This isn't the first time we've visited a Shiva Natarajan restaurant; it's not even the first time we've visited Chote Nawab, his Murray Hill restaurant with regional Indian specialties that are unheard of elsewhere on this stretch of Lexington Avenue. But a menu this expansive is worth a return trip.
For starters, Chote Nawab offers the excellent Binda Sasuralwali ($9), a homestyle dish of crisp-chewy dry-fried okra, that you can find at Natarajan's East Village restaurant Malai Marke. The okra is just as fresh and sweet here.
There are other regional Indian dishes worth looking into, such as the sizable selection of seafood curries hailing from Kerala on India's southwest coast. Keralan cooking, which frequently employs alluring souring agents like kokum and kodampuli alongside sweet, nutty coconut, is a dark horse cuisine in New York that's worth seeking out. One taste of a Keralan seafood curry—its interplay of sour with sweet, chili heat with ocean flavors, and coconut with aromatic spices—may be enough to make you an addict, and Chote Nawab's Konju Pappas ($18) with shrimp is a fitting introduction.
For something milder and more familiar, consider an order of Nimbu Paneer ($14), grated paneer simmered with onions, coriander, and a touch of lime. It's sweeter and, well, blander than the dishes above, but it's a comforting and filling way to round out a meal at one of Curry Hill's more interesting Indian restaurants.