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Interesting Indian south of 23rd?

(My first chowhound post!)
A visiting Indian friend wants to eat Indian with a difference. Tabla-ish but less staid. Any suggestions? The poor guy lives in Pittsburgh where haute cuisine is a giant sandwich.

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  1. The Bread Bar is not too staid but if you want to completely go in a different direction, may I recommend Chennai Garden on 26th st. Though buffet and vegetarian kosher, it is quite delicious, cheap and authentic south-Indian cuisine. You could also try the place above Kalustyan's. The chef used to work at Tabla and takes alot of his influence from Chef Cardoz.
    Best of luck and stay away from Devi.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wazup1999

      Chennai Garden isn't really "Indian with a difference" although it is quite tasty.

    2. Thanks! I don't like Devi either. What about Tamarind? I've heard good things about it. (Vegetarian is out. The guy is from Pittsburgh and he'll kill me if I take him to Chennai Garden!)

      4 Replies
      1. re: gumnaam

        What's wrong with Devi? I have a Sat reservation...would like to know if I'm wasting my time. Is it just about the price, or is the food awful in some way?

        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          I love Devi! I've been there several times and have always had a great experience in terms of service and food quality (and delicious-ness).

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Devi is more expensive than other Indian restaurants, outside of some of the old midtown stalwarts, but there is no point pretenting it's not considerably better than Banjara or Brick Lane or most of the places mentioned on this thread.
            I haven't been to Surya, but it sounds like it's a lot better than Surya too.

            1. re: Wilfrid

              I just think that on the cost for quality front, Devi is just not worth it. The food is a bit on the rich side, somewhat like the Mughlai restaurants in Delhi. Lots of butter. (Compared to the restaurants I've eaten at in Bombay; where the same dishes are more subtle and not just laden with cream and butter.)

        2. Banjara is good...they have a lot of Goan specialties.

          1. Brick Lane Curry House is fantastic. Spicy goan, sweet and velvety korma and a delicious potato dish cooked "bombay" style.

            1. I love Tamarind. I think it doesn't get enough credit at all.

              1. I ended up going to Surya. Haven't been there for a few years, the evening was nice, and thought we could sit outside in the garden. Unfortunately, time has not dealt well with Surya. the food was bland (except for the goat rogan josh which was excellent). The service was dull.
                We ordered
                Alu tikki - too dense.
                Sheekh kebab - that was good.
                Prawn balchow - bland. Considering it is supposed to be spicy, a major disappointment.
                Fish chettinad - bland and tasteless. The fish tasted as if it had been steamed and then added into the sauce.
                Goat roganjosh - Excellent. Well cooked and delicious.
                Keema Naan - Excellent as well.

                1. Surya's a none-too-bad choice. I am really interested in this question though as the 6th street curry places don't cut it for me anymore and Devi is too expensive for anything less than special occasions, ditto Tamarind. How about does anyone have some good, CHEAP (or cheapish) Indian around the Union Square Area?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Nick F.

                    Cafe Spice on University and 11th is good and not expensive. Casual Indian as opposed to the dingy 6th street restaurants (disclosure: I last visited a 6th street indian restaurant probably 12 to 14 years ago!).

                    1. re: gumnaam

                      I'm a Cafe Spice fan, though it seems to get a mixed reception on Chowhound. Early on I learned that a platter served with a side vegetable, rice & naan is so substantial that I don't order appetizers, and that makes it actually quite reasonably priced. Their tandoor lamb chops are amazing.

                      I avoid 6th Street like the plague it is.


                      1. re: gumnaam

                        I went to this place a few weeks ago and wasn't impressed. The spicing was uneven (not spiciness, but the way they mix of spices) and I would not consider it cheap. Plus they charged me $3.50 for a stupid little tea. The serving size is ok, I ordered a platter and it was just enough, but not generous amount.

                        1. re: zorgclyde

                          Cafe Spice is not very authentic. It's sort of like going to Epcot Center.

                          1. re: tamasha

                            Do you really think so? In some ways Cafe Spice is truly Indian in the sense that you get a "thali" style meal. A main course with an appetizer, daal, bread and rice in the same dish. I quite like Cafe Spice.

                    2. saravanaas on Lex at 26th is very good -south indian vegetarian.

                      I am still fond of Shipa kasturi pavillion, a bangladeshi cabbie hole in the wall at 83 Lex (I think between 25-27) which offers a big plate of fish or meat curry veg/dal and rice for around $6. This place was mentioned in Jim Leff's first book, definitely not destination dining.

                      1. I know this isn't south of 23rd, but Yatra on 31st and Broadway has some of the most underrated Indian in the city I feel. The lunch buffet is delicious and only $8.95 (recent $1 price hike). Best days to go are on Thursdays and Fridays. Fresh naan, good service, and very good palak paneer awaits the many who visit frequently.

                        1. As for 6th street fare:

                          I used to be a Banjara fan but recently switched to Brick Lane. Love it and great prices.

                          1. Haute Indian for an Indian... Tamarind beats Devi by a couple of innings. The vegetarian dishes are hit-or-miss (they served the bhindi practically raw once), but the specials are often excellent, as are some of the more interesting menu items (the malai sea halibut is excellent, as is the sooley appetizer).

                            Although I think Bread Bar at Tabla doesn't get the credit it deserves - the food is very good, and a far cry from the nonsense served upstairs. It's hard to find Goan flavors done somewhat right in the city, and the fusion aspects of the menu actually work.