Pondicheri

15 W 27th StNew York, NY 10001 • (646) 878-4375 • PondicheriCafe.com

Yes, it’s yet another fast casual, meat in a bowl format restaurant. Is it just me, or are we slowly devolving into eating like our pets? I mean take away the fork and knife (or chopsticks) and lower the bowl about 30 inches and voila! You’re a dog.

The degradation of humanity aside, Inday is actually pretty cool inside, clearly taking the bowl concept up a notch to posh pet. The food, however, is not so posh. Quite hit and miss actually with the emphasis on the misses.

For example, the raita was a bit yellow. Yes, I’m sure it was raita I ordered and not mayonnaise. No, I’m not 100% certain they didn’t pee in it. Although it did taste weird. Perhaps it was saffron?

Another big miss for me was the lamb dish. The meat was terribly overcooked and completely lacking flavor. Even the rice was bland as sand. And adding insult to injury was the price of the dish. So not worthy. In fact, it was so unworthy even they realized it and subsequently removed it from the menu. Good call.

The things that are worthy are the garlic naan, the chocolate chip and mint cookie and best of all, the chai cake. It’s the stuff of which dreams are made… and chai lattes. Essentially that’s exactly what it is, a chai latte in pie form. Think of a pumpkin pie and a chai latte having sex and there you have it. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but oh-so perfect for wrapping your lips around. Between that and the cookie this place clearly knows its sweets. Now they just need to get the rest of the menu up to snuff and I’d up this place a knife or two in a heartbeat.

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Khyber

145 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai 400001, India • (+91) 22 22673227 • http://www.khyberrestaurant.com
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From the outside, the size of this place is very deceiving, because before entering you would never guess that this modest corner facade practically extends for five city blocks in every direction. But as you follow the host upstairs through one dining room after another after another, each carved away on its own little plateau almost like the caves of Cappadocia in Turkey, you start to wonder if you’ve crossed into some sort of parallel dimension where the rules of geography no longer apply.

And while I liked the décor, the crazy plethora of tables had me a touch worried about quality control, because it’s very rare that restaurants with such massive dinning rooms are also amazing. But impressed I was, right from the get go, with the nan, raita and spicy pickled veggies that come to you gratis in a hammered copper dish.

The curry was also wonderful and full of flavor, the chicken acting like a tender sponge, soaking up every last drop of cumin. And the saag paneer was so much better than I had ever had it before, with the spinach and cheese each stepping forward for its moment in the spotlight, as opposed to blending into a sea of mush, which is so often the case.

Easily the best meal I had while in Mumbai. Granted we were looking for Trishna, which is apparently even better, but impossible to find. So after 30 minutes of chasing false directions given to us by everyone from cabbies to passersby to Google Maps, we finally settled for here, but if this is what settling tastes like, well, I can live with that.

4 teeth

 

The Ultimate Cauliflower

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Tamarind – New York, NY

It’s actually not on the menu, but if you ask them to make it, make it they shall. Along with your day. And I mean that in the Dirty Harry-est way possible. Apparently it’s more of a street food favorite in India, fried up in a ketchup-based sauce of all things. So damn yummy you’ll wish you were reincarnated as a cow so you could come back here and enjoy four portions of it as a time with all of your stomachs.

Ilili – New York, NY

If you’ve read my Ultimate Brussels Sprouts post, than this will seem a tad redundant. It’s the identical dish, just seasonally modified when sprouts are out of season. It’s every bit as crazy delicious though. Made the exact same way, sauteed in a dream-inducing mixture of fig jam, mint yogurt, chopped walnuts, sherry vinegar and grapes. It’s the best thing to happen to the albino broccoli since cheese.

Bombay Sandwich Co.

48 W 27th St. New York, NY 10001(646) 781-9756bombaysandwichco.com

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The globalization of food has to be the greatest thing to happen since the industrial revolution. It has changed everything from accessibility to diversity to the creation of hybrid cuisines, which brings me to the Indian sandwich. Indigenous to nowhere, but awesome nonetheless. Case in point, Bombay Sandwich Company.

The Chana Masala (pictured) borrows from its namesake, the traditional New Delhi dish, and puts that glory to work between two slices of ciabatta that could even make MIA go OMG.

Another sandwich reincarnation is the grilled cheese with honey and fennel. It’s so inventive, yet simple, and different from anything else out there. Plus, it packs a nice amount of heat to keep your longings for vindaloo at bay.

Another great sammy of the spice is the Veggie Mash Up. A vegan among vegetarian options that holds its own by combining beets, cabbage, carrots and a few other things into a, you guessed it, mash.

Even their quinoa salad was fantastic. And once again with twist on the norm using chutney of all things. It played such a nice contrast to the lemony dressing, the earthy grain and the leafy kale. So simple, but I’ve never seen it done before and never would’ve even thought to do it. But now I’m about to go all Hindu on my lettuce from here on out.

Though gush as I may, Bombay is not infallible. Skip the sweet potato and kale wrap. It’s just so-so. And the Organic Tofu Masala sandwich was the worst of the lot. However, with the hit ratio above, I’d say just about any sandwich shop in the city would envy that performance.

4 teeth

Little Kebab Station

31 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-7000http://littlekababstation.com

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This place is like the Indian, Westchester version of Zabar’s. It started out as this tiny little four table restaurant and has since expanded into a spice market and now a creperie. But this review is primarily only for the Indian restaurant, which in my opinion serves up the best Indian in Westchester.

The decor, while expanded, still feels small and intimate, the prices are very reasonable and the service is so nice you’ll think they are smoking the saffron. But most importantly back to the food. It is so good, I can only think of one place in NYC that I think is significantly better- Tamarind, which is my favorite Indian in the entire country, if not the world. So, that’s pretty high praise. I’ve even been to India, and this rivals many of the meals I had in Mumbai.

From the various times I’ve been there we’ve ordered all of the usual suspects: Chicken Tikka Masala (ask for spicy), Veggie Paneer, Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Korma, Saag Paneer, the chickpea dish (forget it’s name) garlic nan, raita and chutney.

Everything is always so fresh you can taste the individual spices popping out of the dish. Unlike at so many other places where it all gets overwhelmed by the curry so much so that you can’t even tell apart the chicken dishes from the lamb.

So happy we have a place like this around the corner.

4 teeth

Graffiti

224 E 10th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 677-0695 • graffitinyc.com

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Apart from the inflated rating, I like Graffiti. More “Modern Indian Tapas” than “New American Cuisine” though. It’s tiny inside and spilling over with eclectic keepsakes crammed onto just about every square inch of wall space, which some might find quaint and others claustrophobic. Basically what you’d expect from the East Village.

The staff is friendly, even though they kicked us out for lingering after dinner. Not cool, but with such a tiny dining room and communal tables, I guess it’s to be expected.

As for the food and drink, I enjoyed the lychee martinis, but they were far from “amazing,” per other reviews. Granted, they did go well with the food and I ended up having two, so maybe they were amazing?

For dinner, we stuck to the Yelp consensus and ordered the mango paneer, which was good, the hummus pizza, which was just eh, the pork buns, which were also good, but beware of pits in the chutney, you could break a tooth- seriously.  And the far and away stand out of the night, which seems to get mixed reviews strangely enough, was the duck portobello. So nice we ordered it twice.

Dessert was the biggest disappointment though. The warm strawberries with almonds and pepper ice cream was SO underwhelming. I have no idea why people rave about it. It’s like they’ve never had strawberries with ice cream before? And as for the chocolate hazelnut dessert, it was equally blah.

So long story short, glad I went, but I doubt I’ll go back. Especially with such uncomfortable seating. If you have a bad back like I do, be warned!

3 teeth

Tamarind

41-43 E 22nd St. Ste 43 New York, NY 10010(212) 674-7400tamarind22.com

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Tamarind has more game than Vishnu has arms. In fact, Tamarind is easily my favorite Indian restaurant in the city, if not the world. And yes, I’ve been to India. Granted only Mumbai, and I’m sure I only just scratched the surface, but one can’t eat in every restaurant in the world now can they?

So, back to Tamarind’s sheer awesomeness on every level. First and foremost I’d like to give a shout out to the décor. Unlike so many other Indian eateries, Tamarind doesn’t feel the need to play into a “themed” atmosphere. It’s actually quite contemporary and quite beautiful.

And, like in most Indian restaurants the service is warm and friendly, as well as accommodating. I know it’s a stereotype, but at least it’s a good one.

But Tamarind isn’t all show. When it comes to the plate, they truly take Indian food to another level. Virtually everything I’ve ever had there is perfection. But here are a few of my favorites:

The Lobster Masala is excellent. A lighter option than the chicken version and so much more unusual for typical Indian menus.

Another fav is an off-menu ask. Get them to make you the special cauliflower. It’s fried using a ketchup based sauce and it is the best thing cauliflower has ever done in its life.

And last but not least, the garlic nan. Now, they used to not have this on the menu either, but they made it better than anyone else, including the places that actually do have it on their menus.

Beyond that, there are scores of other dishes that are great, from vindaloo to korma to saag paneer. And all of it you can ask to be spiced specifically to your liking. As I said, very accommodating.

So skip Little India and do yourself a solid by booking Tamarind.

5 teeth

Hampton Chutney Co.

68 Prince St. New York, NY 10012(212) 226-9996 • hamptonchutney.com

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Before I begin, a caveat: DO NOT ORDER DELIVERY!

Or, should you choose not to heed my advice, don’t make any plans. I ordered lunch from this place and it took two and a half hours!!!! Shit, I could practically harvest the grains and grow the vegetables in that time. Okay, mild exaggeration, but I swear you could make and bake the cookies and brownies in that duration. Nonetheless, the point being that two and a half hours for a glorified sandwich shop is absurd. Actually, I take that back. One and a half hours would’ve been absurd. This is just balls out FUBAR.

But how was the food you ask? Not bad actually. I had the “Seasonal” with added curry chicken and I have to say, I was impressed-. Even though it arrived on the soggy side (as an aside, the chutney’s are key. Order at least two or three. I liked the Pumpkin and Mango best)

Also, the orange ginger tea mixed with the lemonade- a makeshift Arnold Palmer, was also quite good. Granted the ice had all melted by the time it arrived (shocker), but it still held up.

And as for the cookies… I’d skip them all. Not one of them was worth it. The brownie was the best of the lot, but still nothing awesome.

So… What have we learned? If you wanna stop in, go for it. If you want delivery, might I suggest ordering in advance. Like a week or so.

2 teeth

Indikitch

25 W 23rd St. New York, NY 10010646) 590-7152 • indikitch.com

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From the decor to the menu it’s basically Chipotle for Indian food. So much so that Chipotle could probably sue for copyright infringement.

That said, because nobody knows Indian food as well as Mexican, EVERYTHING has to be explained to EVERYONE. So it literally takes forever to order- basically rendering the fast-service concept moot. This is SO bad in fact, that I literally left the first time I went because one person in front of me took over 10 minutes just to place her order. And she still wasn’t finished when I left! For all I knew, she could’ve still been there when I returned days later- but lucky for me, I went at an off time and went right to the front of the line. I highly recommend doing this if you still choose to go after reading the rest of my entry.

So, now for the food. It’s eh at best. The raves of this place are a shocking commentary on how woefully easy to please most people are when it comes to food. The nan was dry. The vindaloo FAR from spicy- and I even asked for the extra spicy version. Sorry, but vindaloo is supposed to be doubly spicy as is. So if you ask for extra spicy it should be like lava. This was like curry flavored water.

As for the sides, the rice was over cooked and the cucumber salad was bland.

The only thing that was worthy of note was the blood orange lemonade. Far superior to Num Pang’s.

But in terms of Indian, if you really want to taste something worthy of 5 stars, just head a few blocks Southeast to Tamarind. It’s my favorite Indian in the city and it makes this place look like exactly what it is… a gimmick.

2 teeth