Shiva Natarajan, the man behind some of the city's most interesting refuges for underrepresented regional Indian cuisine (Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, Dhaba, and others), is at it again. The space that housed Singapura, his less than amazing effort at southeast Asian hawker fare, is now home to Kokum, a restaurant that draws heavily on the food of Kerala on India's southwest coast.
A recent visit yielded plenty of good eating, much of which virtually unheard of in Manhattan, but one of the best bites of the night was also the most approachable: Kumily Chicken Fry ($10), a starter of chunks of chicken dusted with spices and fried with green chilies and curry leaves until just crisp. The technique, which is also applied to fish, often to sad, overcooked results, leaves the chicken here abundantly juicy with a hint of crust from its spice rub. The heat is dry and intense, grassy from the chili and aromatic from the curry leaves, which you shouldn't leave behind on the plate—they're crisp and delicious from the fryer as well.
We have more to say about Kokum, and there's plenty more to eat, from a standout yogurt curry to a simple but delicious bowl of lemon rice. But for an easy introduction, get this fried chicken now.