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THE BEST: Indian


Habeas Brulee
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I love Indian food, and I've lived in NYC all my life, but I still haven't really found a truly extraordinary Indian restaurant in the city. I'm finally going to check out Chola tonight, which I'm very excited about, but I'd still love to hear everyone else's thoughts and recommendations. I am ready to begin questing for a favorite.

Plus, I couldn't find a thread that really gathered together a list of everyone's favorite Indian restaurants yet. So, let us remedy that gap in our collective knowledge:

What do you think is the best Indian restaurant in NYC? And why?

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In terms of covering the whole subcontinent, it's probably Dawat, but I haven't been recently...

Based on a recent visit I'd happily proffer Devi, it uses traditional ingredients and preparations to present Indian cooking and flavors in new and exciting ways...

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There appears to have been a backlash lately, but to me it's clearly Devi (18th St. near 5th Ave.).

The food is contemporary Indian -- meaning it's "contemporary" from within the Indian culinary tradition, rather than being an attempt at fusion like Tabla. The ingredients are good, and many dishes are excellent. I personally have never had Indian food this good anywhere else in the United States. (No, I've never been to India -- my invidious comparison is Great Britain.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Maybe my Indian name tipped you guys off, but for those who read this board, you probably think I'm Japanese...

But there is Indian heritage here, although I still haven't been there OR the UK yet for that matter. So I hope I'm somewhat qualified to speak on this issue -

Except the _homemade_ Indian food I grew up with was South Indian, while to "go out to eat" was to get North Indian like tandoori, and things like biryani and pilaf... when we used to venture into NYC we'd go to Nirvana or one of the white cloth jobs on 58th Street. And the Bengal Tiger in White Plains was a frequent stop.

It's a tough one because "Indian" food covers such a varied landscape, from the strict vegetarian, to the seafood of the south, up through the clay ovens of the north and those places near Pakistan.. so a lot of Indian places have to cover the whole Indian world and don't do anything particularly that well or only do North Indian well or South Indian well etc. etc.

So now that I've thought about it out loud and stream of consciousness on here, I'm going to have to say that it has to be Devi. I can't recall any restaurant that had me so excited over Indian food and what it was capable of recently. When things went truly contemporary, they were done using other elements of Indian cuisine, which as you can tell, is extremely varied. I can't wait to take my family there.

I love Tabla too but it's not an Indian restaurant. That's pretty much like calling Nobu a Peruvian restaurant.

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Funny story.

Friday night, having dinner at Porter House. I order the three-pudding combo for dessert. I'm very obviously enjoying the Indian Pudding very much.

DATE: What's that?

ME: Indian Pudding.

DATE: Does it have cardamom in it?

ME: No.

DATE: I don't get it. What makes it Indian?

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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As you can probably tell from my name, I'm Jewish, not Indian.  But I think exactly the same thing about Devi as raji does (even if only he out of the two of us knows what he's talking about).

:laugh: Actually for my first 6 months on eG I read your name as "Snakeater", until I finally slowed down to read it, so maybe a part of me thought you were Indian too! Albeit as a result of bad stereotype of Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.

Actually, I'm Jewish too. I'm gonna let you noodle that one for a while, while I noodle in some regional recommendations, which others probably honestly can speak better about outside of South Indian....

I'm still going to support Devi as best Indian in NY. That's precisely what I exclaimed after my first visit there only a few weeks ago.

I haven't ventured through Jackson Heights too much beyond Jackson Diner, so maybe someone can enlighten me, as this is probably where real deal regional cooking is to be had...

Edited by raji (log)
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Like raji, I'm of South Indian origin myself; I've lived in London and in India as well, though I'm NYC born and bred for the most part.

While I rank my father's kitchen as the #1 (South) Indian dining experience in NYC, my vote restaurant-wise is for Devi as well (although I happen to be a sort of friend of the house, so my impartiality is questionable...). While the take on Indian food is theoretically "contemporary," it's worth keeping in mind that Indian cuisine is an ever-evolving melting pot of culinary traditions from all over the place. (Get to a house in India and have an omelette if you want an example!)

[EDIT: There's also a heck of a lot of flat-out traditional stuff on both the a la carte and tasting menus at Devi, in any event.]

For that matter, I'll actually buck the trend and suggest that Tabla is perfectly worthy of the title of "Indian restaurant." Chef Cardoz's approach to spicing and to honoring regional cooking techniques is far more authentically, solidly Indian than practically anything else in NYC. Sure, there's tons of stuff on the menu that could only have originated in the US or Europe, but look at the number of restaurants in India that have random non-Indian dishes on the menu!

As for regional cuisines: I've heard tell of excellent frontier cuisine restaurants in Flushing, but haven't been yet. Mina Awad is pretty good for Bengali food. My hands-down favorite for South Indian in NYC is Saravanaas (not to be confused with Saravana Bhavan) on 26th and Lex.

[EDIT: I'm not wowed by Jackson Heights Indian restaurants, to be honest. Most of the stuff I like out there is really just junk food. Rajbhog and Dimple both do excellent chaat, and Rajbhog's sweets are passable if you like that sort of thing. Dosa Diner in JH, and Dosa Hutt next to the temple in Flushing, are both cheap and excellent places to get dosas, iddlis, etc. Kababish does pretty good kababs, but it's not what I'd call a full-fledged restaurant.]

Edited by Mayur (log)
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Mayur -

Thanks for confirming my suspicion about Jackson Heights...There's probably better Indian too be had in New Jersey.

I guess I could side with you about Tabla, which is really a tribute to Indian seasonings and preparations. You CAN have a perfectly traditional Indian meal there, including all the great breads.

Saravanaas is the new place, isn't it? And to think all these years I have pretty much usually stuck to Madras Mahal, even though I've suspected a decent amount of Ghee is part of the success of their cooking...

That's funny I would have ranked my father's kitchen as well, and I too NYC born and bred -

As for Devi, hook me up! I have one of those long powerful Brahmin surnames which usually gets me good service from South Indians :wink: Didn't seem to do me any good at Devi tho...

Edited by raji (log)
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Mayur -

Thanks for confirming my suspicion about Jackson Heights...There's probably better Indian too be had in New Jersey.

I guess I could side with you about Tabla, which is really a tribute to Indian seasonings and preparations. You CAN have a perfectly traditional Indian meal there, including all the great breads.

And, IMHO, their breads have a slight edge over Devi's, quite possibly simply due to quickness of turnover and volume.
Saravanaas is the new place, isn't it? And to think all these years I have pretty much usually stuck to Madras Mahal, even though I've suspected a decent amount of Ghee is part of the success of their cooking...
Saravanaas blows MM out of the water, IMO, although the cuisine is more specialized (the only non-Southern dish on the menu, IIRC, is the excellent channa batura). Their food's also properly light and not chock-full of ghee.
As for Devi, hook me up! I have one of those long powerful Brahmin surnames which usually gets me good service from South Indians  :wink:  Didn't seem to do me any good at Devi tho...

Well, I've been dying to go say hi to Hemant and Suvir soon, and I have an old friend (and eGullet poster) who's wanted to go for a while. I'll PM you when we've got a plan going. Perhaps you'll trade your Japanese food expertise?

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Mayur -

Thanks for confirming my suspicion about Jackson Heights...There's probably better Indian too be had in New Jersey.

I guess I could side with you about Tabla, which is really a tribute to Indian seasonings and preparations. You CAN have a perfectly traditional Indian meal there, including all the great breads.

And, IMHO, their breads have a slight edge over Devi's, quite possibly simply due to quickness of turnover and volume.
Saravanaas is the new place, isn't it? And to think all these years I have pretty much usually stuck to Madras Mahal, even though I've suspected a decent amount of Ghee is part of the success of their cooking...
Saravanaas blows MM out of the water, IMO, although the cuisine is more specialized (the only non-Southern dish on the menu, IIRC, is the excellent channa batura). Their food's also properly light and not chock-full of ghee.
As for Devi, hook me up! I have one of those long powerful Brahmin surnames which usually gets me good service from South Indians  :wink:  Didn't seem to do me any good at Devi tho...

Well, I've been dying to go say hi to Hemant and Suvir soon, and I have an old friend (and eGullet poster) who's wanted to go for a while. I'll PM you when we've got a plan going. Perhaps you'll trade your Japanese food expertise?

Deal! if I'm getting Japanese food with you, you're my long lost cousins just blown in from chennai.

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Funny story.

Friday night, having dinner at Porter House.  I order the three-pudding combo for dessert.  I'm very obviously enjoying the Indian Pudding very much.

DATE:  What's that?

ME:  Indian Pudding.

DATE:  Does it have cardamom in it?

ME:  No.

DATE:  I don't get it.  What makes it Indian?

was this a first date? if so, will there be a second?

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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I love Indian food, and I've lived in NYC all my life, but I still haven't really found a truly extraordinary Indian restaurant in the city. I'm finally going to check out Chola tonight, which I'm very excited about, but I'd still love to hear everyone else's thoughts and recommendations. I am ready to begin questing for a favorite.

Plus, I couldn't find a thread that really gathered together a list of everyone's favorite Indian restaurants yet. So, let us remedy that gap in our collective knowledge:

What do you think is the best Indian restaurant in NYC? And why?

In terms of execution --good ingredients and cooking:

IMOP Chola is doing the best Indian overall.

Would love to hear how your meal there was.

Dawat is very good but I wonder if it has slipped a bit over the years.

I have also had some terrific meals at Tamarind.

Tabla and Devi are in a different class.

I have been disappointed with Tabla which IMOP was never really about Indian food--maybe Indian "style" food.

(I haven;t been in a while).

Devi is modern Indian as interpreted by a very talented chef--IMOP its more about the chef than the actual cuisine.

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IMOP Chola is doing the best Indian overall.

Would love to hear how your meal there was.

I'm not the person you asked, but I recently had a very good meal there. It was the first time I've been there in a few years, though, and I was disappointed to see that some favorite dishes -- particularly those lamb chops they used to do (which were different from the ones they do now) -- were no longer on the menu.

Dawat is very good but I wonder if it has slipped a bit over the years.

I certainly think it has.

Devi is modern Indian as interpreted by a very talented chef--IMOP its more about the chef than the actual cuisine.

What's wrong with that? You could say the same about most of the best Italian or French restaurants in NYC.

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I thought Chola was good, but not amazing. The roti canai (which I thought was a Malaysian dish?) was very nice, not nearly so greasy as the Malaysian versions I'm used to. The samosas were excellent. The vegetable fritters were fairly uninteresting, and I was very disappointed by the Savitri Amma's Medhu Vadai.

As for mains, I had the chicken chutneywala, which I quite enjoyed. My friend ordered a ground (or maybe finely minced) lamb dish that I can't recall the name of, which struck me as too heavy on the cilantro and not quite balanced, flavor-wise, but he certainly liked it, as did my partner. Another friend who went with us has been searching for a really good malai kofta for ages, and Chola's version was it.

Mostly good food, but not as great as I would expect for the price. I really am looking for a place with a more diverse menu, too.

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While not directly in NYC> (Manhattan). I've had really outstanding food at Patang on central ave in (Yonkers/elmsford?)

I am still exploring brooklyn but an excellent place is Dhaka Indian Restaurant on atlantic ave.

Note: While I have lived on the upper west side there is nothing there worth noting.

Jeff

Edited by jturn00 (log)
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I am still exploring brooklyn but an excellent place is Dhaka Indian Restaurant on atlantic ave.

Thank you for that recommendation! Looks like Dhaka is just a few blocks from where I work, so I'll certainly check it out during lunch sometime. It'd be nice to find another good lunch spot around here.

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I think Hemant Mathur (at Devi) is one of the better people manning a tandoor on the continent. However, I do not understand the fascination on this board with this restaurant. Apart from the tandoori dishes, the kitchen turns out mediocre fare.

As for South Indian, Sarvanaas is a couple of levels above everyone else.

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As for regional cuisines: I've heard tell of excellent frontier cuisine restaurants in Flushing, but haven't been yet. Mina Awad is pretty good for Bengali food. My hands-down favorite for South Indian in NYC is Saravanaas (not to be confused with Saravana Bhavan) on 26th and Lex.

The excellence in Flushing is often overstated because of the prices... you're not going to get gourmet ingredients out there for the most part... but.. so good, so cheap!

THANKS for the Saravanaas recommendation! Paper masala dosai was DELICIOUS - very light. Menu is true-to-form South Indian.

I still think Devi is the best in NY... The tandoori blew me away but the curries and breads were damn good -

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[...]I am still exploring brooklyn but an excellent place is Dhaka Indian Restaurant on atlantic ave.

Atlantic and what?

Note: While I have lived on the upper west side there is nothing there worth noting.

I would disagree, Jeff. I've found Indus Valley (99th and Broadway) to be a very good North Indian restaurant. Best, no; very good and dependable and a good value, yes. The last time I went there was a few months ago.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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