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Jun 3, 2009 11:47 PM

Does good Indian exist in Brooklyn?

Or must I go to Manhattan?

I've heard tepid recommendations for Joy on Flatbush, but that's it- and even those were more of the "it'll do in a pinch" variety.

Am I missing something?

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  1. yeah, i really wish a decent place would open up in north brooklyn.

    1. Joy is similar to a 6th St. bangla joint, and the owner actually refused to serve me on a Sunday afternoon when nobody else was in the restaurant because I wouldn't move from a table for four to a table for 2 in a cramped corner. I asked him if he were expecting a sudden flood of business. He stood his ground, and I refused to move, so I didn't have my second meal there. The first was not vile, but it took 2 years to get me back, and that was only because I was planning to write a piece on mughlai paratha, which they serve (it seems to only be on Bengali menus). And Kinara also had a little traction here for a while, but it's not very good at all.

      1. I like Joy but it is of the "do in a pinch" variety if you're really into Indian food. If not, it's better than your average delivery Indian. I haven't been but I hear great things about India Passage in Bay Ridge (3rd ave and 74th st).

        32 Replies
        1. re: demigodh

          Wow- by these posts I guess I just have to accept that Indian food in Brooklyn really does suck...

          1. re: twan55

            There are many very good Pakistani places on Coney Island Avenue.

            1. re: Barry Strugatz

              If that's true I'd love a name or two. I know there are many Pakistani restaurants, and I haven't tried any, but I haven't seen any real raves for any here. I grew up in that neighborhood.

              1. re: Peter Cherches

                I have yet to find a reliable sit-down, non-steam-table place. Madina, on the Corner of Beverley and Coney Island Avenue, is pretty good (steam table). I have enjoyed a stew-ish ground chicken with potatoes and various veg. dishes, all satisfyingly spicy, and the nan is made to order and yummy, but it is not subway-ride worthy. I would also like to know if anyone has a real find in the area.

                1. re: gnosh

                  that's funny, the one time i went to madina, i thought it was awful. I think there might be better places along mcdonald ave in kensington, but i haven't tried any of them yet.

                  1. re: missmasala

                    That's funny. The many times I've been there I thought it was better than awful. I have poked around on Macdonald Avenue, and have not hit upon anything worth noting. What gives you the idea those places are good? Are there any particular spots you've been meaning to try?

                    1. re: gnosh

                      Well I only went to Madina once, so perhaps caught them on a bad day. I just thought the food was not particularly well-cooked (too greasy, for one) and/or nuanced. I've seen a couple of places on McDonald (or nearby on Church) that look interesting, but can't remember any names. Also, JFores, who seems to have decent taste and good knowledge of bengali (or bangladeshi) food, has recommended a place on McDonald. Can't remember which one, tho--i would have to do a search for it on the board, which i was saving for next time i was in the area.

                      I will also say up front that Pakistani and Bangladeshi style south asian food is not my favorite, as my preference leans towards south indian style flavors. So perhaps Madina is good and I just don't like that kind of thing.

                      1. re: missmasala

                        here's a Sietsema article on the Kensington cluster.
                        I shop at Bangla Nagar - the folks are friendly and the stock the most attractive in that area.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          by the way has anyone ever checked out this place in bath beach?
                          Ive kept a link on my computer to this article for quite a while now.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Sietsema wrote: "What makes Pakistani food different from Indian? The cuisine is more elemental, strongly flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, and green chiles, and far less dependent on the powdered spice combos central to Indian cooking." I that true? Is Pakistaniof different from North Indian muslim cooking of nearby states? And isn't much Pakistani cooking really Punjabi in style and origin, as is much of North Indian restaurant cuisine?

                            1. re: Peter Cherches

                              Its basically Punjabi cooking (which is certainly robustly spiced) - to the extent it is not (Northwest Frontier, Sindhi, Kashmiri, etc) those styles are also represented in the cuisine of North India. Sometimes he just blathers.

                              Its like insisting on making a strong distinction between w. bengal and bangladeshi food - yes there are difference and diferent communities but there is a common tradition.

                              Have you ever been to the Bath Beach place?

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  Sietsema also once claimed that the further north you go in India (or on the subcontinent) the spicier the food gets!!!???
                                  He really does blather sometimes and often states things that are just plain wrong.
                                  And, if I had to make a dumb generalization about Indian food, it would be just the opposite--the further south you go, the less dependent they are on powdered spice combos (like garam masala) and the more they use fresh green chiles, fresh cilantro, fresh ginger, and coconut. But, before anyone jumps on me, I repeat that this is a dumb generalization, albeit one that i think is slightly more accurate than sietsema's.
                                  And Jen, I agree about there not being a super strong distinction between Bengali and Banglasdeshi food, but some people insist on making it, and in the interest of accuracy, I like to call those restaurants Bangladeshi, as I think they are run by muslims from Bangladesh and not Hindus from Bengal.

                                  1. re: missmasala

                                    I agree with the above, tho I think the indian food picure is so complex with all the different communities and cuisines that these generalizations are fairly worthless..wont keep me from making my own generalization tomorrow.

                                    1. re: missmasala

                                      Yeah, I read somewhere that Andhra food is supposed to be the spiciest, but I think the spiciest regional food I had in India was Rajahstani veg.

                                      1. re: Peter Cherches

                                        When I was last there Jhinuk was probably the best in Brooklyn and it served by far the most extensive selection of properly Bangladeshi items. It's not your standard Anglicized Punjabi menu, but that should be the beauty of it. I haven't been there in around two years so I really can't give a 100% accurate assessment on the place.

                                        Pakistani food has its own significant regional variations so its hard to make generalizations about (like Indian food.) Also, there's a MASSIVE difference between Bangladeshi and West Bengali food. Even Bangladeshi Hindus cook completely different to their coreligionists in the west. West Bengalis won't go anywhere near shutki and a lot of other properly Bangladeshi ingredients. Also, they're generally scared to death of spice. The gap is being bridged a lot more because Dhaka is increasingly cosmopolitan and its inhabitants are terrible on spice, shutki, etc, but this is mostly a big city mentality.

                                        TBH I think the difference between Punjabi Hindu, Punjabi Sikh, and Punjabi Muslim food is practically nil compared to the difference between West and East Bengali food. It's mostly a matter of what's available. \

                                        The bottom of Coney Island Ave in Brighton also has a Pakistani place that does decent haleem. I don't think I've ever had anything else there, but solid haleem. If you're not picky about it being specifically "Indian" then you can also widen your search to a lot of the Carribean places. For instance, I think The Islands does the best goat curry (curry goat) in the five boroughs.

                                        1. re: JFores

                                          I can second the Pakistani place at the bottom of Coney Island Ave.. Have eaten there several times. I have just had the basics. Decor is very basic and dark, Pakistani news on TV, taxi drivers on their breaks. Mom takes your order behind the counter. Quite fun and the foods good.

                                          1. re: JFores

                                            you mean shukto? If so that is certainly served in Calcutta and a normal part of the cuisine. Bengal was a common culture/language group with its separate subgroups prior to partition as was the punjab. It would be logical for there to be more noticeably in common than different, even tho the differences may loom large to individuals from that culture.

                                            My analog is to the midwestern protestant culture I grew up in - minor distinctions were important enough that, for example my Mom insisted my Dad "convert" from methodist to presbyterian. In the end they were more similar than different when compared with the world of catholics, jews, muslims etc - one of those outsiders would find little difference in doctrine, observance, vocabulary, etc.-
                                            The bangladeshis in Kensington cook with the same vegetables, fish, meat etc that the banglas in Calcutta do and season them basically the same way with the caveat of course that muslims will have their own dishes spread across the region by empire in their repetoire. Within the subcontinent, its all identifiably bengali - if you eat at Mina, say (maybe a bad example since she offers some non-bengali dishes) you could go to cacutta and recognize the dishes.

                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              Shutko is basically mixed veg dish. Shutki is dried fish which is done in a wide variety of ways including in a broken down form (shutki chutney.)

                                              Mina's menu is almost entirely non-Bengali. She basically serves Punjabi food with the chance occurrence that mustard fish happens to be on the menu.

                                              Both sides of the border serve similar banquet food, but their veg cooking and fish dishes tend to vary wildly. Some are quite close (prawns cooked in a coconut is a common both side of the border special dish for ei) where as the West tends to be dead scared of shutki.

                                              Think of it as Muslim Punjabi food compared to Sikh Punjabi food compared to Hindu Punjabi food and then throw in the wild card of East African Punjabi food to represent the sort of off-base stuff you'll find in Sylhet and east of Chittagong.

                                              Bangladesh has a lot of regional variation and I'm sure that West Bengal does as well (there's also probably a strong break between capital cooking and the surroundings as is the case with Dhaka and practically everywhere else.)

                                              1. re: JFores

                                                interesting, thanks . You are right there are likely to be local dishes in the large territory that is now Bangladesh that they dont see in Kolkata and environs. Do any of the Bengali places you enjoy in NY cook shukti?

                                                Seems to me that notwithstanding her standard issue Indian menu (she has to offer all the stuff people expect) Mina cooks various versions of baigan bharta more or less full of mustard, dal fry, mango dal, misthi doi and I am sure others on request, that are pure bengali, in addition to the hilsa and other fish dishes which are very good. . - some of the muslim dishes, haleem etc biryani, etc she cooked are made all over the subcontinent wherever muslims are - be it bengal,or hyderabad - not necessarily punjabi.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  I tend to disregard Mina's because I had some really inconsistent meals there and the prices are extortionate for a Bangladeshi place.

                                                  Ghoroa usually has shutki (almost always.) Sagar sometimes has it. The place in Brooklyn I mentioned above does it. Most of the more village/immigrant oriented places will have it most of the time. It's pretty much the national ingredient.

                                                  I was just generalizing on her menu arrangement. I had a few good meals there years ago, but the last time I was there it was really below average (even though it was her cooking everything.)

                                                  Know any West Bengali places? I still don't know a single proper one in London or NY.

                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                    I have never seen any restaurants in NY that cook specifically the Calcutte style cuisine altho like I keep saying, the common Bengali culture will mean that a lot of the dishes are the same or similar. .My Bengali cookbooks and my (single) bangladeshi book, include a lot of the same dishes as do online sources...The wikipedia article on this topic is pretty interesting and suggests some culinary divergence since partition, as well as pointing out some other intererestiing stuff I did not know of before.

                                                    I will have to visit Ghoroa and the McDonald Ave spots - would like to check out the shukti

                                    2. re: Peter Cherches

                                      what a truly idiotic statement. the pakistan/india border exists only from 1947 on!

                                      1. re: howler

                                        yeah its hard to think there could be too much divergence given that theyve been cooking the same stuff for centuries - why would they change?

                  2. re: demigodh

                    India Passage? The only meal that I can remember ( aside from a restaurant outside of Hiroshima) where I took one bite and stopped eating. No one else in my party ate much more than I did.

                    1. re: carfreeinla

                      I haven't been to India Passage in Years - but it used to be great, and actually to this day it is the best Indian food I have ever had (and I lived in England for six years!)
                      The food used to be fresh and so perfectly delicatly spiced.

                      I wonder if the place has gone that much down hill in recent years, or if your party had a fluke bad experience.

                      1. re: NellyNel

                        When I eat Indian food from any region, I want to taste the variation in spices. The food at India Passage was completely interchangable. Compare that to a place like Dosa Garden on SI and you will never go to India Passage again. I am willing to accept that the poor food that we had was a fluke, but the preparation made it not worth going back.

                        1. re: carfreeinla

                          Wow - that's a shame. I have been trying to figure out how long it's been since I have been there, and it has to be over 8 years ago. Perhaps by now it has changed hands.
                          Please believe me that it used to be exceptional.

                          I haven't had a good Indian meal in a very long time. I will have to check out Dosa Garden!

                          1. re: NellyNel

                   unanimous in the voting against India Passage!..shame that my index great Indian in Brooklyn is suffering...used to go at least once-a-month, but the thrill wore off since (1) our last two visits disappointed, (2) we live right in the Kensington Paki-Bangla eye and (3) the latter offerings are thriftier, varied and complex. Can't get samosas at 75 cents apiece at IP, nor a dish of sauteed karela.

                            You must be extremely selective at Madina, but their seekh kababs, buttered sesame-covered naans are the best. Elemental stuff like channa in a mustard-oily sauce and their seed-flecked "plain" rice are superb. Chicken Tikka masala is consistently rich, tho' plain tikka pieces have come up dry.

                            On Church and McDonald, Jhinuk has the widest array of choices, but the competition has heated up with the arrival of Abdullah's Sweets and what was formerly Ambrosia, directly opposite. Then there's the darling new Basmati on Church near East 3rd Street which has huge potential if only their steam table offered edgier, brighter items. Cannot compare the prices to India Passage 'cause it's a whole different animal, but the Coney Island Avenue Pak places are actually priced lower than Church & McD.

                            Farouk (owner of India Passae) - if you're listening, turn the clock back to around 1990-1995 and make the Passage shine again - clearly, something's gone amiss and your people have gone astray.

                            1. re: Mike R.

                              The Indian restaurants that I frequent could never survive in Bay Ridge. Most likely because the spices are more complex. But if you posed a query about IP or Taj Mahal on a Bay Ridge board, you might get a positive report- they are user friendly and if I remember correctly- clean. I have come to accept this and travel for my Indian food, but you can't beat the varieties of Middle Eastern. It would be nice to find some middle ground, but if your friend Farouk has been able to survive for as long as he has, more power to him

                              1. re: Mike R.

                                Ooohh thanks for the recs, definitely going to make a trip soon.

                        2. re: carfreeinla

                          If you mean India Passage in Bay Ridge, yep, it's really terrible and overpriced. I went out of desperation, tired of the same-old same-old at Taj Mahal on the next block (everything tastes the same no matter what you order--pretty good, but very samey) but Taj Mahal is definitely better. Not great but better. I've finally broken down and started learning how to cook my own.

                      2. I tend to go to Joy when I can (not often and they don't deliver to my area) and then to Kinara or Bombay Grill when I really want Indian. I've had surprisingly good rice and saag paneer at Kinara, actually, though certain things (samosa for example) are terrible and things are over-salted in general.
                        It's not as bad as the situation with Chinese restaurants, but it's pretty awful!

                        1. I prefer Raga on Smith Street to Joy in Park Slope, but I have not found a destination Indian restaurant in Brooklyn yet.