Great Indian near JFK
Was coming back from a JFK dropoff last Friday and hit Van Wyck hell traffic. I decided to pull off at the Atlantic Ave exit (exit 5) to try out a shortcut of cutting across Atlantic Ave to go up Bushwick Ave (I live in Williamsburg). After driving for a few minutes I realized I was in an Indian community with some primarily Punjabi restaurants and markets calling to me from the street. I park and walk around the neighborhood and decide on a place called Sohna Punjabi. It was between 118th and 117th st., I believe, on Atlantic. The menu featured many regional dishes and I opted for the tinda masala and the dal fry. I've made a tinda dish before but this was the first time I came across it on a menu and a chance to have it prepared in a way by people that 'know.' Tinda is a small round green vegetable that resembles squash but with a much thicker skin. The dish was excellent. The texture of the tinda was perfect, still a little firm on the outside but the inner 'meat' of the vegetable was soft and pulpy. It was served in a tomato based gravy, with the sweetnness and tangyness of the vegetable taking center stage supported by a bold spice/flavor team of onions, cardamom, chiles and cumin/coriander powder i'm guessing. The boldness of the flavors coming from this kitchen can't be emphasised enough, since, after alll, it's competing with the energy generated by Atlantic Ave and JFK, among other things. The Dal Fry was comprised of black gram beans and soy beans. The sauce reminded me of a dal makhni sauce and it was ghee-licious (I love the prominence of ginger in north Indian dals). The food was great and felt like it was a strong expression of a specific Place (I've never been to the Punjab region so what do I really know). Highly recommended.
Side notes: upon further internet research when I got back home, the Punjabi Kabab House, which is about 3 blocks away from Sohna, was chosen by Robert Sietsema as a "best of 2003.." pick. Oddly enough, I couldn't find Sohna anywhere on the web. The closest I came was a site for the Royal Indian Palace, which has a map of the area and is located one block east of Sohna.
Nice report, when I'm in that area I usually try Tandoori Hut, just around the corner from Sohna and favorably reviewed by Bruni from the Times. I actually have a menu from Sohna tht I picked up while investigating restaurants in the area and will certainly give it a try after your glowiing report.