Sure, you can order another round of takeout tikki masala, but why stay in when you can spend a night out at some of the best Indian restaurants in the city? Explore the country’s many regional specialties, from refined Indian plates to cheap eats favorites and handheld snacks. Put down the phone and go out to the best Indian restaurants NYC has to offer, from Tribeca to Bay Ridge.
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Best Indian restaurants in NYC
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.
Indian Accent at Le Parker Meridien New York is the first international outpost of Rohit Khattar and celebu-chef Manish Mehrotra’s South Delhi blockbuster, India’s sole representative on the S. Pellegrino list of world’s best restaurants. (It currently sits at No. 77.) On looks alone, Indian Accent edges closer to fine-dining than fun-loving, all inoffensive grays and sculptural plating—the only similitude of Indian flash is one gold-leafed wall—and its menu is stuffily organized into prix-fixe options and a chef’s tasting menu. But then arrives an amuse bouche of warm naan imbued with, what is that, blue cheese? Yes, it’s a funky core of sharp Danish blue. Amuse, indeed.
Babu Ji, a south Melbourne import from husband-and-wife team Jessi and Jennifer Singh (from Chandigarh and New York City, respectively), is comfortably middlebrow. There’s a tasting menu, but it’s only $50 per person; a thoughtful wine list but also a fend-for-yourself beer fridge. Silver-haired dadimas are parked on sleek black banquettes next to ball-capped millennials as taken with ’gramming the meal as eating it. And those picturesque plates— slow-cooked lamb folded into a Kashimiri-style rogan josh ($20), raw Long Island scallops dropped into turmeric-yellow coconut curry ($25)—are heartily accessible but more pristinely garnished than your hole-in-the-wall curry house.
The heart and soul of this luxe Chelsea eatery is its glassed-in spice room, where the team hand-grinds and mixes house blends each morning. Seven whole spices, including star anise, cloves and cardamom pods, are deployed 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).
Specializing in phal, a habanero curry that’s popular along London’s Brick Lane restaurant row, Curry House issues a how-hot-can-you-go challenge to every diner. The nine types of curry are ranked by burn level. Because the menu warns that phal, the hottest, is “more pain and sweat than flavor,” nonasbestos palates should go with gentle but bouncy jalfrazi sauce, which is excellent over lamb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for more ethnic food?
Simple Café & Restaurant
The food at Simple Café in Williamsburg reveals chef Samia Behaya’s French and North African influences. At brunch, you can order up Algerian tchoutchouka—scrambled eggs spiked with harissa, garlic, cumin, onion and tomato ($11)—or a croque madame, the classic French sandwich of ham, swiss cheese and bechamel sauce topped with a fried egg ($12). For the evening meal, you might want a light meal of the citrus-mint quinoa salad with feta, tomato, mushroom and eggplant ($12) or the couscous with chickpeas, vegetables and lamb sausage ($15). Carnivores can order steak frites with a red wine reduction ($16) or go even more international with a bowl of Vietnamese pho ($12). Several other Southeast Asian dishes also make an appearance, like bun thit nuong cha gio, a dish of grilled pork served with spring rolls and fish sauce–dressed vermicelli rice noodles ($12).
Venue says: “Sundays 5pm11pm Spring Tasting Series : Natural & Organic Wine + Small Plates. Erly bird 10am-11am $5 Mimosas...”