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Life-changing Indian food

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iraform Apr 14, 2007 01:42 PM

Is there an Indian equivalent to Sripaphai – a restaurant that makes you realize you have been put on this earth just to eat its food? I just got back from lunch at Indian Taj in Jackson Heights, and it was good but not much – if any – better than my favorite Indian restaurant in Manhattan, Salaam Bombay. I realize it's probably unfair to judge a restaurant by its buffet, but I found nothing that would make me go out of my way to eat. Is there somewhere that has palak paneer, chicken makhani, curried goat, dosa and the like that would make my eyes cross and prompt me to buy an unlimited Metro Card? I've also posted this on the Manhattan board.

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  1. Brian S Apr 14, 2007 01:48 PM

    There could be, there should be. I once compared Spicy Mina's to Sripraphai. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247671 People have had wildly inconsistent experiences there. There once was a restaurant named Tabaq that gave me an epiphany like that. But it closed. It seems that every transcendent Indian restaurant (Grameen, Tabaq, Student Biryani) in JH is doomed.

    34 Replies
    1. re: Brian S
      i
      iraform Apr 14, 2007 05:23 PM

      Thanks, Brian. I should have thought about Spicy Mina's. God knows I've heard enough about her and her restaurants. That kulfi dessert must have frozen my brain.

      1. re: iraform
        JH Jill Apr 14, 2007 05:58 PM

        Spicy Mina's should be the closest. I really love the chicken tikka with naan from Kabab King, but it's the only thing there that i go crazy for. There is some amazing spicy roasted or bbq fish at Kababish, but again, not eveything is that good. All of the buffets around here are pretty good, but not great. And there is no eye-popping place that I've yet tried in Indian Jackson Heights. I've had some nice Indian in Manhattan also, but nothing to write home about either. You almost have to go to London for that (or India).

        1. re: JH Jill
          Brian S Apr 14, 2007 06:09 PM

          And you might have less luck than you think there. Yes, there is eye-popping Indian food being cooked in the NYC area, as it is in India -- and served behind closed doors in private homes.

          That said, I should check the Tristate board for info on Edison or Iselin in NJ

          1. re: Brian S
            junglekitte Apr 15, 2007 09:36 AM

            i forgot to post my review of spicy mina.... it was GOOD, don't get me wrong. but i wouldn't compare it to being the sripraprai of indian/bangladeshi/paki food. i have a hard time believing it would be the BEST in all of nyc. curious what others would think....

            1. re: junglekitte
              EJC Apr 15, 2007 10:10 AM

              Mina's whole mustard fish is pretty trancendental.

              1. re: junglekitte
                Brian S Apr 15, 2007 10:13 AM

                the reason it's the best is because there is none better

                1. re: Brian S
                  junglekitte Apr 15, 2007 10:26 AM

                  none better in nyc anyway... ;)

                2. re: junglekitte
                  JH Jill Apr 15, 2007 11:05 AM

                  I have had very good food there, as well as fairly good food. I used to go to the old place, which was farther from me, but have not been inspired to go to the new place. I'm not sure why. I can't say I've had the mustard fish, though. A lot of people do consider it worth a long trip so it may be the best NYC has to offer.

                  1. re: junglekitte
                    c
                    Cara1 Apr 16, 2007 04:29 PM

                    As one of Mina's original Sunnyside devotees, I was very disappointed by Spicy Mina's new incarnation in Woodside. But after reading all the good posts I figured I'd give her one more chance, which I did this past weekend. Never again. The spinach paneer, my favorite dish in Sunnyside, was tasteless, salty, dry and stringy, despite my request to the waiter to make it "spicy." Not disgusting, just seriously dull. My favorite Indian restaurant in the NYC area is Chola, a higher-end place on E. 58th St. that's still a bargain given the portion size, service and impeccable quality of the food.

                    1. re: Cara1
                      JH Jill Apr 16, 2007 09:12 PM

                      I also went this weekend, in the pourin rain on Sunday around 4:00, only to find that they'd been mobbed for lunch and had hardly anything left. I was happy for her. Mina is so nice. She asked me if I remembered her, since I hadn't been there since Sunnyside. It should have been the other way around. I asked what she wanted to make me - which was the right approach, it turns out, since they had very little left. I had Lamb Bhona and Aam Dal, which were both good but not exceptional. She gave me a couple of wonderful samosas to start off. The prices have certainly gone up.

                      I'm ambivalent about the place. I like Mina and wish her well, but I wasn't that thrilled with the food and I spent $30 for one person without dessert or drink. I did bring home some dal. I find myself thinking back to the golden age of the Jackson Diner in the old spot with the German and Argentine waitresses and the incredible palak paneer and Bhaingan bhurta. I'll have to go to Jersey City or Chola, I guess.

                      1. re: JH Jill
                        g
                        gnosh Apr 17, 2007 12:59 AM

                        I was there this weekend, too—on Saturday, and there was plenty of food. I have to say that two dishes were transcendant: the bindi masala (okra etc.) and the alo gobi (cauliflower w/potatoes). Both were made with absolutely fresh ingredients, not at all overcooked, perfectly spiced. The okra was particularly revelatory, almost al dente with little pieces of tomato and potato. I agree that it wasn't a great night for palak paneer. Strangely, it seemed to need salt, but it was certainly leaps better than the typical version. The chicken korma, though, was not so good. The chicken was tough to the point of being inedible, and the spices seemed kind of undercooked or something. Am dal was OK, but I just don't love lentils anyway. I think it's the same old story--some things are great, it's unpredictable, etc. We had a lot of food and generally felt the price was worth it, but it's true that it's not a bargain joint, with prices a lhigher than you'd want for the things that don't wind up being wonderful. But it's certainly cooked with total love and sincere effort, and when things don't work I don't think it's because of lack of effort (well, except maybe the low-quality chicken..)

                        1. re: JH Jill
                          jen kalb Apr 17, 2007 08:50 AM

                          Maybe its us not the food that has changed (aged) but us, some of us at any rate. To me, my first exposures to Indian food were ALL life-changing 25-30 yrs ago. The new flavors and food ideas were just intoxicating. I guess I could have been lucky in the places too, Nataraj, on Lex where we had lunch a lot of times, that penthouse on CPS where Sahni consulted for a bit, Dawat, Madras Woodlands, a Gaylord downtown on 1st Ave. that was briefly good, much later Jackson Diner, but by then I was cooking most of the Indian food we eat, and I had assimilated the style. Nothing since has had that initial pop or recognition, though there are many places still dishing out excellent Indian Food )

                          In recent years, Ive had fine indian chow at Dimple on 39th (gujarati thalis, dosas and snacks), Vatan (its been a few years - gujarati), Tabla downstairs (not been to Devi yet) Saravanaas-andhra mainly, Shipa Kasturi-bengali, the predecessor to Dosa Diner on 37th in Queens, etc. Begum in Madison NJ, etc. etc. Notably, none of these other than Begum offer the heavy punjabi style food I started out with.

                          finally, I think that Indian food is a substantively different experience from Thai and it may match less well with current tastes for "light" fare. The experience at Sripraphai or other good thai is of all of these flavor and texture contrasts exploding all over the place - the mix of ingredients is stimulating all the receptors at the same time - Indian food because it is more oriented to spice and to richness doesnt deliver the same kind of sensation, chaat type dishes being a notable exception.

                          1. re: jen kalb
                            Brian S Apr 17, 2007 11:13 AM

                            "all of these flavor and texture contrasts exploding all over the place" I got just that feeling at the gone and much-missed Tabaq. Many of their dishes used a tawa -- a big wok. The wok-master (I loved to watch him work!) would stir-fry the meat, then throw in fresh leaves, tomato slices, handfuls of freshly ground spice etc,, stir a bit and serve. Wow!

                            1. re: Brian S
                              s
                              stuartlafonda Apr 17, 2007 12:29 PM

                              Tandoori Hut in Richmond Hill is my go to place for Punjabi/Tawa dishes. Lots of really good food that comes out on those sizzling plates and is very spicy. You guys should give it a try if you haven't already.

                              1. re: stuartlafonda
                                f
                                fat_hot Apr 24, 2007 07:59 AM

                                My favorite North Indian place in all of NYC is in Richmond Hill and is called Punjabi Kebab House, 9152 Lefferts just north of Atlantic. The food is better than I've ever had outside of India or London. For South Indian food Saravanaas (not the same as Saravana Bhavan up the block) at 81 Lexington is good - try the he fruit and nut rava dosa and one of the thalis.

                                1. re: fat_hot
                                  s
                                  stuartlafonda Apr 24, 2007 08:27 AM

                                  I have seen Punjab Kabab House when I go to Tandoori Hut, just south of Atlantic and thought PKH was a catering hall. How does PKH compare to Tandoori Hut?

                                  1. re: stuartlafonda
                                    f
                                    fat_hot Apr 24, 2007 10:16 AM

                                    There's a catering hall next door called, I think, Punjabi Palace. I guess it might be the same owners. I've never been there, or to Tandoori Hut, although I intend to try them at some point.

                            2. re: jen kalb
                              JH Jill Apr 17, 2007 12:03 PM

                              I'm sure there's something to what you say, and my first Indian food in London, which was also my first really spicy food (in the early 70's) was certainly life changing. Now, I'm sure that my standards are much higher and I'm much more jaded.

                              However, when I get something really great at Sripraphai, or the other day when I had the amazingly wonderful chicken-spinach canneloni with bechamel and red sauce at El Chivito, I was in heaven. It wasn't life changing, but it was sheer bliss, every mouthful. I do think that my first entraña (skirt steak) cooked medium by El Chivito some years ago opened my eyes to a whole new type of meat experience, which was actually life changing. So I don't think it has to be highly spiced food. A cake can also send one into the stratosphere. The rose-flavored ice cream (I think it was rose) at Tangra in Sunnyside was also bliss. I think that all of us, no matter how jaded, can still hope for this kind of experience. When I was traveling around the U.S. a few years ago, I spent about 5 months in the South and had experiences with hush puppies in the Carolinas, crawfish boils all over Louisiana and plates of fresh oysters (for 25¢ per oyster) washed down with plenty of beer, that were enlightening. And that food is fairly heavy. When I spent the summer in Sicily a few years back, it was a totally life-changing experience, and part of it had to do with the way of cooking and eating. There are lots of revelations, and other things are simply glorious. Otherwise, what would we be doing on this board? It's not just for the bargains.

                              1. re: jen kalb
                                bobjbkln Apr 17, 2007 12:39 PM

                                FYI, Madras Woodlands has been resurrected in New Hyde Park, just a bit over the Queens border on Hillside Ave. It is downscale (and cheaper) than its UN area predecessor and has no bar (it's BYOB). But if you go out that way and are in the need of some of their excellent dosas or samosas, etc., (and a bit of nostalgia) it's worth stopping in. And they have stooped to serving buffet at lunch, though I think you can also order off the menu. (I don't follow the tri-state board, so I don't know if there have been any reports).

                                1. re: jen kalb
                                  g
                                  gnosh Apr 17, 2007 03:53 PM

                                  I think you're SO right. I had my first indian food as a kid of 12 or 13 when I noticed a new Indian restaurant (the first I'd ever seen) in the Chicago suburb where I grew up and asked my parents to take me. It was one of the most exotic things I'd ever experienced--the live music, the tandoori oven that you could see through a window, the flavors, etc. Now, I'm just jaded, I guess.

                                  1. re: jen kalb
                                    howler Apr 20, 2007 04:05 AM

                                    "finally, I think that Indian food is a substantively different experience from Thai and it may match less well with current tastes for "light" fare."

                                    actually, any of the predominantly vegetarian cuisines of india are transcendentally light.

                                    maharastrian cusine is subtly spiced and in my humble opinion, the tastiest vegetarian cuisine on this planet; its so light it floats. and you eat with contrasting flavours all the time: the idea is you dab this with that and you mix that with this and explore a bit of this combined with that..

                                    check out

                                    www.mumbai-masala.com/

                                    and try a recipe or two. i'd recommend masoor aamti (look under daals). it will rock your world and change your conception of what a daal is supposed to be.

                                    1. re: howler
                                      missmasala Apr 20, 2007 06:40 AM

                                      spoken like a true Maharastrian, Howler. Of course, I'm in complete agreement. As is my white midwester SO, who didn't think he could live on just vegetarian food until he spent time with my family in Bombay. Since then, he goes into raptures describing the food for people. I make some of the food, but some of it is too complicated and I haven't mastered it yet.

                                      1. re: missmasala
                                        jen kalb Apr 20, 2007 08:37 AM

                                        now if anybody could suggest a NY restaurant that makes it well, we could all be in heaven. There lies the problem. For starters, II think that the 30th St Dimple has some very good and unusual stuff on the menu, but its gujarati. I went in there a couple of times and ordered random dishes for takeout that looked interesting and they were mostly surprising and good. Its been a few years not sure they still have the same good cook. Saravanaas also offers some interesting stuff on its thali from the andhra cuisine (probably other regions too) that is worth trying. But I dont know any place that serves maharastrian cuisine in NY at this time. I have to tell you that the heat sealed packets from India dont do it.

                                        1. re: missmasala
                                          howler Apr 20, 2007 12:14 PM

                                          the secret is mastering the 'goda masala' and mastering the art of mustard seed flavoured oil spiced with turmeric, hing and sometimes kadi patta (curry leaf).

                                          aaargh, the infinite variety of these utterly simple ingredients. its like haiku.

                                        2. re: howler
                                          m
                                          micki Apr 20, 2007 10:42 AM

                                          Howler,I checked the web site and found the daals but did not see masoor daal. What am I missing? And thanks for turning me on to a great Indian food site.

                                          1. re: micki
                                            howler Apr 20, 2007 11:54 AM

                                            sheesh, you are right. i must have subconsciously assumed it was on there, its such a basic and wonderful staple.

                                            i'll get around to posting a recipe - i'll have to think about quantities carefully.

                                            but try the tomato saar, a huge fave of mine.

                                            1. re: howler
                                              missmasala Apr 20, 2007 07:19 PM

                                              I'm also a huge tomato saar fan, but the ones on the website are not like the one my auntie makes (no ginger or garlic in hers, but lots of fresh coconut and buttermilk). and therein lies the problem with Indian food. The variations, even in regions, are endless, and most people like what they grew up with.

                                              but, regardless of the recipe, a good tomato saar is delicious--like a spicy sour sweet hot tomato soup that really hits the spot.

                                              Sometimes i make it thicker and cook it with potatoes to make a side dish that can be eaten room temp. good for a picnic instead of potato salad.

                                              and jen, what is lichen? I've never had lichen in my goda masala. I even admit to sometimes bringing back the boxed goda masala from bombay.

                                              1. re: missmasala
                                                jen kalb Apr 20, 2007 09:39 PM

                                                there are lots of nomenclature problems - its an ingredient called dagadphool (btw other things are called by the same name so it gets confusing - it is a kind of lichen not a spice
                                                heres a link to a goda masala recipe containing it as an ingredent.
                                                I bet if you looked on your box you would see it in the ingredient list.
                                                http://thecookscottage.typepad.com/curry/2005/07/goda_masalamaha.html
                                                heres some discussion too.http://www.anothersubcontinent.com/fo...

                                                1. re: jen kalb
                                                  howler Apr 21, 2007 03:34 AM

                                                  i can't resist translatinng: 'dagadphool' literally means 'stoneflower'.

                                                  ok i'll ask the folks back home about it.

                                                  1. re: jen kalb
                                                    missmasala Apr 21, 2007 05:19 AM

                                                    Wow, I've never heard of it, but I'll ask my family about it, too.
                                                    But, if you want to make goda masala, try the recipe on the link Howler provided. I haven't done it yet, but a quick perusal of the ingredients list leads me to believe it would give you the right combination of flavors.

                                                    Unfortunately, I used up my box of goda masala some time ago, so can't look at the ingredients list. I've been wondering if I might be able to find some more at an Indian store in JH or jersey, but now I think I will just give up and make my own.

                                                  2. re: missmasala
                                                    howler Apr 21, 2007 03:39 AM

                                                    exactly right you are! no ginger or garlic in our house too.'

                                                    are we related? (grin)

                                          2. re: JH Jill
                                            s
                                            stuartlafonda Apr 17, 2007 10:57 AM

                                            Hey JH Jill, I was also there Siunday at 4, that was me with the family at the big corner table. There is no bigger supporter of Mina then me, I love her cooking. and have followed her at each stop over the last couple of years. We were dissapointed to find out that the tandoor oven was not working on Sunday, but we really enjoyed our meal. Started with the awesome samosa chat and the lollypop chicken. She made the chicken very mild and my kids gobbled them up The nine veg curry was really tasty as was the lamb vindaloo, it was falling apart tender with nice heat. Instead of naan we had the onion kulcha, something I rarely order because my family fights over the last scraps of naan. She did a great job with the bread and my kids now have something new to enjoy and share. We finished with two bowls of rice pudding as she was out of all the other choices Total cost was $55, I think, and we had plenty to eat but did not take anything home. I find her food to be always good and sometimes spectacular.

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda
                                              JH Jill Apr 17, 2007 11:45 AM

                                              Aha. You all took the last dessert! I saw the waiter spooning out the last bits of something that looked like rice pudding for you.

                                              I had thought about getting vindaloo and then i thought that would not be one of her regional specialties. I thought about the mustard fish, but they only had tilapia and I don't think they make it with that. I really wasn't sure so I took what she offered. I, like gnosh, am not a major fan of dal, although I love lentil soup with a bit of vinager or lemon. I found the aam dal very fresh but just not spiced very lively, even though I love green mango. The lamb bhoma had a slight floury taste to the first bite. The best thing was the samosas. Also, it's much more fun and economical to go with more people, but I am now surrounded by an Argentine who doesn't tolerate really spicy food and my husband who rarely wants to try something new, although he did like the chicken tikka at Kabab King the other day.

                                2. re: Brian S
                                  ZenFoodist Apr 18, 2007 02:00 PM

                                  Brian,

                                  Did you ever check out the Student Biryani on Main Street that I had posted about ages ago? I was at Buddha Bodhai last week for the faux char siu and noticed it again, but didn't have time to stop in. Is it related to one in Jackson Heights?

                                  Curious.

                                3. ballulah Apr 14, 2007 07:13 PM

                                  Has anyone eaten at the temple that was reviewed in the '$25 and Under' column in the NYT? I got a serious case of the mouth waters reading the review, and I was wondering if any Chowhounds were intrepid enough to have already sought it out (or found it before the review).

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: ballulah
                                    Brian S Apr 15, 2007 10:12 AM

                                    I've known about it for years but never made it out there. It was first mentioned on Chowhound in the late 20th century. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/235549

                                    1. re: Brian S
                                      ballulah Apr 15, 2007 08:03 PM

                                      The late 20th century? Hahahaha. I'm a relative newbie to Chowhound.

                                    2. re: ballulah
                                      Joe MacBu Apr 17, 2007 08:42 PM

                                      The canteen at the temple serves up some delicious fare. The dosas are very crispy and you can taste a bit of the fermentation of the batter (a good thing, like sourdough), though I wish it were more pronounced. The "masala", as is usually the case, is a bit dissapointing. They give you massive amounts of flavorful coconut chutney and a good sambar. I've found the idlis to not be worthy of ordering (though they might be better during high turnover), and the vadas are just good. I have not tried their uttapam nor the sweets and snacks. The dosa is the thing to get.

                                      45-57 Bowne St
                                      Flushing

                                    3. missmasala Apr 15, 2007 05:48 PM

                                      Unfortunately, as other posters have said here, the best curries tend to be made in people's homes. You are best off searching for things that indian people don't tend to make at home, like tandoori stuff, chaat, and south indian snacks.

                                      Tandoori I can't help you with, as it's not something i go out for. For south indian snacks and thalis (dosa, iddly, etc.) my current fave is dosa house in jersey city.

                                      For chaat, try sukhadia in midtown (just google it, they have a website). It may not be the best, but it is convenient.

                                      keep in mind that both of these places are veg. only.

                                      People do love spicy mina's. I haven't made it out there yet, as Mina is Bengali and Bengali food is not my fave, though i have to admit that the mustard fish sounds good.

                                      In general, I think that the indian neighborhoods in NJ (jersey city, edison, iselin) are larger and offer slightly more quality/variety.

                                      For tandoori, I think some of the high-end places in manhattan might be good.

                                      ps. As I was writing this, I was just finishing up the last of the sweet and sour dal that my mom made a couple of days ago when she was visiting. Not something you would find on any restaurant menu, but delicious, which just brings home the point that the best indian food is made at home.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: missmasala
                                        e
                                        empecot Apr 15, 2007 08:52 PM

                                        I would highly suggest going to Jersey City for Indian. Just take the PATH to Journal Square. It's almost as easy to get to as Jackson Heights.
                                        My husband and I have had some really great Indian there. We went to Rasoi for a sit down dinner and thought it was almost as good as any restaurant food we had in India. We even found a little place with the Bombay street favorite Vada Pav and there's also a branch of Rajbhog Sweets for a Mithai fix.
                                        The food in J.C. is the best we've had since we've been back from India (besides the homemade stuff--I highly recommend Julie Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking").

                                        1. re: empecot
                                          t
                                          tigerwoman Apr 16, 2007 12:01 AM

                                          Kerala Kitchen in Floral Park on Hillside Avenue was a fabulous experience about a month ago, which I meant to post about but forgot. Read about them on these boards and have been meaning to try for years. Glad we finally got there. We had the lunch special for about $6 - really nice tiffin type lunch with lots of different interesting well made food - sorry I cannt remember the details.

                                          I just noticed that they will be exhibiting and competing at the Taste of QUeens Event tomorrow night being held at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center

                                          tickets are a bit steep but along with some of the crappy restaurants like white castle there are some chowhound faves like Tangra Masala, O Lavador Portuguese, waters Edge. Here I just copied the whole list. Let us know if you go and what you think of it. I am debating going myself - guess the weather may play a part in that decision



                                          Andiamo Coffee Inc.
                                          Anheuser-Busch
                                          Austin's Steak & Ale House
                                          Bourbon Street Cafe
                                          Brooklyn Brewery
                                          California Pizza Kitchen
                                          Cascon Baking Company
                                          Chef One Dumplings
                                          Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
                                          Dazies
                                          Delicias Andinas
                                          Deluge
                                          Durso's Pasta & Ravioli Co.
                                          El Dorado Coffee
                                          Erawan Seafood and Steak
                                          Erawan Thai Cuisine
                                          Forever Cheese
                                          Glaceau
                                          Junior's Cheesecakes
                                          K & W Liquors Inc
                                          Kerala Kitchen
                                          La Fusta
                                          La Tavernetta
                                          London Lennie's
                                          Mateus' Lar Portuguese Restaurant and Bar
                                          Mezzo Mezzo Restaurant & Lounge
                                          O Lavrador
                                          Papazzio Restaurant
                                          Pasticcio Restaurant
                                          Plum
                                          Riverview Restaurant & Lounge
                                          Sarabella
                                          Shiro of Japan
                                          Steinway Restaurant - NY La Guardia Marriott
                                          Tangra Wok
                                          Tequila Sunrise of Bayside
                                          Waters Edge Restaurant
                                          White Castle
                                          Zenon Taverna

                                          1. re: tigerwoman
                                            missmasala Apr 16, 2007 06:05 AM

                                            glad to know you liked kerala kitchen. I have been wanting to go for about 2 years and have never quite made it. it's a little far. but your report might give me the nudge i need.

                                            1. re: tigerwoman
                                              s
                                              Scribbler Apr 17, 2007 09:32 AM

                                              I had terribly overcooked chicken at Kerala Kitchen and have been afraid to return. It was so dry it was almost crunchy, and it was in a masala-type sauce.

                                          2. re: missmasala
                                            BoerumHill Apr 20, 2007 10:31 AM

                                            really? i am from nj but have found the offerings in edison/iselin consistently disappointing (but ok for a quick fix). but i am also comparing it to what i get at home- nothing beats home cooking. what are your recommendations?

                                          3. missmasala Apr 18, 2007 08:16 AM

                                            Hmm. I've wondered about that, too. Here are a few rambling thoughts on the subject:
                                            I've had plenty of bad food at restaurants in India and London, as well. In fact, in my experience, India is very different from a place like Thailand. When I'm in Thailand visiting my family, the majority of the food I eat in restaurants is delicious. When I'm in India visiting my family, a lot of the food I eat in restaurants is mediocre, and certainly not nearly as good as I would get in my family's home. why? several things come to mind. One, women cook at home, and, in general, men cook in restaurants (i don't think it's coincidence that people like mina, where a woman cooks.) secondly, I don't think that Indians have the same restaurant culture that SEasians and chinese have. For many devout hindus, there are all sorts of caste issues that come into play about which restaurant you could or could not eat in, depending on who is doing the cooking.
                                            Also, the South Asian community here is newer than the community in London, so perhaps they have not had time to develop that restaurant culture in New York's Hindu community.
                                            I also find that the things Indians would eat out in India (ie. chaat, south indian snacks like dosa/iddly, tandoori stuff at high-end places) can be found in decent quality here, tho strangely, the best purveyors aren't in JH.
                                            Also, many westerners are looking for a kind of Indian food that only exists in punjabi places and punjabi households, and I'm not sure this new wave of Indian immigrants is as punjabi heavy as the older ones were. Many Indians (and I admit I am generalizing from those I know) like to eat their own regional food and are reluctant to go out for other stuff, whether because of caste issues (is a brahmin cooking that food?) meat-eating/veg issues (perhaps they can only eat in a pure-veg place) or just plain taste issues (my maharastrian family, if eating out, usually has to go to gujurati restaurants in bombay, and my aunt always complains because she doesn't like it as much as her own food. But to most westerners, the differences are often subtle at best.)
                                            Anyway, it's kind of rambling, but those are my thoughts
                                            Pakistani/Muslim food I know almost nothing about, so I can't speak to that.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: missmasala
                                              welle Apr 18, 2007 08:32 AM

                                              I was guessing the gender of the cook issue, but didn't want my comments to come out stereotypical. I always suspected Mina as being Christian though, so it may be the reason she feels free to cook. The owner of the Bengali butchershop I go to says her food is good and authentic, but complained about prices to answer Woodside Al's question about why there are no compatriots of hers at her restaurant.

                                              1. re: missmasala
                                                Brian S Apr 18, 2007 10:00 AM

                                                Hey, this would make a great topic for the General board -- why Indian restaurants in the US (and maybe India) aren't as good as they should be. From my limited experience, I agree with you... especially the point that the best food is served behind closed doors, at private homes.

                                                I wonder if this will change. A modern woman from Hyderabad (whether living in Hyderabad or in the NY area) will, if faced with the choice between spending 6 hours making the perfect dum biryani or spending that time perfecting the computer code she will sell for $50 thousand ,choose the latter. So what will happen? Could go both ways. Better restaurants could open, or the younger generation will be satisfied with TV dinners and mediocre food.

                                                1. re: Brian S
                                                  missmasala Apr 18, 2007 12:26 PM

                                                  the problem is, i don't think the tech indians (computer code people) are coming to NYC. They are in silicon valley, and I have heard that you can get amazing (like being in India) food out there. There's even a tiffin lunch delivery service! I just don't think there is the demand here.

                                                  1. re: missmasala
                                                    welle Apr 18, 2007 01:50 PM

                                                    I thought I read in the Times few months ago that there was a good lunch delivery service somewhere up in CT and Westchester.

                                                  2. re: Brian S
                                                    jen kalb Apr 18, 2007 02:59 PM

                                                    well likely that lady in the tech business in Hyderabad has quite a lot of household help as well as her pressure cooker and other labor saving appliances and new cookbooks with shortcuts, etc. just like here.

                                                    but I think that tradition and the concern with purity/intercommunal issues Missmasala mentions create a big barrier in attitude which make developments in restaurant culture difficult. Also, maybe you go out for Chinese or Tandoori food, say, but stick with your own community's food (the stuff that WE would like to try) at home.

                                                    I think the population distribution is not helpful for the indian food in NY - the middle class professional indians are mostly out here in NJ etc rather than in Queens or Brooklyn. The bengali and punjabi cab drivers arent going to be willing to pay much for a meal and the variety of different communities represented in the city in any size does not appear to be large.

                                                2. JH Jill Apr 18, 2007 08:43 AM

                                                  I think that Miss Masala answered a lot of the questions below. It sounds about right to me. But about Mina's, I think that she does have a lot of compatriots who eat her food. It's not just chowhounds who would have filled the restaurant for lunch on the rainiest Sunday in history and eaten up al the food, so that stuartlafonda and I had to take the little that was left in the mid afternoon. I've always seen Bengalis or Bangladeshis (I'm not sure which) there picking up food while I'm there. And, according to my Punjabi friends, the majority of immigration into Jackson Heights lately is Bangladeshi.

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