along with the indian ice creams/ice milks.

Sounds attractive to me.

Sounds exciting to me. I am ready to offer my services for menu planning brainstorm session as long as I have food to sample.

P2

Edited by prasad2 (log)
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I'd like to see a high end place focusing on South Indian food, something entirely different from moghlai or tandoori stuff.

I'd like to see a South Indian version of OTTO in concept. Some place where you can get all kinds of interesting chaats and dosas and stuff. And follow it up with gourmet indian style ice creams.

That would be great.. A South Indian Otto would be amazing.

What would you like to see on the Menu Jason??

Chaats are not Southern Indian.

Or are we considering Bombay and Gujarat the South of India? I am happy either way.

But I think of many great curries, stews, dosas, utthappams, idlis, vadas and vegetable preparations before I think Chaat in terms of Southern India.

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Suvir:

I can add remarks only in my capacity as a diner and lover of Indian food, as I have no connection with the restaurant industry.

I think that an Indian restaurant that has a very knowledgeable and well-rounded chef and that can feature specials from different regions on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis (even within the general confines of north and south) on a longterm rotation could do a lot to educate the dining public about these differences and all the wonderful non-Mughal (etc.) dishes that they've never tasted before.

I also think that the time may be ripe for types of regional Indian restaurants not yet seen (or little seen) in New York, if indeed in the U.S., such as a restaurant that is avowedly Gujarati or Keralese, for example. If we look at the example of Chinese food, many of us remember when virtually nothing but Cantonese food was available. That changed with the vogue in fake Sichuan and Hunan food starting in the 1970s, and that vogue for the fake but no longer typically Cantonese stuff created enough of a change in consciousness to bring with it a willingness to try Shanghainese and Taiwanese food, and indeed more authentic Sichuan-style food, when it finally became available.

My feeling is that, for the most part, authenticity is inversely proportionate to the distance from areas where x-ethnic group is concentrated. There are exceptions, such as authentic French cuisine in areas with few French people, but also Grand Sichuan on 50 St. and 9 Av. But I'll tell you where I think restaurants along the lines I'm discussing might clean up: near E. 6th St.; in Curry Hill; and in the West Village. Why? Because people go to those areas for Indian food already, so these new places will stand out from among the crowd, just as places like Banjara and Haveli have, to some degree. In a place like the Upper West Side, I'm afraid that standards for Indian food are so debased that it would be more challenging to find patrons knowledgeable enough to try a place along these lines, unless they do so because it's so fancy that it's high status - sorry if I offend anyone, but I grew up on the Upper West Side and my parents still live there, for whatever that's worth.

As for "fine dining," are you really talking about food? I think that primarily has to do with white tablecloths, good service, fancy decor, and perhaps real silverware, and except for good service, I don't care much about the rest - in fact, they'd probably price out many lovers of genuine Indian cuisine. But so be it. We already go to the Jackson Diner and so forth, and we all know there are a lot of Manhattanites who simply won't go to Queens for more authentic food.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'd like to see a South Indian version of OTTO in concept. Some place where you can get all kinds of interesting chaats and dosas and stuff. And follow it up with gourmet indian style ice creams.

Will be checking out OTTO keeping South Indian in mind. Great idea.

yeah, imagine a Indian "enoteca" type place. I mean if you think about it, a dosa/breads menu (like Otto does with pizzas), with indian "antipasto" (chaat and chutneys) and perhaps a sophisticated Indian tea selection and pastries to do along with the indian ice creams/ice milks.

Sounds attractive to me.

Sounds Fabulous!

Can we have an eGullet Southern Indian Enoteca Jason?? Please :rolleyes:

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Suvir, what a loaded topic!

As someone who's beginning a crusade to make Indian cuisine mainstream, I can relate to many of the questions you've raised. I've thought extensively about why this great cuisine hasn't moved forward the past few decades.

First off, I want to comment on the restauranteurs you mentioned. I admire their success in bringing more recognition to the Indian cuisine while maintaing the elegance and traditional preparations that most people recognize in a good Indian restaurant today. However, they're not doing anything new. They'll continue to serve the first generation NRIs and people who grew up in the '60s and '70s well. Without being deragatory, they aren't looking towards the future.

To propel the cuisine to the next phase here in the US, we have to understand why it's stuck in a rut. What haven't restauranteurs done well to make it more acceptable. The biggest hindrance, I find, is the atmosphere in Indian restaurants. I characterize it as the single biggest reason for the stagnancy. Certain stereotypes:

1. The restaurants, kitchens included, in general are dirty as hell

2. The service is horrendous

(there are to many more generalizations to add)

The next step is to break every stereotype and start from scratch. Albeit the approach is extreme. It's necessary to create a comforting atmosphere.

Second, we have to let people know there's more to Indian food than Mughal cuisine (the chicken tikka masalas, naan, samosas, mint chutney, etc.). What about seafood, Goan meats, all of the light tropical flavors?? In preparing these dishes, we have to remember who we're feeding.

I think the key to successfully redefining it is simplicity. Forget all the heavy curries and complex layers of spices. Bring it to the bare bone essentials. Use only what's necessary to make it Indian. Once people begin to grasp the essential flavors of Indian cuisine, we'll have room for experimentation or as Suvir says, "fusion-confusion". Look at French food for example (btw, I'm by no means well versed on the cuisine.). The best French foods are simply prepared. The chefs don't confuse the flavors.

The audience for Indian cuisine is ever changing, yet the cuisine has been the same for the past 20 years. Something is wrong there...

What a great post! Thanks for taking time to write down your thoughts.

I must say I agree with you about so many of the things you mention.

Have you been to Cafe Spice on University Place? What do you think of that? They attract a very large clientele and many if not perhaps 90% are the very very young crowd... between 18 and 30... and very hip. In fact several of the Bolly/Hollywood stars and their friends hang out at this hip Indian bistro.

What do you think a restaurant like that offers the world of Indian food in the US? Is that a concept that would be more successful to replicate around the country more so than a high-end fine dining concept?

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Suvir:

I can add remarks only in my capacity as a diner and lover of Indian food, as I have no connection with the restaurant industry.

I think that an Indian restaurant that has a very knowledgeable and well-rounded chef and that can feature specials from different regions on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis (even within the general confines of north and south) on a longterm rotation could do a lot to educate the dining public about these differences and all the wonderful non-Mughal (etc.) dishes that they've never tasted before.

I also think that the time may be ripe for types of regional Indian restaurants not yet seen (or little seen) in New York, if indeed in the U.S., such as a restaurant that is avowedly Gujarati or Keralese, for example. If we look at the example of Chinese food, many of us remember when virtually nothing but Cantonese food was available. That changed with the vogue in fake Sichuan and Hunan food starting in the 1970s, and that vogue for the fake but no longer typically Cantonese stuff created enough of a change in consciousness to bring with it a willingness to try Shanghainese and Taiwanese food, and indeed more authentic Sichuan-style food, when it finally became available.

My feeling is that, for the most part, authenticity is inversely proportionate to the distance from areas where x-ethnic group is concentrated. There are exceptions, such as authentic French cuisine in areas with few French people, but also Grand Sichuan on 50 St. and 9 Av. But I'll tell you where I think restaurants along the lines I'm discussing might clean up: near E. 6th St.; in Curry Hill; and in the West Village. Why? Because people go to those areas for Indian food already, so these new places will stand out from among the crowd, just as places like Banjara and Haveli have, to some degree. In a place like the Upper West Side, I'm afraid that standards for Indian food are so debased that it would be more challenging to find patrons knowledgeable enough to try a place along these lines, unless they do so because it's so fancy that it's high status - sorry if I offend anyone, but I grew up on the Upper West Side and my parents still live there, for whatever that's worth.

As for "fine dining," are you really talking about food? I think that primarily has to do with white tablecloths, good service, fancy decor, and perhaps real silverware, and except for good service, I don't care much about the rest - in fact, they'd probably price out many lovers of genuine Indian cuisine. But so be it. We already go to the Jackson Diner and so forth, and we all know there are a lot of Manhattanites who simply won't go to Queens for more authentic food.

Another great post on this thread. Thanks Pan!

I love your suggestion about treating Indian food in similar ways to how the Chinese treated their own regional cuisines in the US. I would say it could be one of those pointers from this thread that could be a new tend in the offing.

It may take decades to represent all the many regional variations one finds in India, but I guess it could be a fun challenge and a worthy one.

Pan, I worry about losing real food in a fine dining setting, but I also firmly believe that one can give REAL food and in REAL and SINCERE settings if you can invest in creating an ambience that really pulls together all that can make a dining experience stellar. And to do that, one has to invest a lot, time, monies and gray cells. I would be happy paying any amount if I can be promised great food in a great setting. Certainly I would not go to that restaurant very regularly, but I would go there for all special events I must celebrate in style and lavishly. And certainly I would never want to hurt those many restaurants that sate my hunger for tasty food at affordable prices and without my having to make great effort or fuss about showing up there.

I think time is ripe for Indian food in the US to have every kind of restaurant available to its lovers. We should have Indian restaurants that fit into every category of the reviewing scale. Is that wrong to hope for?

And yes it is always fun to go to Queens or Brooklyn to find honest and remarkable restaurants where ethnic foods are served in a more authentic style. These are the places that I have cravings for more often. And will enjoy on a more regular basis.

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Suvir, we've actually met at Cafe Spice and shared our thoughts about the future. I have much more to add to the post and our conversation.

Mr. Malothra is forward thinking. There are some aspects I wish he did differently that would attract an even larger market. I think my concept will take that next step. The goal is to introduce more people to the cuisine. I don't think high end restaurants are in a position to do that. To reach the larger audience you have to feed the masses not the classes.

I think the casual approach is what Indian cuisine needs to expand. Casual concepts are easier to toy with in terms of design, and you can always tweak the design to make the concept feel like a neighborhood restaurant in any city. People will relate with the food, if prepared properly and if they feel comfortable in their surroundings. Isn't that a key to any successful restaurant? A little test I use in proving the point: Ask an average Joe what his favorite restaurant is and why. I guarantee you they mention something about the atmosphere before they say something about food.

There are very few high end concepts, Indian or not, that have successfully taken the same concept to other cities. Why? Because you really have to know what those high-end diners want, and it's not always the same across cities.

What do you think?

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Chaats are not Southern Indian

Oh. I thought Chaat was the Hindi word for snack food and appetizer like things. Its specific to a region?

You are right about the word and what it means. Chaat is also eaten in hawker-style stalls from North through Western India - But in South India, the appetisers are not chaat - Hawker type apps are popular in Hyderabad - with Mughlai kebabs and seekhs, and banana fritter savories in Trivandrum.

anil

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