Malai marke butter murgh at Dhaba. Photo: Facebook
We feature fine dining, casual and fast food restaurants across Manhattan. From idli-dosa to pav bhaji to kadhaibhindi to the stylised beet papdi, we've got you covered.
Picture yourself walking down 28th & Lexington Avenue with the aroma of Indian food tempting you to perhaps stop by for a quick idli-sambar. When every second restaurant in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighbourhood (affectionately known as Curry Hill) offers South Indian food, it can be a challenge to decide which one to go to. I’ve tried most, and can safely say that the world-renowned restaurant chain, Saravana Bhavan is your best bet for that perfectly-crisp dosa.
Saravana Bhavan offers every dosa you can think of from paper to cheese masala to onion chilli rava dosa (ranging from $11-$14), paired with three kinds of chutney. The vast vegetarian-only menu features idli, vada, uthapams, a popular South Indian thali ($20) and everyone’s favourite filter kapi as well.
While the restaurant tends to be packed at lunchtime on weekends, the quick service that follows makes it worth the 10-15 minute wait. They have an outlet uptown in the Upper West Side as well as in Queens.
Dhaba, as the name suggests, is the place to go for Punjabi food in a lively atmosphere. This place is as popular with Indians as it is with everyone else; it’s one place that I’ve taken along everyone from family to co-workers to American friends.
Lunch is usually a buffet ($12++ during the week, $14++ on Sundays) with a number of their dishes in every category. However, my vote goes to dinner. The menu has something for everyone – appetisers, tandoori and chaat dishes; vegetarian dishes like malai kofta and sarson da saag; chicken and seafood items like Malai marke butter murgh and Patiala fish curry. They have a number of vegan dishes like Chhole Punjabi and Kadhai bhindi too.
The food is what I would call a balanced rich – hearty, like Punjabi food should be, but not over-the-top laden with cream and butter. The black lentil Maa ki dal is exactly that.
Dhaba stands out with its consistently good and comforting North Indian fare. A generous meal for two would cost you $50-60++. Beer, wine and cocktails are also served.
Mutton Kheema Pav at Masala Times. Photo: Facebook
This Bollywood-themed place is the place to be on Saturday night at 4 am when the bars and clubs close. But, don’t let that make you think any less of the food. Tandoori rolls are synonymous with Indian food in New York with dozens of roll places dotting the NYU area in Greenwich Village. Sure, from the outside this might look like just one (more) place you can get a good paneer or chicken tikka roll or a the typical Indian restaurant ‘lunch box’ with dal and naan. The real stars on the menu are the Pav bhaji ($10), Mutton kheema pav ($15) and biryani ($13-15).
Masala Times is affordable, quick and almost always open when you need to grab a bite (till 3 or 4 am during the week depending on the day and 5 am on the weekends).
Tamarind serves regional Indian favourites. Photo: Tamarind
Tamarind is a long-time feature in the fine dining Indian category in New York. The restaurant’s vibe reflects its location in TriBeCa – it is set in an art deco building with high ceilings, a chic bar, banquette seating and natural light flowing through.
The menu offers richer renditions of Indian dishes by enhancing the flavours with Indian spices and international ingredients alike. One of my favourite dishes is the Nargisi kofta (made with lotus root and paneer in a saffron-onion sauce), is testament to that. The cuisine at Tamarind spans India regionally with Goan seafood curry, Punjabi mutton, Murgh Kolhapuri and more. The breads stand out, specifically the Pudina paratha, Rosemary naan and Wild mushroom with truffle naan.
A meal for two with two appetisers, two entrees and breads would cost $80-90++.
You might have already heard of Junoon and Chef Vikas Khanna – his Michelin-starred restaurant should be on your list if you enjoy the experience of food with beautiful plating and innovation. If you are looking for your classic and comforting Paneer tikka masala et al, the other places on this list would probably work better.
One can’t help but compare Junoon to Tamarind. The ambience at the two is poles apart (Junoon’s plush amber décor is shadowed even in the day), but you can draw lines between the menus. Once again, the exotic tasting menu at Junoon blends traditional Indian with seasonal local specialties with dishes like mushroom curry (with hen of the woods and king trumpet), Beet papdi and Piri-piri shrimp.
Of course, it comes at a price. The restaurant mainly offers prix-fixe menus with options to add on sides such as dal, biryani and breads: from $25++ for lunch and $58++ for dinner. While the dish options available at lunch are select, the set menu gives you the option to experience Junoon if you’re on a budget. Go for the modern epicurean take on Indian cuisine here.
P.S. The best piece of advice I can give someone who is visiting New York? Use websites like OpenTable.com and Resy.com to make reservations in advance and guarantee yourself a spot at the places on your “must-do” list.
The prices in this article are current as per the restaurant’s website at the time of publishing.
The author recently moved back to India after studying at the University of Michigan following a job as an investment bank in New York. She shares recipes and travel tips on her blog The India Edition.