Indian Row in the East Village can be a bit daunting. Each restaurant has someone trying to lure you inside and away from the others, the next place seemingly indistinguishable from the last. After trying several of them I had been starting to fear that they were all serving out of one giant underground kitchen.
But long ago I was advised that Banjara was the only Indian restaurant on that block that was worthwhile, and after doing my share of research I have to admit that it's hands-down the best I've found. It may be a bit more expensive than its flashy neighbors with blinking chili pepper lights, but the high quality of the food more than justifies the moderately higher prices.
Their samosas ($3.50) are top notch, and since you get two per order, I like to split it between the traditional potato/pea and the coconut. The potato/pea is mildly spiced with a thin, crispy exterior—basically everything you could want in a samosa. Then the coconut filling is a sweet twist on the norm; it goes surprisingly well with a bit of the savory tamarind sauce on your table.
My litmus test for Indian restaurants has always been Mutter Paneer ($11.95, pictured above). Although it doesn't appear on the menu, there's a note that you can order any Indian dish not listed. Banjara's was one of the better ones I've had; the creamy, sweet sauce was delicious on the peas and soft, pillowy cubes of lightly fried paneer cheese.
The Phool Aur Aloo Ki Subzi ($9.95) was just as good, if not even better than mutter paneer. This cauliflower and potato dish came in a richly spiced tomato-based sauce. Every bite of the deep-red sauce was packed with rich, earthy flavors. It was hard to resist sneaking bites of this dish, even long after I was already stuffed full.
The potato-stuffed Aloo Paratha ($3.50) was excellent as well. The delightfully buttery bread is cooked in Banjara's own clay oven, and is stuffed with a simple potato and scallion mixture that isn't heavily spiced. The combination of scallion, potato, and butter alone is a winning combination.
Even though the meal had already won us over from start to finish, a creamy scoop of complimentary mango ice cream ensured that we left happy.
Having had my share of greasy, heavy Indian food, Banjara is a much-welcomed change from such places; it's reassuring to know that the East Village does in fact have good Indian food to offer.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.