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The best Indian restaurants in NYC

When it comes to Indian restaurants, NYC has some of the best, doling both regional specialties and classic favorites

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Benares

There’s more to India’s storied cuisine than takeout tikki masala. Explore the many flavors and traditions of the country’s fare, from haute Indian plates to cheap-eats classics and handheld snacks (hello samosas!). Skip the delivery and visit the best Indian restaurants NYC has to offer.

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Best Indian restaurants in NYC

Amma

Amma is the Hindi word for “mother,” and if you let Mom take care of you at this restaurant—there’s a seven-course tasting menu for $50 per person—you’ll thank her later. The courteous waitstaff will help you sort out the à la carte menu. You might try crisp fried okra or bhel puri, a lighter interpretation of the classic street food. Thick, buttery tandoor-grilled lamb chops are perfectly complemented by pear chutney. Bread and rice cost extra: Order a side of nicely charred naan to scoop up the tangy sauce of the tender chicken tikka masala. Cut the apron strings? Never.

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Midtown East

Awadh

Gaurav Anand (Moti Mahal Delux) focuses on dum pukht, a slow-cooking northern tradition, for this uptown Indian eatery, named after a region in the Northeastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. In the bilevel, dark-wood space, tuck into Awadhi specialties like simmered lamb shanks, masala-wrapped whole fish and leg of lamb, all low-cooked via a sealed, heavy-bottomed pot. 


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Upper West Side

Benares

Virtuoso chef Peter Beck (Tamarind) oversees the region-hopping bill of fare, which includes a robust selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes. (The restaurant takes its name from a city in the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh, an area known for its veggie-based specialties.) Of the latter, we loved the lauki ka kofta, hearty green-squash dumplings smothered in cumin-laced paneer and a buttery, tomato-based makhani sauce. While carnivores can find classics like lamb rogan josh and chicken vindaloo, you might opt for less familiar specialties, like kozhi varutha, a South Indian–inspired chicken curry thickened with coconut milk and spiced with roasted chilies, garlic and ginger.

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Midtown West

Chola

Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of options at Chola, 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 are balanced with 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.

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Midtown East

Indus Valley

Don’t let the charming waiters up-sell you. While taking your appetizer order, they’ll push an expensive tandoori platter. Stick to your guns and order the juicy seek kebab, lamb rolls with fresh coriander and spices. The naan is piping hot and can be topped with ingredients like fresh garlic. Malai kofta, a sweet version of vegetarian croquettes, is made with cottage cheese and steeped in a spice-infused tomato puree; it’s better than the run-of-the-mill chicken tikka masala. Indus Valley’s peak is the blissful mango kulfi, a thick, almost chewy ice cream.

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Upper West Side

Junoon

The heart and soul of this luxe Chelsea eatery is its glassed-in spice room, where chef Vikas Khanna hand-grinds and mixes house blends each morning. He deploys seven whole spices, including star anise, cloves and cardamom pods, in a pungent, burgundy-hued curry that coats a lamb shank, slow-braised until the meat nearly slides from the bone. Other evidence of the room’s sorcery fills the region-hopping menu, organized by traditional methods of Indian cooking—not just tandoor and handi (pot cooking) but also tawa (cast-iron), sigri (fire pit) and patthar (stone).

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Flatiron

Saravanaa Bhavan

Upper West Siders can snack on dosas at the second New York location of this respected Southern Indian chain, which has branches in 10 countries. Twenty-five versions of the thin crêpes, offered with fillings like spiced mashed potatoes or fiery chutney, are on the menu. New to this location: Indian brunch featuring lentil doughnuts and Cream of Wheat studded with orange, pineapple and almonds.

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Upper West Side

Tamarind Tribeca

Beyond the requisite chicken tikka masala (one of the best we’ve had), dishes delight at every turn at this stunning spin-off of the Flatiron District's Tamarind: A lamb appetizer (nizami keema) combines tender grilled strips with soft minced meat and pillowy naan, while Punjabi mutton, actually made with goat, falls off the bone in a rich, vibrant curry. But the most consistent pleasures come out of the twin tandoor ovens, visible from the main dining room: superlative lamb chops that are tangy, spicy and tender, and moist sea bass slathered with thick yogurt and a subtle blend of roasted spices that enriches the flaky fish without overwhelming its delicate flavor.

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Tribeca
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