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Indian restaurant in New York City


Suvir Saran
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As someone mentioned above, I would love to see a Keralan restaurant in New York. I believe that Coconut Grove had some Keralan dishes, but over time, the restaurant seemed to become more mainstream. I believe that NYC diners really need to be educated about a new cuisine, and it takes a special talent, and committment (not to mention really good PR) to do this.

I've eaten several times at Rasa and Rasa Samudra in London, where I've had really interesting, tasty Keralan dishes. The owner has also published at least two cookbooks. A fixed price meal there provides a large sampling of different flavors.

There are a number of different directions a new Indian restaurant could go, needless to say. Do we want an Indian "Rosa Mexicano" (the Upper West Side version)? That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, in my opinion. Or do we already have that with Tamarind? Or is it enough to have a comfortable, delicious cross-over restaurant, along the lines of Salaam Bombay or Bay Leaf Brasserie (in its heyday), but introducing a new regional cuisine.

One way to look at it, and variations of this have already been mentioned, is to start with the target group of diners and price point, and think about what sort of place will attract them in the first months, and whether it will still attract them in 2 years (if that is the goal).

Great topic, in any case.

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As someone mentioned above, I would love to see a Keralan restaurant in New York. I believe that Coconut Grove had some Keralan dishes, but over time, the restaurant seemed to become more mainstream. I believe that NYC diners really need to be educated about a new cuisine, and it takes a special talent, and committment (not to mention really good PR) to do this.

I've eaten several times at Rasa and Rasa Samudra in London, where I've had really interesting, tasty Keralan dishes. The owner has also published at least two cookbooks. A fixed price meal there provides a large sampling of different flavors.

There are a number of different directions a new Indian restaurant could go, needless to say. Do we want an Indian "Rosa Mexicano" (the Upper West Side version)? That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, in my opinion. Or do we already have that with Tamarind? Or is it enough to have a comfortable, delicious cross-over restaurant, along the lines of Salaam Bombay or Bay Leaf Brasserie (in its heyday), but introducing a new regional cuisine.

One way to look at it, and variations of this have already been mentioned, is to start with the target group of diners and price point, and think about what sort of place will attract them in the first months, and whether it will still attract them in 2 years (if that is the goal).

Great topic, in any case.

Rosa Mexicana is a perfect concept for Indian restaurant folk to look at as a next step. It has everything that would complement the energy, playfulness, vibrancy, layers of flavor, surprising discoveries and the colors that come with Indian cuisine and its culture.

Many Indian friends have always wanted to go even if only for drinks to Rosa Mexicana. Drinks and guacamole at RM can be great fun and fulfilling. The food though leaves something to be desired.... But a clever resaturant owner and chef would ensure one has a perfect balance between ambience and food.

Tamarind is beautiful but I think we can have Tamarind and a very alive space both co-exist. Why stop where Tamarind created a splash. There is still a long way to go.

Coconut Grove failed for many reasons. Not all are because of the chef or the menu. I am told the key element were politics between the people in the front of the house and the partnership. Sad, for if it had succeeded and continued in the path of sharing Southern treasured with us in NYC, we could have very well had our first half way decent restaurant serving dishes other than (Dosas/Idlis and Uthappams) from the Southern part of India. It is a shame it did not last. I was charmed at the meal we had before they opened. The dishes were in the range of good to superb. And it gave me a new promise.

JSibley, welcome to the Indian forum. Looking forward to reading more from you.:smile:

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Whilst Tamarind is beautiful and fills in the void in the more high end restaurant, I think Indian food now needs a restaurant/concept that caters to the younger crowd and also can be a neighborhood spot (which caters to old fogies like myself and my friends) that people can go to often and not worry about too much expense.

It is that concept that would have longevity and also change how Americans think of Indian food.

What should that restaurant be like? It is easy to create spaces like Tamarind (what is difficult is to run them professionally) when one has the money and has a clientele that can afford them. What takes more thought and greater planning is to run a place that can serve good food in an attractive setting, consistently and to great numbers of people daily and at affordable prices. When we have an Indian restaurant that can fill the niche, we would have arrived at a new time and place in the world of Indian restaurants.

I would love to see an Indian restaurant that has the kind of bustling business that Spice does on University Place near NYU in NYC. It has a very large clientele that is very young, but whenever I have passed it by, I have also seen neighborhood folk who are there seemingly for a casual meal before doing something else for the evening. Spice never has too many seats empty, always has people waiting to be seated, the restaurant has a nice look, quick turn around and is very very affordable. Certainly it should be making plenty of money. What Spice lacks is good food. I think a smart owner would create a concept catering to a similar group of people and add to this mix good food and consistency. It could well be the new begining of Indian restaurant dining in the US. At least in my humble opinion.

And whilst such places thrive, they would have also created large groups of people that have a new awareness of Indian food. These people can then give more business to the restaurants like Tamarind. Not many can afford or care to eat at an Indian restaurant where they could spend a $100 easily and only then really get a sense of having had something wonderful. Whilst I think these restaurants are essential and have a place, they cater to an audience that wants something special for a special occasion.

The other restaurant (like Spice) would cater to your average Joe for just about any meal they want to eat outside of the home. If you make the food simple and clean and tasty as it is in the homes or even streets of India, there is no reason why people will not begin to embrace Indian food as a part of their regular dining out option.

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I have a couple of additional thoughts.

First, one association I don't have when thinking about Indian restaurants is fun drinking (as in alcohol). I think that one thing that gets people into Mexican and Southwestern restaurants is the fairly sure knowledge that there will be Margaritas of some type - not all people, of course, but some percentage of casual diners looking for a fun meal. Latin restaurants, to some degree, have done a decent job marketing mojitos and caipirinhas, and it's likely than one will find new cocktails at Nuevo Latino restaurants. This might be an issue for a new Indian restaurant. I don't know if one would have to create an entiirely new cocktail spectrum with Indian elements (Mango, Coconut, etc.?), and how one would make them feel Indian, or at least not appropriated from some other culture, such as Latin America. In any case, I think that exciting, Indian-accented cocktails could help (almost certainly, with initial PR). The bar at a Rosa Mexicano certainly seems to be more "hopping" than the bars at most Indian restaurants.

Second, a room where one could comfortably have a nice cocktail with some Indian snacks or light dishes (I think that most American diners still don't know dishes like bhel poori) might bring more, younger (or older) people in on a regular basis.

Now that I think of it, have I just described the downstairs restaurant at Tabla? Maybe the key would be to think in terms of a room that is an Indian "tapas bar" and where the food is still somewhat reasonably priced?

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Great thoughts, Jsibley.

I think a restaurant, though not Indian, that does what you've mentioned well is Tao in New York. The lounge and the dining areas are two separate spaces and attracts two distinct crowds: the cocktail and dining. Neither the bar nor the dining area overpowers the other. If one can balance the atmosphere/space and drink list properly, a restaurant of the sort can work. Needless to say, the food in the dining area must be delectable.

I haven't been to an Indian concept that has achieved that balance as well as Tao has. Tabla has good signature drinks, most notably the tablatini, but I think Danny Meyer intended to focus more on attracting diners to the Bread Bar than drinkers.

Maybe there are Indian restaurants in London that have achieved this balance?

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