Tag Archives: Indian

For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…

Time Out sort of does an injustice to some of these restaurants. Every year, the names change but oftentimes the types of dishes stay the same. As we were walking to Tulsi in Midtown East for our latest list item, we said “Let’s see how this year’s fancy Indian goat dish stacks up.” See, last year Time Out brought us to Tamariand Tribeca, a higher end Indian restaurant, to try their Mutton Punjabi. This year, it’s Tulsi for the Dum Biryani with Goat Meat. So it’s impossible for me not to compare the two.

Aside from the obvious comparisons, Tulsi (which translates to “Holy Basil”) is related to Tamarind because the executive chef Hemant Mathur first worked at Tamarind before helming Devi and now Tulsi. His food has gotten raves in all the critic circles when Tulsi opened last year, although they were critical about the service and ambiance.

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I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

20. PICADITAS DE JAIBA at HECHO EN DUMBO

Hecho en Dumbo has nothing to do with a lovable little elephant, but in fact refers to the neighborhood where this Mexican gastropub was first created. They’ve since moved to the East Village, but their philosophy of refined, seasonal Mexican food in a drink-happy setting remains. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had a pretty memorable meal.

We started with these picaditas de jaiba, which are little corncakes of flavor. On top of the firm buttery patties, sits a delicious salad of fresh jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat tossed with a gently biting jalapeño oil and topped with ripe avocados. A squeeze of lime brings out the brightness and lightness. These small bites are too easy to gobble up regardless of the neighborhood. Price: $8

HECHO EN DUMBO
354 Bowery (between 3rd Street and Great Jones Street)
East Village
(212) 937-4245
hechoendumbo.com

19. PASTRAMI RUSS at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

You know I’m a big fan of the pastrami sandwich. I’ve spent months searching for the best version of the deli staple. That meaty, smoky goodness is a heart attack that’s more than worth it. But wait a minute, a pastrami sandwich minus the meat? Why would anybody do that?

If you’ve ever been to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, you’ll understand. This is a classy old-time shop that specializes not in smoked meat, but rather smoked fish. If you want the hard stuff, you’ll have to go next door to Katz’s. But they make a pastrami sandwich here that rivals the classic version. You get to pick your bagel of choice for the Pastrami Russ, but trust me when I say you need to order it on pumpernickel. Not only will you get the approval of all the guys behind the counter, but these are the flavor combinations that make the most sense. With a generous schmear of mustard, crisp sauerkraut, and the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever taste, you won’t miss the actual meat for a minute. And you may live a little longer. Price: $10.45

RUSS & DAUGHTERS
179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
(212) 475-4880
russanddaughters.com

18. CHIMBORI JALWA at TAMARIND TRIBECA

Crab cakes tend to be the same everywhere you go. Aside from the bread crumb to crab meat ratio, most versions are pan fried, served with citrus and an aioli of sorts. The chimbori jalwa appetizer at fancy Indian restaurant Tamarind Tribeca was unlike any crab cake experience I’ve had before.

The colorful tower of meat was loaded with plenty of sweet lump crab meat and tinged with some Indian spices, ginger, and garlic. It had a restrained hint of curry with lots of balanced sweet (tamarind) and spicy (chile) flavors. Served on a bright spiced tomato sauce with scattered scallions and corn kernels, it was complex and delicious. And made for my new favorite crab cake in the city (just beating out Del Frisco’s baked version from last year’s list). Price: $15

TAMARIND TRIBECA
99 Hudson Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street)
Tribeca
(212) 775-9000
tamarinde22.com

17. PIKE QUENELLES at MILLESIME

Millesime really is a little gem: a hidden, French brasserie that can work as a relaxing cafe or a fine dining seafood restaurant. It’s located above the bar in the Carlton Hotel and it will transport you to Paris. And not just because of the ambiance, but because of the expertly prepared seafood and classic dishes. Take the pike quenelles, which are made in the style of Jean-Louis Dumonet. I don’t know much about this old French chef, but I do know he made some amazing quenelles.

You don’t see quenelles too often in New York, especially not like these. The delicate little dumplings are absolutely delectable, so soft and tender in a rich tomato lobster butter sauce that begged to be sopped up. Reminiscent of an airy seafood sausage, they fell apart like a buttery soft matzo ball of the sea. Très bien! Price: $14

MILLESIME
92 Madison Avenue (between 28th and 29th Street)
Inside the Carlton Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 889-7100
millesimerestaurant.com

16. TOSTA MATRIMONIO at TERTULIA

The new Spanish tapas hotspot Tertulia is more than just a bar for celebrity watching. It’s one of the best restaurants of the year. Truly any of the dishes I tried could have made my Top 100. The fried eggplant was spectacular, as was the sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham, and I haven’t even mentioned the tender as sin ribeye. But the one dish that blew everything out of the water were the little anchovies that inconspicously lay on heavenly toast points.

They’re referred to as both “tosta matrimonio” and “black and white anchovies.” The two meaty fish (the black are cured and the white are pickled) are simply halved and arranged on a toast-bed of sweet roasted tomatoes, creamy tangy sheep’s milk cheese, and a generous drizzle of aged balasamic. The dish is a perfect example of balance and brightness with the sweet cheese and tomato pairing perfectly with the salty, acidic anchovies. And amazingly, the delicate dish don’t even taste fishy. Maybe that’s why so many celebrities come here. Price: $9

TERTULIA
359 Sixth Avenue (between Washington Place and West 4th Street)
Greenwich Village,
(646) 559-9909
tertulianyc.com

I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

NUMBER 40: PAPDI CHAAT at BHOJAN

Chaat is sort of the ultimate street food in India, but yet you really have to go to a restaurant or a fast food takeout joint to get a sample of this addicting snack. It’s quite surprising that I have yet to discover a food cart selling this specialty. The best version I’ve had was this past year at vegetarian (and kosher) Indian restaurant Bhojan.

The papdi chaat is a fantastic combination of fried dough bits (think those crunchy wonton freebies at American-Chinese restaurants) topped with curried potatoes, crisp bean sprouts, a sweet chutney, a spicy chutney, and plenty of cooling yogurt sauce. It’s a wonder of textures and flavors beautifully refined to sit-down restaurant fare. Price: $6

BHOJAN
102 Lexington Avenue (between 27th and 28th Street)
Flatiron District
(212) 213-9615
bhojanny.com

NUMBER 39: MAIZ TOASTADO at BARZOLA

Barzola is quite famous in the Ecuadorian community. People travel from as far away as Pennsylvania just to get a meal here, but many locals don’t even know about its two locations in Queens and Brooklyn. I can’t even find a single NY food blog entry about the food here. Well, let me be the first then.

 At their well-hidden location on a residential Williamsburg street, we had some really good ceviche and tamales. But the dish I ordered seconds of were the very simple and crunchy maiz tostada, also known as cancha. It’s the perfect bar snack: a bowl of toasted puffed corn kernels that have been tossed generously with oil and sea salt. They’re hot, starchy, and helplessly addicting. I couldn’t stop eating them. Maybe it’s a good thing nobody knows about Barzola because they’d have none of these left. Price: $2

BARZOLA
197 Meserole Street (between Bushwick Avenue and Humboldt Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(718) 381-4343
barzolanewyork.com

NUMBER 38: SAAG PANEER at JACKSON DINER

Spinach and cheese dip is a pretty American dish, but Indian cuisine has a far superior version of melding the green vegetable and cow product. Saag paneer literally translates to spinach cheese and the best version I’ve had yet was at Jackson Diner, an old standby Indian restaurant in the heart of Jackson Heights.

Some people claim that Jackson Diner has gone downhill over the years. This was my first visit and I was very happy with my meal, especially the creamy and earthy saag paneer. Cubes of silky and smooth paneer cheese float in a rich creamy spinach sauce. The result is a not too spicy dish with lots of textures and enjoyable subtle flavors. Soak it up with some tender basmatic rice or nan bread. Much more refined and delicate than a bowl of that nasty goo most American restaurants call spinach dip. Price: $9.95

JACKSON DINER
3747 74th Street (between 37th Avenue and 37th Road)
Jackson Heights, Queens
(718) 672-1232
72 University Place (between 10th and 11th Street)
Greenwich Village
(212) 466-0820

NUMBER 37: HIRATA BUNS at IPPUDO NY

Last year, Momofuku’s famous pork buns made my Top 100. I fell in love with those years ago and it’s a must order whenever I visit one of their hip East Village locations. However, the pork bun phenomenon doesn’t end there. Many people who hear about my love for Momofuku’s version will tell me that Ippudo’s buns are even better. And this year, I finally gave them a try.

Ippudo is known for both it’s serious ramen noodle soups and it’s ridiculous long wait for a table. I had been here before and liked their overpriced ramen dishes, but I had never tried the pork buns. Late one weekday lunch, I found myself back at Ippudo and I knew these had to be part of my order. I don’t know if they’re better than Momofuku’s but they’re different and still decadently delicious. These are slightly less refined, but just as sweet, spicy, and fatty. The steamed white bread bun soaks up all the sauce and meaty juices to ensure you get the full experience. Crisp iceberg lettuce and smoky mayo round out the experience. Price: $9

IPPUDO NY
65 4th Avenue (between 9th and 10th Street)
East Village
(212) 3888-0088

NUMBER 36: MUSLIM LAMB CHOPS at FU RUN

Fu Run is an inconspicuous Chinese restaurant serving food from the Dongbei region. The food here has lots of worldly influences, but lamb seems to be the favorite meat of the cuisine. Their most famous dish is the massive Muslim lamb chops, which is actually the lamb breast. But you’d never be able to tell what kind of meat is under all those cumin seeds. It’s a dramatic (and slightly scary) presentation and that alone could put this in my Top 100 list. 

Yet the flavors here are rich, bold, and surprisingly new. I’ve had cumin lamb at other Chinese restaurants and it verges on being overpowering and inedible. Not this one. It was dangerously edible. The fatty, fall-apart tender lamb meat gives the toasted cumin seeds a run for their money in the flavor department. And the unusual sensation of the crunchy cumin seeds is an exciting mouth experience. This is a unique hearty dish that I’ve been craving ever since. Price: $21.95

FU RUN
40-09 Prince Street (at Roosevelt Avenue)
Flushing, Queens
(718) 321-1363

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

You rarely see the word mutton on menus in this country. It makes me think of Christmas dinner in the time of Charles Dickens. Even though Scrooge bought a prized turkey for Tiny Tim in the classic tale, I imagine they would have been just as happy with some mutton.

Mutton refers to the meat of older, more mature sheep. We eat plenty of lamb in this country, but it’s usually a younger animal. Mutton is rarely eaten in Great Britain anymore either, but can still be found in ethnic cuisines around the world. So it makes sense that my first taste of mutton came from an Indian restaurant. But not just any Indian restaurant. I’ve never seen the meat on the menu at any of those Indian joints on 6th Street or along Lexington Avenue. Plenty of lamb, sure, but mutton?

Tamarind Tribeca is the more recent incarnation of a fine dining Indian restaurant (called Tamarind) that many New Yorkers consider the best Indian in the city. The large restaurant is in a modern, classy room that fits the Tribeca neighborhood. I even felt a little out of place in shorts, but the staff (aside from the cold maitre’d) was welcoming and nonjudgmental. We made it in before the dinner rush and got to sit at a nice banquette in one nook of the place.

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Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

Gujarat is a region in India that is home to a surprising Jewish community. So that might explain why the new vegetarian restaurant Bhojan serves not just authentic Gujarati (and Punjabi) cuisines, but also ensures that it’s all kosher. Also because kosher New Yorkers are entitled to some delicious Indian food as well.

And the food here is quite delicious regardless of if you’re vegetarian or kosher (I’m neither). We came by for lunch on a Friday because Time Out says the list item is only available at lunch during the week.

Now I’m not sure if that’s exactly true. TONY lists the dish as Gujarati Thali, which is only listed on the dinner menu. They do offer a lunch thali special (that doesn’t specifically mention it being Gujarati) that matches the price of TONY’s list ($8) and is only available Monday-Friday at lunch. So I can only assume this is what we had to get. Do you see how much neuroses and meticulousness goes into this job?

The thali is basically a combination platter of different dishes – a smorgasboard, if you will. It was quite colorful with reds, yellows, whites, and greens. Along with the vegetable dishes, a small helping of chapati bread (similar to nan or paratha) and basmati rice were included to sop up all the flavors.

I guess the sampling changes daily, but we were blessed with a dish of green peas stewed in a creamy tomato sauce and featuring cubes of paneer cheese, an aromatic and rich okra dish, spiced curried potatoes with peppers and onions,  and a smoky spicy eggplant dish. But it doesn’t stop there. We were also given stewed lentils (daal), a portion of earthy chickpeas, a tangy yogurt sauce, a few chutneys, and an extra side of some floral yellow coconut cake, presumably for dessert.

The menu says these thalis are for one person and I would imagine that’s to protect the financial situation of the staff. But they are certainly big enough for two. We had so much food and it was all absolutely fresh and full of flavor. This might be the most bang for your buck in all of Manhattan, let alone in this Indian heavy neighborhood of Curry Hill.

We probably didn’t need to with the amount of food we had, but we also ordered two appetizers. Papdi Chaat was a wonderfully balanced concoction of crunchy dough (think those crunchy wontons at American-Chinese restaurants), curried potatoes, crisp bean sprouts, a sweet chutney, a spicy chutney, and plenty of cooling yogurt sauce. It’s a traditional Indian street snack that has been refined to sit-down restaurant fare. Fantastic.

The other was recommended by our waiter and I believe it’s called Gobi Karare. It was a cauliflower dish that resembled something you’d get at Chinese take-out. I like to call it General Tso’s Cauliflower. The florets were lightly fried until crunchy and mixed with a bright red sweet and spicy sauce. I’m not generally a fan of General Tso’s or cauliflower, but together prepared with the precision of Bhojan, this dish worked.

I highly recommend Bhojan for its healthy, flavorful, affordable Indian food. Whether you’re a vegetarian, you keep kosher, visiting from Gujarat, or just strolling down the street looking for a good meal, Bhojan is the place.

Would Bhojan’s Gujarati Thali make my Top 100 of the year? It gets a 9 out of 10 for the sheer bargain alone. But the fact that the food is both plentiful and outstanding makes the price point almost irrelevant.

BHOJAN
102 Lexington Avenue (between 27th and 28th Street)
Flatiron District
(212) 213-9615
bhojanny.com

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

New York is amazing for many reasons, but in the food world there’s nowhere else you can get just about every cuisine at almost any time of day. I love that some days I have Mexican for breakfast, Chinese dumplings for lunch, French food for dinner, and Indian for dessert. There are two things strange with that sentence. The first is I’m not usually up early enough for breakfast (especially to travel to a Mexican restaurant).

The other is that Indian is not the first cuisine you think of for dessert. Most people think Indian food and they think spicy curries and grilled meat on the tandoor. But there are quite a few Indian restaurants (or bakeries) that specialize in authentic Indian desserts. Al Naimat in Jackson Heights is one such spot.

After a nice dinner at the famous Jackson Diner (which truly feels like an Indian diner with old bored waiters and everything), we headed down the street to sample the sweets at Al Naimat. The desserts all looked so unique and delicious that we literally had to do some sampling. And the guy behind the counter offered us a taste of anything we wanted. I told him to slow down because if he kept giving us free samples, we’d have never bought anything.

I’m not sure of the name of all the sweets we tasted, but they were all unusual and mostly delicious. I loved the jalebi, which was an orange pretzel-shaped dough, fried, and covered in syrupy sugar. The chocolate marzipan-like bar was soft and crumbly and didn’t taste like any chocolate I’d ever had. We also had a light and sweet cashew cookie called kaju katli. And my favorite was a clear, slimy but firm white pumpkin stick. It’s a tough one to explain (and I can’t find the name of it anywhere on the internet) but the textures were surprising and pleasing, while the flavor was rich, slightly sweet, and reminded me of a sweet water chestnut. Strange, huh?

But the most famous Indian dessert is Gulab Jamun. I like to say it with a Jamaican accent, which may be offensive somehow (Gulab Jamun, mon!) These are the desserts I’ve gotten with my Indian take-out in the past. And the dish that was on Time Out’s list. We got two and took them to go.

For those that don’t know, gulab jamun are little balls made from milk solids, deep fried, and then covered with sugar water, rosewater, cardamom, and other fragrant spices. Basically they’re Indian doughnuts. But they have a milkier, softer feel closer to baklava. They should sort of melt in your mouth, but still have a firm doughy texture.

These were not as sweet as others I’ve tasted and I probably would have loved the novelty of them if it was my first experience with gulab jamun. The aromatic, floral notes were rather subtle. The textures were firm, fresh but a little grainy – closer to cornbread.

I preferred many of the Indian desserts I’d never experienced from Al Naimat. I felt like a kid in a candy store who was forced to eat the same candy once again. It was a fine take on gulab jamun, but I’ve had ones just as good from my local Indian restaurant. Which shouldn’t surprise anybody since I do live in New York, where you can get anything anywhere.

Would Al Naimat Restaurant & Sweets’ Gulab Jamun make my Top 100 of the year? If I had never tasted this delight before, maybe. They get a 7 out of 10 for being delicious and fresh, but I’d much prefer some of those unknown and foreign sweets.

AL NAIMAT RESTAURANT & SWEETS
3703 74th Street (between 37th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue)
Jackson Heights, Queens
(718) 476-1100

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