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great indian food (dinner) in manhattan

n
nb09 Feb 11, 2008 08:03 AM

this is a topic that gets discussed with some frequency on here, but the answers seem to vary and change somewhat often, so i figured i'd ask.

my girlfriend and i are looking for a great indian restaurant in manhattan. either north or south (or both!) is fine. we are more into traditional cuisine than experimentation or fusion. it doesn't have to be cheap, but we don't really care about atmosphere or service. doesn't have to be fancy at all.

i've looked around on the boards but most of the places people recommend most often--devi, tabla, etc--seem a little too innovative/funky/"inspired". we are kind of looking for out-of-this-world comfort food--really, really, really good chana masala, samosas, etc (we are vegetarians, for the record, but we don't need a lot of options--just a couple of really good dishes will suffice).

chola and dawat both seem like possibilities, but i'd really like to hear people's input/suggestions.

(semi-related tip for brooklyn hounds: lately we've been doing take-out from kinara in park slope when we're craving indian, since the food is reliably decent and the take-out is a great deal - app, entree, rice + naan for $12.)

EDIT: thanks so much for the suggestions so far - just to clarify, we are looking for a place to eat dinner.

  1. The Chowhound Team Feb 11, 2008 08:11 AM

    A query about "Is any of the 'Indian' food served in US restaurants actually authentic Indian food? " has been split to the General Topics board:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/488491

    1. JungMann Feb 11, 2008 08:26 AM

      For just an everyday lunch, my friend and I are big fans of Minar on the West Side. The clientele is largely Indian with a mixed bag of both vegetarian and omnivore fare.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JungMann
        bigjeff Feb 13, 2008 04:30 PM

        another lunch option on the other side of town, a block or two from the other Minar location on West 31st, is Famous Curry & Kebab, at 15 East 31st Street. I know the name is gimmicky, but their prices are great ($6 for 3 veggies over rice or $7 for 1 meat + 2 veggies over rice) and their daily-changing selection is very good. they have this fortified, lightly spiced rice+potato mash available instead of regular white rice, and I've actually had some quite spicy food which is rare in the area's pakistani/bangla restaurants; had a very nice pumpkin dish there, a great dish with whole brown chickpeas, a nice okra dish with just the right amount of mushiness and nice dhal. they also have a fish curry which is excellent. I haven't tried any of their tandoori fare or any of the meat curries, but it all looked a cut above the typical. the look is typical cab-stand decor but, very good food and very nice guys working t here too.

        1. re: bigjeff
          TongoRad Mar 26, 2008 05:20 AM

          I started working in the nabe about a month ago, and I never would've found Curry and Kebab without your rec, bigjeff, so thanks. I've tried a bunch of places (surprisingly- few, if any, of them have been very impressive, considering the neighborhood) and so far this is the best I've tried. On the negative side the beef cubes in the curry were a bit on the dry side, but the veggie dishes have all been quite good.

          1. re: TongoRad
            bigjeff Mar 26, 2008 05:47 AM

            glad to hear it; I wouldn't go so far as to call it a gem but definitely definitely fresher, spicier and great prices. try their whole fish sometime, bathed in a delicious curry. I myself just started working in the area a few months ago; a new hood is always fun, but I've reverted to brown-baggin' it after too many ktown lunches. nice streetmeat cart at 28th and madison tho.

            1. re: bigjeff
              TongoRad Mar 26, 2008 06:09 AM

              <<nice streetmeat cart at 28th and madison tho.>>
              Definitely- been there multiple times, usually for the falafel. I like that it's on flatbread pita instead of pocket pita, and that they'll put the fries on the sandwich. I find that if I can get a good cheap ($3-4) lunch a couple of days a week, then it sort of supplements the $8+ ones.

              I've also had my eye on a kati roll place on Lexington near 27th that was closed for the past few weeks but now seems to have reopened as a Kebab King, or something ike that. TamilNadu Bhavan across the street has been pretty reliable as a sit-down thali lunch place. The food is good and plentiful, not great, but a nice value in the $6-7 range.

      2. p
        peachtart Feb 11, 2008 04:02 PM

        Indus Valley..upper west side

        1 Reply
        1. re: peachtart
          s
          samiam123 Feb 11, 2008 05:45 PM

          2nd Indus Valley

        2. y
          yumyum palace Feb 11, 2008 04:43 PM

          I like Shaan.

          http://www.shaanofindia.com/home.htm

          1. g
            gambit50 Feb 11, 2008 05:42 PM

            I have been to Chola a bunch. It is solid, not mind blowing. Not sure any Indian is these days. Dawat was very good 8 years ago. I would skip it now. Not even sure they are open, anymore. There are MANY Indian restaurants on 58th St there and one or two were closed at some point(not Chola, ever).
            I would like to try Devi, looks worth it and if it is as good as the best of its reviews, then definitely. Most places do not live up to the billing. Still, I am interested.
            Tabla was excellent, again, many years ago.
            I cannot tell you about all the places in Curry Hill or down by E 6th St, though I have been to one of the latter, supposedly better ones and was not impressed at all.
            Not saying there is nothing better or great but Chola should do you solid for a sit down dinner and will not break the bank(for Manhattan, anyway).
            Note, Tamarind is somewhere between Chola and Devi in the "creative" dept of Indian.
            It is quite a bit more than Chola though and I was not impressed last time I was there.
            It was much better when it first opened.
            Be wary of the UWS, I will leave it at that before I get flamed too much.

            Good luck and I hope you have a good meal.

            5 Replies
            1. re: gambit50
              MMRuth Feb 12, 2008 04:19 AM

              Dawat is still open. I actually like it, but also want to try Chola. I agree with your comments about Tamarind and Devi, though I've not been to Devi since it reopened to what I recall as being mixed reviews on this board.

              1. re: gambit50
                JungMann Feb 12, 2008 07:02 AM

                I generally enjoyed Devi, but I wouldn't call it "comfort food" food for AmerDesis. I wouldn't call Devi fusion, necessarily, but it is certainly very elevated above what one finds at home.

                1. re: gambit50
                  p
                  Pan Feb 27, 2008 02:19 AM

                  "I cannot tell you about all the places in Curry Hill or down by E 6th St, though I have been to one of the latter, supposedly better ones and was not impressed at all."

                  Which one?

                  1. re: Pan
                    g
                    gambit50 Feb 28, 2008 12:40 PM

                    Haveli, that was it. Awhile ago.
                    Had the most kudos back then.
                    Was definitely not worth the trip, though we had a memorable instance
                    that is still an inside joke.

                    1. re: gambit50
                      p
                      Pan Feb 28, 2008 07:33 PM

                      Well, definitely by far not the worst, but I never really saw why anyone would make a big deal about the place. I haven't been there in years, either.

                2. jakew8 Feb 12, 2008 06:22 AM

                  I'm going to weigh in here in favor of Chola for omnivorous Indian and Tiffin Wallah for vegetarian. I have been eating at Chola for about five years--brunch, dinner and delivery--and it's still excellent (even if it's a little rich).

                  I just at at Tiffin Wallah in Curry Hill for the first time last week and it was very good. I'd go back there before the other veg places in that neighborhood (e.g., Madras Mahal).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jakew8
                    bigjeff Feb 13, 2008 04:31 PM

                    I've only had the lunch buffet at Tiffin Wallah and it was really good, esp for $6. never ordered off the menu before though, I stick with Saravanaas when I get the dosa craving.

                  2. LeahBaila Feb 12, 2008 07:17 AM

                    Bukhara Grill and Bajara are my faves

                    www.thelunchbelle.com

                    1. s
                      shivohum Feb 12, 2008 06:25 PM

                      Try Dimple at 30th and 5th for wonderful Gujurati vegetarian food; Banjara on E 6th for North Indian at a moderate price; Yuva on E. 58th between 2nd and 3rd for North Indian at a slightly higher scale; and Tiffin Wallah at 28th and Lex for South Indian.

                      1. g
                        gambit50 Feb 12, 2008 08:58 PM

                        Since it was not specified, I am guessing you are not looking for vegetarian, nb09.
                        Therefore, I do not understand why people push these places.
                        Always trying to instill their agenda, which would be fine if it were a superior product.

                        Looks like Chola is the overall choice but hardly a landslide victory.
                        In the end it is up to you, as you can see, nothing mind blowing and a must. None of these choices are too expensive, either.
                        If you go to Dawat and have the roast lamb, well, hopefully it will be as great as it was 8 years ago. I forget if it was a piece of a whole lamb served or what, but I had some off of my guest's plate. Yeah, THAT is why it WAS the best, for sure, when I was a youth.
                        Now, the choice is not so easy.
                        However, do NOT go to Bukhara grill, that is rubbish and overpriced.
                        And no, that is not an opinion.

                        Cheers

                        1. bombaybeauty Feb 13, 2008 04:16 AM

                          I used to go to Chola a lot, but found that it had slipped badly. I finally stopped going when they switched to plastic menus (does anyone know if they still do this? somewhat unusual for a fine dining restaurant). Perhaps it has bounced back, so I would be interested to hear an update. At some point I was a fan of Tamarind, but then also found that standards slipped. Devi is outstanding, but I agree it's not comfort food. I think Dawat has had its ups and downs but has maintained a reasonable standard over many years and would recommend it over Chola. BB

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: bombaybeauty
                            g
                            gambit50 Feb 13, 2008 08:15 AM

                            I will agree, Chola slipped. But it is not too much and it didn't start out so high.
                            If Dawat is still good, I can believe that, again, haven't been in an age.
                            Chola is not fine dining, though, and plastic menus should not downgrade your thought on the food. If you don't care for that in the overall experience, ok.
                            Unfortunately, it seems, there are few places that even start with decent to above food and some of those slip and that is why we are left with so few places worth going to.
                            So, we have a vote for Dawat, which is reasonable. I would guess a touch more expensive than Chola if that matters to you, nb09, you can check out the menus.

                            1. re: bombaybeauty
                              oonth Feb 14, 2008 12:17 AM

                              BB, as a vegetarian, I am surprised to hear you describe Devi as outstanding. The only time I went early last year, I was in the mood for veggie food so ordered manchurian cauliflower and baingan in some kind of sweet and sour sauce. The cauliflower was OK but the baingan was just laughably bad, one of the worst dishes I ate during my time in NYC. Maybe I ordered badly or am missing something but mine has been a dissenting voice where this place is concerned ever since.

                              1. re: oonth
                                bombaybeauty Feb 14, 2008 04:08 AM

                                To clarify -- I've been a number of times. The first time I order a la cart, and wasn't too impressed. The next times I went with the vegetarian tasting menu which I thought was much better in every way. So my good impression is really based on the later. Next time I'm back I'll stick to the menu, and sacrifice myself for the sake of science! BB

                            2. scarlet starlet Feb 13, 2008 08:02 AM

                              If I'm getting Indian food, the only places I'll eat are Devi, Madras Mahal, Pongal, and the Hindu Temple Canteen.

                              1. r
                                randumbposter Feb 13, 2008 10:45 AM

                                Saravanaas south indian cuisine was pretty good the last time I was there about a year ago. They offer full meals, thalis for like 14 bucks. Not sure if they have samosas though.

                                1. s
                                  sugartoof Feb 13, 2008 06:01 PM

                                  For Southern vege, I'd say go with Saravaana. That's where the yuppie "desi" crowd are going, and there is a reason why you see large family groups lined up to get in on weekends. Madras Mahal would be a second choice, but I left there never wanting to eat anything with potato in it ever again...so be sure to balance your meal with anything green you can find on the menu that's not a lentil. Tiffin Wallah gets a lot of attention (much like Chennai Garden was getting a few years back) but it really didn't stand out for me at all, and I had a sneaky feeling I was just eating the same boring food from one of the other Curry Hill joints just rebranded.

                                  Tamarind and Tabla are the total opposite of what I would call Indian comfort food. I've been scared to try Devi because it seems to draw the same fans.

                                  I kind of feel like there must be more choices beyond these obvious suggestions we're coming up with though.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gambit50
                                    n
                                    nativeNYer Feb 13, 2008 06:47 PM

                                    I will chime in with my usual recommendation for Earthen Oven (W72 and Columbus) for Northern Indian. This is one of my favorites throughout Manhattan. It's not fancy nor trendy but the food and service are both really good. They are the same owners of Indus Valley, that was recommended twice above, but the chef at Earthen Oven is better.

                                    Below is menupage link of reviews and I can honestly state that the chef has not left b/c we just had dinner there last night. There has been no change in food. Don't forget to try the tamarind there. It is amazing.

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

                                  2. j
                                    Jorel Feb 28, 2008 01:57 PM

                                    Saravanaas - NE corner of 26th & Park - is fantastic, cheap, authentic, vegetarian South Indian food. Idli, Dosa, Uthappam and Mixed Vegetable Paratha are all fantastic.

                                    They don't serve north Indian food that many Americans think is "common" Indian food, hence no dosas, but having on occasion, ordered Punjabi food from Pongal, another south Indian restaurant in the area, I can say it is a bad idea. Like trying to get southern food at a New England crab shack.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Jorel
                                      r
                                      racer x Mar 1, 2008 05:58 PM

                                      Jorel, I'm figuring you made a typo there: "They don't serve north Indian food that many Americans think is 'common' Indian food, hence no dosas," since you'd already noted they do have fantastic dosas there (and dosas ARE quintessentially southern indian).

                                      1. re: Jorel
                                        s
                                        sugartoof Mar 1, 2008 11:51 PM

                                        26th, and Lexington. (not park).

                                      2. brooklynbrownie Feb 28, 2008 05:03 PM

                                        I have a soft spot for Banjara and it's always been a hit with my vegetarian friends. If you like eggplant you must try their Bay Goon Ka Goon.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: brooklynbrownie
                                          LeahBaila Feb 28, 2008 05:07 PM

                                          LOVE Banjara

                                          www.thelunchbelle.com

                                        2. a
                                          alc Feb 28, 2008 06:56 PM

                                          For lunch we have especially enjoyed vegetarian meals at Chennai (a "hole in the wall" vegetarian on the west side of First Ave. between 86th and 87th with a fabulously delicious lunch buffet for $7) and Dawat (upscale with a very nice $15 vegetarian lunch special).

                                          1. cestmoi15 Mar 1, 2008 04:22 PM

                                            You're looking for Brick Lane on 6th street. A little bit more than the rest of Indian 6th street (forgettable), but well worth it. London-style Indian that really satisfies. Start with the onion app (can't recall name), also get the black lentil dish (I know, I'm terrible with names) -- I take anyone who loves Indian and they're always thrilled. I've heard the Sunday brunch buffet is to be avoided, but have never tried it.

                                            Saravanaas and Channai Garden in Curry Hill are also quite good, as is Devi (if a bit fusion, but still delicious). BTW, I'm a vege whose friends are all meat and potato types, and these places please everyone. For a reason.

                                            1. a
                                              anil Mar 2, 2008 07:49 AM

                                              I am going to comment on what I do like in the South Asian fare (North Indian,South Indian, Srilankan, west India etc.)

                                              For Raan, grill and lachha parathas - Yuva on upper East Side
                                              For appams and southern indian stews - Sigri (Sir lankan) on 1st Ave between 5th & 6th St.
                                              For dosas - Chennai garden
                                              for southern Indian Thali and idlis and early breakfast - Sarvaanas
                                              Chicken 65, Fish Coriander and indian chinese - Chinese Mirch on 28th & Lex
                                              Biryani takeout - local steam table on 10th Ave.
                                              Dhokla and Chaat - Sukhadias on 45th off 5th Ave. (now that original Dimple is closed)
                                              Stale bread pakoras - Desi Deli on 10 Ave.
                                              Devi, Tabla, Pongal for occasional cravings.

                                              Yes, this is indeed very manhattan centric.

                                              1. bethanyj Mar 2, 2008 08:36 AM

                                                I stumbled upon a great Indian restaurant called GAAM. Is is located Midtown West and it is all vegetarian. It has a prix-fixed menu...which I usually don't like but I was pleasantly surprised with great food, great service and great ambiance. I highly recommend this place.
                                                http://www.gaamny.com/

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: bethanyj
                                                  s
                                                  shivohum Mar 4, 2008 08:02 AM

                                                  This would be the new location for the well-known Vatan, at least until it renovates and reopens in the fall.

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