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Jan 19, 2001 02:14 PM

New Indian: Banjara (and Surya?)

  • d

Supposedly there's a new spot called Banjara on First at 6th St., with an actual name to the chef -- Tuhin Dutta. It claims (this was on Gayot's website) to be serving upscale Indian food from the "frontier," meaning up north near Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Anyone been here? I might go in the next few days and will post my thoughts.

Also, anyone been to Surya? It looked decent and had NYC (vs. Indian) prices, but at least it doesn't have the popsicle starburst decor of Cafe Spice (which I refuse to go to). The menu looked unfussily Indian, if I remember correctly.

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  1. m
    Michele Cindy

    I went to Surya when they 1st opened and liked the food. The only thing was is I like my Indian on the spicy side and most dishes were mild. I had a good fish dish. Fish is something I shy away from at the typical 6th st. spot, but here I ordered it without trepidation.
    The place you wrote of on the corner of 6th and 1st,
    I haven't been to, but each time I pass it is EMPTY. It looks nice too, it's one of those "jinxed" corners. Perhaps someone will write a good review of the place to kick start it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Michele Cindy
      Robert Sietsema

      You got your wish--while I was eating there this evening, a photog from the Post trooped in to take a picture for a review next Wednesday.

      I thought the food was pretty good.

      1. re: Robert Sietsema

        What did you eat? I usually judge a place by its ability to make mattar saag (like saag panir but with peas to go with the spinach, instead of cheese).

        1. re: Robert Sietsema
          Michele Cindy

          Great news - I look forward to the article.

      2. My lone experience at Surya (when it first opened a few years ago and was SUPER-hot) was that it was overpriced and weak on service, although the food was very good for gringo Indian.

        1. y
          yvonne johnson

          Dinner at Banjara 97 First ave (at 6th st), 477-5956 last night. Thanks for the news Diane on its opening. This place beats Haveli, Muriya (I posted about it last week), and Cafe Spice (Lately I've found CS's mains watery, tho' I like the 2 accompanying vegs).

          Apps at banjara:
          *Banjara balngun*: Sliced eggplant with coconut and seafood stuffing with chile suace. This is spectacular. really new taste. Salty, spicy, and really fresh seafood. There's enough here to feed two. It's worth going just for this.
          Baby dosa (dhakshin se shuru), which is a misnomer, This is a big dosa. Tasty pots and onion inside. Comes with hot sambal (?) gravy, AND little lentil cakes. Again enough for 2 as an app. Rather than the ubiquitous shredded lettuce than comes with most apps at indian restuarants, there is a simple spring onion or radish garnish.

          Mains: Chick madras was excellent. The salan chick curry with garlic and ginger was very good. Rich and heavy. Delicious. Naan good too.

          Beers: more of a range of indian beers than usual, e.g., Thunderbolt, which i'd not tried before. And, in addition, 12 fl oz bottles are just $6.50. This seems a bargain.

          The place is spankingly newly decorated, and the decor is much lower key than is usual at indian places. Nice yellows and greens.

          I'm no expert so cannot say whether the cooking is authentic Rajasthani (north west). But the chef (Tuhin Dutta) seems to know what he is doing. He made a brief appearnace to ask how things were. With our mouths full-really good, we said!

          9 Replies
          1. re: yvonne johnson

            Thanks - sounds great. What's the price range?

            1. re: Lauren
              yvonne johnson

              starters range from $3.26 to $6.95
              most mains are $8 to $10
              there are only 3 mains that are $15.95 to $17.95 (which are prawn and shrimp based).

            2. re: yvonne johnson

              "..cannot say whether the cooking is authentic.."
              alas, i think the odds are very much against it. dosa (the lentil cakes were probably vadas) with sambhar is a south indian dish, as is chicken madras. the two don't belong on a north-west frontier menu - you'd probably get the same sense of unease if you went to a place advertising north italian cuisine, say, and saw hummus, baba ganouj and tabbouleh on the menu.

              i've appended a web-page that does a pretty good job in explaining the broad diffrences, but i must warn you that there are plenty of styles left out: no mention of sindhi, or east indian, for example.


              1. re: howler
                yvonne johnson

                What I'm after is a rich, thick, greasy (ghee?) base to a chicken or lamb dish when I go out to an Indian restaurant. I just love rich Indian food. This is hard to find in NYC, tho Banjara does it very well. I love onions and peppers cooked to a paste.So many NYC places only par-cook these vegs.

                Is "dumpakht" a traditional pot pie dish? i didn't try it but this is a special at Banjara.

                1. re: yvonne johnson

                  "Is "dumpakht" a traditional pot pie dish?"
                  it's a lucknowi way of cooking. you seal everything - (meat, spices) in a clay pot and then gently heat it. when done right, its superb. i've had the pleasure maybe a handful of times. the link below - its the same web-site i appended earlier - has a fascinating account of dum pukths genesis.

                  "What I'm after is a rich, thick, greasy (ghee?) base to a chicken or lamb dish when I go out to an Indian restaurant"

                  what you are after is moghlai/punjabi. and you are in luck because thats the standard offering of almost every indian/pakistani restaurant. my favourite dishes here are butter chicken (chicken makhni) and kaali dal, scarfed with crisp tandoori roti. platonic ideals of which are found at trucker stops (dhabhas)in north india.

                  but by and large mughlai/punjabi isn't what i crave, so i'm not up on where you'd get the best stuff in new york. happily, the search engine here will guide you - and, if you want to stay manhattan bound, check out the postings for pakistan tea house.


                  1. re: howler
                    yvonne johnson

                    thanks howler for the information and links. Very interesting background on dum pukth! Now I'm able to put more names to my favorite dishes. I also read the posts on Pakistan Tea House, and will definitely go. I'll report back.

                2. re: howler

                  dear mr howler it seems that you are a master of master chefs do you really know anything about indian cuisine or just trying to sound to other people how knowledgeable you are. Banjara'sconcept is not Frontier cuisine but complete sub-continental cuisine.

                  1. re: D

                    "s" or "D":

                    You seem to be a shill from the restaurant; your jibes will only result in damage to its reputation.

                    That said, I ate at Banjara 2 nights ago. The food was about on the same level as the food I ate at Haveli about 14 months ago, though the service was much better. Also, though the food was not low in fat, it did not keep me up at night with an upset stomach, which has been the case with every other restaurant on 6th St. The vegetable samosas were very good. So was a potato pancake we got which came with some chick peas and such (I forget the name of the dish). The chicken vindaloo was very tasty and sufficiently spiced for me. The lamb pasaran (sp?) was acceptable though unexciting to me and arguably overly fatty. I got an okra dish that wasn't what I expected - it was dipped in an uninteresting batter and fried like pakoras - but it was about as good as it could be, under the circumstances, i.e. perfectly cooked such that the okra was no longer raw but still crunchy and moist. In terms of the condiments, I liked the cilantro/hot pepper sauce very much and used it liberally to spice and add taste to the okra; the onion slice pickles with hot pepper were OK but too salty for my taste, and I didn't much like the tamarind sauce, which was too sweet by far for my taste (tamarind is acidic, so what's the point of a sweet tamarind sauce?). I found the dal more or less passable, though again a bit salty.

                    Overall, I would certainly countenance going back to Banjara if a friend of mine wanted Indian with meat in the East Village, but I still think that Madras Cafe is a much more consistently good restaurant, though different (South Indian vegetarian vs. North Indian).

                    1. re: D


                      We don't tend to pay much credence to posters who are too perfunctory to even name themselves. Even if you had a compelling point to make, your self-imposed anonymity (and harsh sarcastic tone) would have devalued it.

                      Also, please be aware that we require that restaurateurs, and those connected to restaurateurs (via business, friendship, or family connections) to disclose their connections when posting. Those who fail to disclose risk having the restaurant forever banned from discussion here (because we won't be able to trust opinions expressed). Which would be a pity, since apparently Banjara is pretty good.