Best Indian restaurants
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. The curries lacked zing, but maybe that’s the price you pay for balance. 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), 10025
Walk past the wall of cascading water and descend into Chola, where the mix of modern and traditional décor is as eclectic as the multi-regional menu. Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of options, since you’ll rarely go wrong with whatever you get. A basket of varied kebabs straight from the tandoor includes lamb sausages perfumed with cardamom, while Savitri Amma’s idli (steamed rice cakes) arrive with fresh coconut chutney, a southern Indian specialty. Spices and flavors are blended with balance and care: a delicate cashew sauce infused with saffron- coated chunks of tender lamb, and langarwali dal, a buttery mix of lentils, is flecked with cilantro and intensified by the faint heat of dried chilies.
- 232 E 58th St, (between Second and Third Aves), 10022
The Midtown lunch crowd finds a home in this casual Indian fast food joint.
- 48 W 48th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
- Critics choice
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 ), 11372
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 idli (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), 10016
The owners describe this Brooklyn newcomer as a speakeasy, but its bright-yellow exterior and lack of a full liquor license don’t exactly support the secret-cocktail-den image. What you will find—assuming you make it past the door, where a dress code prohibits sneakers, baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirts—are varied plates like shrimp scampi linguine and citrus-teriyaki pork chops, along with beers (Amstel, Corona) and wines from South America, the U.S. and Italy.
- 102 Lexington Avenue, (between 27th and 28th Sts)
In fall 2009, this Indian restaurant from Danny Meyer forsook its split personality (casual on one floor, deluxe on another) in favor of one seamless menu that draws from the Goan heritage of its chef Floyd Cardoz. A $54 ten-course tasting menu is an outstanding cross-section of regional vegetarian cookery, including dishes like roasted cauliflower in coconut milk. Meatier à la carte options include melting-pot innovations like a raviolo with tomato ragù, greens and tender yogurt-glazed lamb riblets. Desserts owe as much to the subcontinent as everything else does: Conclude with scoops of intense mango ice cream with meringues and caramel.
- 11 Madison Ave, (at 25th St), 10010
- Critics choice
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. Start with the samosa chaat ($4)—two flaky pockets stuffed with potato and peas, covered in a colorful tamarind, cilantro and yogurt sauce. Then sample one of three $14 thalis—multiple servings of rice, curries, chutneys and more served on a single tray. (The Gujarathi 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)