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Life-changing Indian food

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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 Outer Boroughs board.

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  1. I've never been to Sripraphai, but it's no secret that you are hardly alone in how you feel about it. I feel the same way about Devi. Actually, the first time I tasted the cuisine created by Co-Executive Chefs Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur was when they were at Amma. Until then, while I had nothing against Indian food, it was never high on my list of cuisines. However, that first meal at Amma was a total revelation. I had never before tasted Indian food that was anywhere near as extraordinarily delicious. And when they opened Devi, I was thrilled to be able to continue indulging in that superior level of Indian cuisine. It is more expensive than your average Indian spot, but totally worth it. If you have budgetary constraints, you should go there for lunch. The 3-course prix-fixe is $24.07, and all the dishes are taken directly from the dinner menu. Note: The signature tandoor-grilled lamb chops are not to be missed!

    http://www.devinyc.com

    7 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Thanks for the info:)
      It's not easy finding great ethnic food in nyc.
      I'm still trying to find the perfect rice and beans and i don't mean black beans:)

      1. re: hungrymonkey

        Oh it's easy. Here's a restaurant with eight types of beans.
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247466

        1. re: Brian S

          Thanks:) I know the place but i'm puerto rican so trust me it's a little different. There are a few good cuban restaurants but what they really do well is blk beans. Pink or red beans are what puerto ricans and dominicans do differently and harder to find in manhattan unless i go way uptown.I just heard of a place in the lower east side and if its great i'll post it.

          1. re: hungrymonkey

            Castillo de Jagua on Rivington St is great, although their red beans, though good, are not the finest things they do. The stews are.

            1. re: hungrymonkey

              By any chance are you refering to Casa Adela?

              1. re: nyufoodie

                Thats the place i heard of Casa Adela.
                Have you been?

          2. re: hungrymonkey

            red beans and rice and west side coffee shop on church st. those are my favorite so far.

        2. My favorite Indian restaurant, that is life changing IMO, is Banjara in the East Village. It's nothing fancy, but the food is really fantastic...it's not about the scene or the famous chef, just really awesome food.

          5 Replies
          1. re: LFeinberg

            If thats is the best for the price i'll check it out:)

            1. re: hungrymonkey

              i LOVE indian food and have yet to find a good place for indian in my UES neighborhood (anywhere between 72nd/86th).
              any suggestions??

              1. re: bosox

                I love the food at Pongal (vegetarian) on 1st at 65th.

                1. re: bosox

                  Try Yuva. It's very very good.

              2. re: LFeinberg

                I haven't been there lately but always found their food reliably tasty though pretty fatty. Very good, perhaps. Great, life changing? No way, as far as I'm concerned.

              3. Bukhara Grill or Banjara

                3 Replies
                1. re: LeahBaila

                  try earthen oven on W72 and columbus. read the reviews (and menu) here and decide for yourself:

                  http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...

                  it's a new place that is always packed. food, breads and chutneys are amazing.

                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    Have you actually eaten there? I went recently and thought that the food was just ok, borderline blech, and the service super slow.

                    1. re: yting

                      yes. i've eaten there at least 10 times and definitely agree with the reviews.
                      i've only done the brunch special once and felt that the service was really bad.
                      the last time i went for dinner, i was disappointed by the service and the chutneys seemed watery. time will tell whether it was an off night or a sign they are declining. did you go recently and did you stop by for lunch or dinner?

                2. The only time I have had outstanding Indian food has been in London or home-cooking. While I think Devi and Tamarind are tops for Manhattan, they really arent as good as the average Indian restaurant in London.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ora

                    I second Tamarind for Manhattan. But for really authentic Indian, Queens beats the pants off Manhattan any day. I can't compare it to London (never eaten Indian there, sad!) but I haven't been disappointed in Jackson Heights yet.

                    1. re: Ora

                      I've had very good Indian in London (Bombay Brasserie, Vijay's ) but have never had anything that compares to Devi at its best. The average Indian restaurant in London seems to me better than the average NYC Indian restaurant, but who's looking for average?

                      1. re: regondi

                        Agreed. I went to some highly recommended places in London and found them disappointing compared with the best NYC and suburbs has to offer, i.e. Jersey City and Edison, NJ. Even Queens beats the pants off London, in my opinion. I don't know about Devi, but I find it is hard to find Indian food that's genuinely delicious in Manhattan.

                        1. re: HHH

                          I'm fairly well-versed in Indian cuisine and look forward to trying the Devi rec above... agree with the Saravanah's post below as the best Dosa this side of Madras... however, disagree with the above poster's knock on Indian food in London... yes you can find an average Indian restaurant there, but there's no shortage of those in this city either... a place called Simply Indian on the South Bank of London in Borough, is my current standard by which I would compare other Indian meals... simply delicious!!!

                    2. I'd stick with the outer boroughs on this one. Devi is great but a far cry from the Indian equivalent of Sri.

                      1. Easy for me. Having traveled in South India 3 times, Saravanaas is the closest thing to India for me. I'd recommend the South Indian thali as your best bet, but everything's good.

                        I'm unaware of anything in the outer boroughs that equals either this (South Indian veg.), or Devi for inventive high-end multi-regional.

                        http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Peter Cherches

                          I agree re Saravanaas, but Devi is a high end restaurant and thus nothing like Sripraphai.

                          1. re: Peter Cherches

                            I'd say for the most part you ar correct about Saravanaas. It is difficult though to find non-vegetarian south-indian (either chettinad,or Andhra or Konkani) - For good kebabs on the high end, I am becoming partial to Yuva. Devi's tasting menu still happens to be the best.

                            For my southindian style non-veg craving I head to Srilankan on 1st & 5th - Sigiri - a BYOB (Which is good because the grocery store downstairs has an excellent collection of imported beers)

                            1. re: anil

                              I haven't been overly impressed by Sigiri. I find they don't compare to the defunct Taprobane. Unfortunately, Asaivam, which was pretty good Chettinad, didn't last very long.

                              Would Konkani be Goan?

                              1. re: Peter Cherches

                                Taprobane was so-so, Asaivam tried being Chetinad and failed, now its replacement Indo-Wok or some such indo-chinese is as lame. Konkani is from area that has goan influences but has the region called Konkan which includes karnataka and Maharastra also.

                                In India most well known restaurants have one or two signature dishes, which is what people come for, and rest of the menu is just there... :) Unfortunately little can be said of which indian restaurants in US.

                                Having said that - The things I like are as follows:

                                Sarvaanas: Khaima Idli, Bisibelabath
                                Chennai Garden: Raava Masala Dosa, Paasa
                                Devi: Non-veg Tasting menu
                                Yuva: Kebab and Pindi Chole and Laccha Paratha.
                                Dimple: Guju Farsaan, Dahi Chaat
                                Rice: Bhutanese Red + warm lentil soup.
                                Minar: Mutton Biryani, Sarong ka Saag and maaki-di-roti

                                1. re: anil

                                  Taprobane went through several kitchen changes, and at the end they were awful, but for some time they were quite good. Asaivam was uneven too--I had one great meal that tasted like what I had in Chennai, then they went way downhill.

                                  I too love the Sarson ka Saag w/ Makki ki Roti at Minar, which they serve on Tuesdays only. An Indian friend explained that it's variably "ki" or "di" depending on whether the transliteration is from Punjabi or Hindi, but I can't remember which is which.

                                  1. re: Peter Cherches

                                    ki is hindi - "di" in Punj. Sarson da saag,maaki di roti is a punj winter/spring soul food.

                                  2. re: anil

                                    Interesting that you suggest the Devi Non-veg Tasting menu. I have only been once and tried out two of their vegetarian preparations. Cauliflower Manchurian was OK but their sweet and sour baingan was hopeless, tasted more Italian than Indian and as if the tomato based sauce was out of a tin, no way should a restaurant with a Michelin * be dishing this type of fare up.

                                    I am aware of all the recs for various meat dishes (esp the lamb chops) but an Indian (experimental, upscale, multi-dimensional or whatever other style) that can't get its vegetarian preparations right isn't worth bothering with in my book so I have no plans to revisit.

                                    IMO Lassi is a place that is under the radar - they do stuffed rotis (mooli, aloo and goat) that are a fair rendition of the ones that I get when I'm in the UK eating my [Punjabi] mum's home food. No condiments though which is a big miss!! The woman chef is non-Indian but was taught to cook stuffed rotis by a Punjabi sous-chef she worked with at somewhere like Union Square Cafe.

                                    1. re: anil

                                      anil, thanks for the specific recs; will check out.

                                2. re: Peter Cherches

                                  I haven't been to Devi yet, though I loved Amma when Suvir and Hemant were there - that was the best Indian food I had had in New York.

                                  I totally agree on Saravanaas. I have not been to South India but did have a fantastic breakfast at Madras Woodlands in Delhi and have lived in Malaysia. My one meal there so far was fantastic and I look forward to whenever I have a chance to go back.

                                3. Throwing in my two cents (I just re-discovered a passion for Indian food recently, and have been eating my way through Chaats in Manhattan.) At least for Chaats, I'm finding that Katie's and Sukhadia are both good (Katie's Papri Chaat was heavenly.)

                                  I've also heard that Spicy Mina's is pretty darned good, though I haven't been as yet.

                                  Please, let's get some some more recommendations - I've got alot of Indian food yet to try...!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: gaijingirl

                                    Indus Valley on 100th and Broadway is very, very good.

                                    1. re: samiam123

                                      second

                                  2. I really like Ayurveda Cafe. It's nothing fancy, at all - but they have the best vegetarian food, fixed menu, quite atmosphere:

                                    www.theayurvedacafe.com

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: ketanmv

                                      The food at Ayurveda, IIRC, is generally Gujarati, but I don't think it's very good, and it's not seasoned for Indian tastes, that's for sure (though I'm speaking as a non-Indian). I wouldn't consider returning.

                                      1. re: Peter Cherches

                                        Ayurveda Cafe is not a restaurant that will knock your taste buds off. It is a health restaurant -- much better for you than those self-proclaimed health restaurants as Zen Palate. I really love it for that reason. But if you're looking for lots of oil and lots of spice, it's not for you.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          is that ayurvedic place on greenwich st still open? just off 6th ave; had some nice meals there a couple years ago.

                                          1. re: bigjeff

                                            I didn't know there was one in the village! I must investigate. Do you remember the name, by any chance?

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              just looked, the name was Thali and, I believe it is closed.

                                              1. re: bigjeff

                                                Thanks.

                                    2. a place that NEVER gets mentioned on these boards is Indian Curry Mahal in the east village. this place totally changed my views on indian cuisine. it's got to be one of my favorites because of its curries. the channa poori is also very good. check it out.

                                      1. Chola, on E. 58th St., along with Devi and Tamarind, the best Indian in Manhattan.

                                        1. I'm not sure there is any other restaurant with quite the range and dominance on one type of cuisine in this city as Sripraphai... for Indian food, I've been trained well by my Indian friends:
                                          Maharaja Sweets on 37th Ave at 73rd St. in Jackson Heights has an amazing weekend vegetarian lunch buffet that's cheaper than Indian Taj and Jackson Diner
                                          Saravanaa's in Curry Hill has beautiful and delicious dosas, also quite cheap

                                          I went to Amma's during RW2008 on Tuesday, and wasn't super impressed. The meat (tried both seabass and lamb entrees) was cooked perfectly in terms of tenderness, but the sauces were like your average Indo-Chinese place... which have their place - sometimes you just want sweet and spicy and red, but I was expecting something more refined from Amma's

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: thinthukgirl

                                            If there was an Indian restaurant that had "range" of "cuisine" then I would be quite dissapointed - Indian cuisine is very diverse and covering it all is next to impossible - Even in India, good restaurants dont do more than a handful of dishes to perfection. In BKK, ask a afficianado, and she's say the same of Thai - northern vs southern, coastal vs mountainious... etc...

                                            Restaurant Week any time, is not a good place to get a good entree.... after all, that's when all restaurants cut many corners :)

                                            1. re: anil

                                              For fresh inventive yet authentically flavorful Indian, try Lassi on Greenwich Avenue. The dishes taste homemade but with a twist and the chef (who has amazingly never been to India) makes a mean apple cardamom pie. The pararthas, stuffed with everything from daikon to goat, are extraordinary.