Haute Indian food

In preparation for the April 7 Varli Food Festival, a high-profile celebration of Indian cooking, TONY highlights the essential dishes at a new breed of Indian eateries making their mark around town.

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

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    Dum biryani

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

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    Chaat

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

806tulsi01

Dum biryani

CHAAT AND DUM BIRYANI AT TULSI Chef Hemant Mathur earned his fine-dining stripes at Devi—he helped the Gramercy spot become the country's only Michelin-starred Indian restaurant. At Tulsi, the Jaipur-born tandoor master supplements his signature grilled meats with other expertly wrought specialties. A standout selection of chaat ($7 for three) is presented here as elegant renditions of the traditional street snacks found throughout India. We like the dahi batata puri: spiced potato and chickpeas coated with tangy yogurt and tamarind, then stuffed into a crunchy whole-wheat shell (puri) with mint chutney. It's a fine preamble to the hearty dum biryani with goat ($24). Whole spices—including bay leaves, cumin and cardamom—are tossed into a pan with basmati rice, rosewater, saffron and goat marinated in a zingy ginger-garlic paste. Mathur pours the resulting stew into a small clay pot, covers it with a layer of dough and tosses it into the tandoori oven. What emerges is a sort of Indian potpie, with a puffy crust of piping-hot nan giving way to an aromatic blend of rice and glistening hunks of meat. 211 E 46th St between Second and Third Aves (212-888-0820)

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