Best Indian restaurants
Regional Indian fare that goes way beyond curry.
Wed Nov 11 2009
Papri Chaat at Indus Express
The chef decides what you're going to eat for dinner-you can't argue with the millennia-old laws of Ayurveda. That Hindu doctrine prescribes six rasas (tastes)-sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent-to balance your diet and, perhaps, your life. The result resembles a typical Indian thali meal consisting of two vegetable curries, dal, rice, nan, raita and chutney, all presented in steel bowls on a steel plate. Fortunately, the rules have a little wiggle room: You get to pick a drink, and you can eat all you want. 706 Amsterdam Ave at 94th St (212-932-2400, theayurvedacafe.com). Average main course: $11.
The usual suspects (samosas, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo) are on hand at this midtown South Asian eatery, but regular customers come for less familiar regional and Indian-influenced Malaysian specialties. Shrimp Balti includes the likes of eggplant and fennel. Warm, layered roti canai can be used to scoop up creamy coconut-chicken curry. Dishes this inventive make it worth tolerating the noisy, crowded dining room. 232 E 58th St between Second and Third Aves (212-688-4619, fineindiandining.com). Average main course: $17.
More Indian fast food that comes with plastic cups and silver plates, testy waiters and Asian countergirls. 7209 Broadway at 72nd St, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-476-6516).
The midtown lunch crowd finds a home in this casual Indian fast-food joint. 48 W 48th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-840-2733). Average main course: $10.
This meet-and-eat headquarters for New York's Indian expat community offers more culinary draws than your standard diner. Watch Hindi soaps on Zee TV while enjoying samosa chat topped with chickpeas, yogurt, onion, tomato, and a sweet-spicy mix of tamarind and mint chutneys. Specials like murgh tikka makhanwala, tender pieces of marinated chicken simmered in curry and cream, are fiery and flavorful-be sure to ask for mild if you're not immune to potent chilies. 37-47 74th St between Roosevelt and 37th Aves, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-672-1232, jacksondiner.com). Average main course: $13.
If you're used to North Indian fare, the casually elegant Pongal will fill in a few blanks with dishes from the South. Staff at this kosher vegetarian spot provide a brief culinary geography lesson and realistically assess how scorching the "hot spices" really are. Condiments are exceptional, superfresh, and ideal for dipping the iddly (steamed rice cakes) and medu vada (lentil doughnuts). The dosa are big and finely seasoned. The truly great tuver baingan has refreshingly unmushy eggplant, pigeon peas and an unforgettable bite that just might bring you back for more. 110 Lexington Ave between 27th and 28th Sts (212-696-9458, pongalnyc.com). Average main course: $9.
Raja Sweets and Fast Food
Tasty mango lassi and a spicy $6 buffet complement a plethora of sweet treats. 7231 37th Ave at 73rd St, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-424-1850). Average main course: $6.
Spicy South Indian eats and cold Taj Mahal beer combine well in a modern, streamlined setting. 81 Lexington Ave at 26th St (212-684-7755, saravanabhavan.com).
Serving upscale Indian food with a Western influence, Chef Floyd Cardoz mixes fennel seed with familiar rosemary and tarragon to create tastes that are at once unique and recognizable. Greenmarket foods like watermelon are used in curries, and foie gras may be paired with plums in the summer and apples in the fall. Expect fresh seafood spiced with Indian flavors like coconut curry all year round on Tabla's ever-changing tasting menus. 11 Madison Ave at 25th St (212-889-0667, tablany.com). Average item: $7.
This bright, clean Curry Hill standout makes a great date place-especially if your date is vegetarian, Jewish (it's kosher!) or homesick for India. Sample one of three $14 thalis-multiple servings of rice, curries, chutneys and more served on a single tray. (The Gujarati thali, with a spicy yet sweet kachori [bean fritters], boasts flavors you won't find at the generic Indian restaurant on your block.) A fresh lunch buffet, offered from 11:30am to 3pm on weekdays, overflows with South Indian standards like a creamy saag paneer and Gobi masala (cauliflower and peas)-all you can eat for $6.95. 127 E 28th St at Lexington Ave (212-685-7301, tiffinwallah.us). Average main course: $9.