Don't let the name fool you: Jackson Heights' Rajbhog Sweets has some mighty fine savory bites on their menu. One of our favorites is their Samosa Chaat ($4.99), an inventive concoction of fried, smashed samosas smothered with thick chickpea curry, smooth yogurt, fresh onions and tangy tamarind, all topped with a liberal dusting of sev (crispy fried chickpea noodles).
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It's not often you have a sit-down kati roll; it's really a street snack. But I'll take the unusual plating at Delhi Heights because their kati roll is just so good.
Here's something we hear often: "I like Indian food, but I don't eat it enough." If you're one of those people, and you're looking to beef up your Indian culinary knowledge, consider this your guide. We combed through the Serious Eats: New York archives to put together this glossary of Indian food in New York that we love, from street snacks to fine dining, and from downtown Manhattan to outer Queens.
In spite of its generic name and imprecise storefront signage, which advertises a sprawling menu that jumps from "Chinese food" to biryani to bagels, Starling Coffee Shop manages to keep a tight focus on the streets of Bangladesh. Stick to the menu's left side and you can cover a wide range of filling Bengali streets snacks.
There's a game I like to play from time to time in this city: find something so completely foreign to me that I have to see it with my own eyes to believe it's really in New York. This round set me on the trail of New York's Indian taxi drivers and the places they go to eat between fares.
On Tuesday we were at Tamarind Tea Room, the casual sister restaurant to the more formal Tamarind next door. The dessert menu here is a mix of classic Indian desserts done elegantly, and American desserts like cheesecakes and soufflés. Avoid the American ones, not because they're bad, but because the Indian desserts are that much better.
It's been nearly five years since pastry-trained chef Jehangir Mehta blurred the lines between sweet and savory with the opening of Graffiti, a closet-sized East Village food and wine bar serving up eclectic small-plate fare. The space is still as small as ever, but that hasn't stopped Mehta from serving up dishes with big, bold flavors.
The okra retains its bright green color and firm texture, and the filling is plenty flavorful thanks to purple onions and a tangy spice mix that adds a little bit of heat. The tender, flaky paratha wrapped around the veggies makes the whole thing work—why would anyone eat sad lunch 'wraps' when there's another option this delicious?
After you've tried a dozen or so masala dosas, they all start to taste pretty similar. Here are seven standout dosa variations you can't afford to miss in New York City—the dosas so fascinating, flavorful, and well-constructed that you just can't stop eating them.
Behind the nondescript storefront on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn is the Radha Govinda Mandir Hare Krishna Temple. Why does that matter to Serious Eaters? Because on weekdays, from 11:30 AM until 3 PM, they serve up homemade vegetarian Indian food on the lower level of the temple. There are large steam tables of food from which you can order à la carte, but for $10 you can get the full meal, a little bit of everything. That $10 you gets a lot of food, and the menu changes daily.
Benares is still rather new to the New York Indian food scene, but it's getting plenty of attention for the niche it fills. Chef Peter Beck—coming off of over six years as the executive cook at Tamarind—is focusing on vegetarian dishes from the North Indian city of Benares (also called Varanasi) as well as seafood dishes from Southern India. Click through the slideshow to see Chef Beck take us through the step-by-step making of Sevai Tomato Kurma, seafood curry on pan fried rice noodles.
Half of my visits to Hampton Chutney Co. aren't even for the dosas or sandwiches. They're for the drinks (and peanut butter cookies). On warmer days their Lassis ($3.95) are ideal for cooling down, thick and tangy with whole milk yogurt.
The dazzling array of neon-colored, silver-laced Indian sweets, or mithai, is yours for the taking in Jackson Heights!
Neerob in the Bronx does full service catering largely for weddings and other festive events. Distinguished by its more elaborate, traditional, and sometimes painstaking preparations and its ceremonial presentations, Bangladeshi "celebratory food" maintains the cuisine's fish-and-rice principles but elevates them to recognize special moments. It was some months back that, over fish and dhal in the dead of winter, chef and owner Khokon Rhaman first offered to cook me this food—that which is closest to his heart.
No matter where you are, if you order paneer, you have a pretty good sense of what you're going to get: a firm, mild, ricotta-like cheese that doesn't melt. So I was genuinely surprised to open up my paneer kati roll ($5) at Tawa Foods and find a mix of onion, cilantro, and—huh?—melted cheese. The owner explained: "it's American cheese." I asked for elaboration. "You know, mozzarella."
Of all the ethnic markets in this city, few are as beloved (or well-stocked) as Kalustyan's in Murray Hill. You may think you've seen Indian grocery stores, but until you've seen Kalustyan's, you don't really know the meaning of holy-crap-that's-a-lot-of-spices. We decided it was high time to give a photo tour of everything the store has to offer. Check out the slideshow for an aisle-by-aisle guide to this crazy warehouse of edible joy.
Raised in Bombay and Goa, Floyd Cardoz has always cooked Indian food, whether fused with Western techniques or in its most traditional form. After a 12-year stint at the now-closed Tabla, where he and Danny Meyer put together an exotic menu of Indian fusion dishes, he's making a comeback with Meyer's new North End Grill. The menu isn't rooted in one cuisine, but Floyd sneaks in elements of the Indian food he knows so well, such as the black pepper shrimp he often grills in his own backyard. We talked with Floyd to learn where he goes for Indian food in New York City. The short answer to finding the best: don't be afraid of traveling to Queens and New Jersey.
If Junoon has a mission, it's to show that Indian food is just as deserving of linen napkins, sommeliers, and the fine dining experience as any other. It sticks reasonably close to the classics we recognize: curries, tandoori meats, kebabs, and flatbreads. More avant garde restaurants shove you into something new; Junoon attempts a gentler nudge. The desired effect is a simple one: to have its diners, who may not otherwise give the cuisine a second glance, see what Indian food really tastes like when made with quality ingredients and careful technique.
Payasam, a chilled vermicelli-based pudding with saffron and chopped caramelized almonds, is served in a deep bowl at Tamarind Tea Room. It's a fine departure from rice pudding (of which they also make a good version), each spoonful bearing a tangle of the thin, slippery, smooth noodles bathed in a thick sauce of milk and sugar.
There are three things you need to know about Indian-Chinese food. First, it has as much to do with Chinese food—as served in China—as Chinese-American food. Next, it's all about the sauces: Manchurian, Chili, and so on. And last, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the restaurant.