HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Need Excellent Indian -- near Times Sq if possible?

d
definiteopinions Feb 15, 2011 02:33 PM

Family group coming in, have theatre tix this Fri eve. They LOVE Indian. What is good in the neighborhood of Times Sq / Theatre district? No florescent lights, please :)

Recommendations, appreciated!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. f
    FoodDabbler RE: definiteopinions Feb 15, 2011 08:13 PM

    The honest answer to your question is that there's very little excellent Indian food in Manhattan, and none of it (as far as I know) near Times Square. I'd be delighted to be proved wrong. Among so-so to passable places not too far from the Theatre district there's Utsav on 46th off 6th, Nirvana on Lex and 40th-ish, and Chola on 58th, between 2nd and 3rd. On the west side there are several appalling options, but some decent dishes (esp. the crisp okra) at Aaheli on 9th in the mid 50s.

    -----
    Chola
    232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

    Utsav
    1185 6th Ave, New York, NY 10036

    Aaheli
    826 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

    21 Replies
    1. re: FoodDabbler
      p
      Pookipichu RE: FoodDabbler Feb 16, 2011 01:17 PM

      ^agreed. Arguably there isn't even a "decent" Indian restaurant in the immediate Times Square area.

      Nirvana is probably the best compromise of proximity, price and quality.

      If you wish to venture further, Tamarind Tribeca has head and shoulders the most elegant setting, service... and a mixed bag of very good to mediocre dishes.

      1. re: Pookipichu
        f
        FoodDabbler RE: Pookipichu Feb 17, 2011 04:29 PM

        Yes, we see eye-to-eye on the sad state of Indian restaurants in Manhattan. Nirvana continues to puzzle me. I've had them deliver food twice in the last few days. Their Parsi prawn pulao, which had been a delightful combination of fragrant rice, prawns and caramelized onions in the past, was a heavy, oily, over spiced mess this time. It was a tasty mess, and the prawns were beautifully cooked again and perfectly textured (not the little coils of iodized rubber you get at so many places), but the dish lacked all subtlety. Their dry goat had tough meat as did the lamb shank. They are not cooking their meat long enough and on low enough heat. Both were tasty, though, and the goat especially fragrant with curry leaves. The chicken 65 was decent. The rasmalai was very good and very fresh, as always. But there was a puzzle here, as well. The "cheese" patties were suddenly like minis, and the cream they floated in more caramelized than in the past. I like the second development, but it does raise the question of consistency. Does the food they turn out depend on the whim of whoever is in the kitchen that day, or do they follow precise recipes? I think they'd be outstanding if they disciplined themselves and followed a plan. As it is, I think they're just OK.

      2. re: FoodDabbler
        o
        Olive123 RE: FoodDabbler Feb 16, 2011 02:06 PM

        I was also going to suggest Utsav. I absolutely love their saag paneer. It is a relatively quick walk over, too.

        -----
        Utsav
        1185 6th Ave, New York, NY 10036

        1. re: FoodDabbler
          m
          Mr Porkchop RE: FoodDabbler Feb 16, 2011 04:08 PM

          I don't think it's the best Indian in NYC by a stretch, but I think Utsav is better than about 97% of Indian restuarants you'll find out there in the US. The NYC chowhounders are always a tough crowd. I think it's a pretty good bet as far as near Times Square goes. I like their cauliflower appetizer.

          Someone else on the thread mentioned Dhaba, which would be my choice if going slightly further afield.

          -----
          Utsav
          1185 6th Ave, New York, NY 10036

          1. re: Mr Porkchop
            c
            City Kid RE: Mr Porkchop Feb 18, 2011 12:21 PM

            Utsav used to be a go-to for us when we went to the Laura Pels theater downstairs. We went recently after not having been for a while and the food had really gone downhill -- much less solicitous service, too and it seemed kind of shabby. The food was dull, just OK...no plans to return.

          2. re: FoodDabbler
            Bob Martinez RE: FoodDabbler Feb 18, 2011 09:51 AM

            "... there's very little excellent Indian food in Manhattan ..."

            I disagree. Dhaba is excellent at the mid priced level. On the high end Devi continues to serve inventive takes on Indian classics and Tulsi has been very well reviewed.

            -----
            Tulsi
            211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

            1. re: Bob Martinez
              f
              FoodDabbler RE: Bob Martinez Feb 18, 2011 01:41 PM

              Leaving aside the question of how you define "excellent Indian food" (are you comparing Indian food in Manhattan to the best in India, or even to very good food in India?), I suggest that coming up with just three restaurants that allegedly serve good food only bolsters my case that there's very little excellent Indian food in Manhattan. I've eaten at Devi three times and liked it. I haven't yet tried Dhaba (but have liked Bhojan to some extent) or the new Tulsi. Three examples out of nearly 300 Indian restaurants in Manhattan -- based on a count from a yellow pages site -- does, however, seem to me very little.

              -----
              Bhojan
              102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

              Tulsi
              211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

              1. re: FoodDabbler
                p
                Pookipichu RE: FoodDabbler Feb 18, 2011 02:01 PM

                In two visits, I found Devi to be serviceable, inconsistent and at a price point that makes it unlikely I roll the dice again.

                Delicious and beautifully arranged lamb chops... average chicken tikka masala, soggy naan, over-salted seekh kebab with good chutney, bland curries, erratic portions, etc.

                Every kitchen has an off day or two so experiences may vary, but I'd much rather eat at several other Indian restaurants than try a third time.

                1. re: Pookipichu
                  f
                  FoodDabbler RE: Pookipichu Feb 18, 2011 02:12 PM

                  Did you order off the menu or do a tasting? I did the tasting menu on my first visit and enjoyed it very much. On my next visits I ordered off the menu and noticed some of the inconsistencies you mention, but not to the extent that you did. I was careful in my choice of words above. I liked Devi, I said, nothing stronger.

                  1. re: FoodDabbler
                    p
                    Pookipichu RE: FoodDabbler Feb 18, 2011 02:34 PM

                    I ordered a la carte and off the testing menu. I really wanted to like Devi but it is an expensive restaurant and my experiences have been very mixed. If every dish was as well prepared as their lamb chops, I can see how others would favor it.

                    Have you tried the new Tamarind yet? I am curious for your opinion.

                    1. re: Pookipichu
                      f
                      FoodDabbler RE: Pookipichu Feb 18, 2011 03:19 PM

                      No I have not, yet.

                2. re: FoodDabbler
                  thew RE: FoodDabbler Feb 18, 2011 02:38 PM

                  to be fair, having spent a great deal of time in india - that's probably a better percentage than you get in the subcontinent

                  1. re: thew
                    f
                    FoodDabbler RE: thew Feb 18, 2011 03:17 PM

                    I know what you're saying, but that's a tough head-to-head comparison to make. India has become a restaurant-going culture only recently. Many restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s served the workforce (street stalls, dining halls, etc.) and cooking good food was not a priority. The best food was found in the home, apart from specialty items such as tandoori chicken that required special tools, ovens, etc. So, yes, the percentage of restaurants serving good food is low in India, since the overall number of "restaurants" is huge, and very many are still aimed at turning out food fast. The good restaurants are very good, though. The food has a sparkle, the herbs and spices a freshness, and the layering of flavors a complexity that fills your entire being with joy.

                    When has an Indian restaurant in Manhattan done that to you? Such a reaction is common among those who dine at EMP or Per Se, but not among those who dine at Devi. I can't see any evidence yet to counter my claim that Indian restaurants in Manhattan have little excellent food.

                    -----
                    Per Se
                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: FoodDabbler
                      JungMann RE: FoodDabbler Feb 19, 2011 07:25 AM

                      Excellent doesn't have to mean Michelin-worthy fare. When I first moved to New York, the options for South Asian fare were abysmal. Now we have places like Dhaba, Bhojan, Devi, Darbar Grill, Chola and countless little dhabas turning out terrific renditions of South Asian cuisine. They are rarely a revelation in the way EMP or Per Se are, but they're not meant to be. They are meant to be honest interpretations of an ancient cuisine, and at that, they're excellent.

                      -----
                      Per Se
                      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                      Chola
                      232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                      Darbar Grill
                      157 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022

                      Bhojan
                      102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                      1. re: JungMann
                        p
                        Pookipichu RE: JungMann Feb 19, 2011 12:43 PM

                        This discussion is going in circles. You can apply the term excellent in any way you wish, but at the end of the day, you are not talking about the same type or application of the word excellence as FoodDabbler.

                        I don't disagree with you that there are Indian restaurants that are in a way, excellent at what they do. But I have yet to eat at an Indian restaurant in New York that compares to the best in London. And for those craving a "Michelin" star Indian restaurant, good is not enough.

                        I was more encouraged in the late 90's with the development of 58th street's curry row. Chola and the push for upscale service, ambiance and authentic spicing was moving New York in the right direction. Has the Indian food in the city moved forward? I don't think it has.

                        Similarly, Chinese cuisine peaked (in the 70's). There's really nothing in New York that compares to the best in Shanghai, Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong. The closest I've come was Wing Lei in Las Vegas. Don't even get me started on the Chinese food in San Francisco which passes there for "high-end". It's OK. Where's the amazing?

                        -----
                        Chola
                        232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                      2. re: FoodDabbler
                        g
                        gutsofsteel RE: FoodDabbler Feb 19, 2011 12:54 PM

                        It's all relative. As much as I like EMP, it doesn't compare to restaurants in Europe. But so what - this is the NY board.

                        1. re: gutsofsteel
                          f
                          FoodDabbler RE: gutsofsteel Feb 21, 2011 04:13 AM

                          What is it about this being the NY board that makes comparisons between food available here and food available elsewhere illegitimate? if someone asks for excellent food of a certain type, it's surely fine to say, as I did, "You can get good food of this type in NY (and here are the places), but it won't by and large be excellent."

                          My basic point, as Pookipichu has understood (thanks P), is that if you use high standards, there's little excellent, exciting Indian food in Manhattan. Those who disagree are welcome to do so, but it would be good if they provided as many counterexamples as possible.

                    2. re: FoodDabbler
                      g
                      gutsofsteel RE: FoodDabbler Feb 19, 2011 07:11 AM

                      You could say the same about Chinese food and it would be just as silly. There are over 1100 Chinese restaurants that show up on menupages in Manhattan. How many of those are really good? But you wouldn't say there is very little excellent Chinese food in Manhattan.

                      1. re: gutsofsteel
                        f
                        FoodDabbler RE: gutsofsteel Feb 21, 2011 04:32 AM

                        Yes, percentages are a limited tool, but not valueless. if there were three Indian restaurants in Manhattan and all three were very good, it would be cause for celebration, optimism, and hope. If it's three out of three hundred, it's cause for concern.

                        The Chinese restaurant situation (and that for pizza, etc.) is a bit different, I think, because of the volume. Let's say there are 50,000 New Yorkers really interested in superb food. If there are 30 first-rate Chinese restaurants out of 1100 (already a higher percentage than the hypothetical Indian situation) and 3 first-rate Indian ones, our gastronomical Manhattanites have ten times as many Chinese choices as Indian. So, I'd refine what I said earlier and say that a low percentage is revealing, but is less important as the volume gets larger.

                        1. re: FoodDabbler
                          Steve R RE: FoodDabbler Feb 21, 2011 05:28 AM

                          My 2 cents on this is that you've (FoodDabbler) taken a relatively simple request and made it into an intellectual exercise. You were the 1st to respond to the original poster and you were incredibly pessimistic about him/her finding anything to please his/her family. That was unhelpful and, as others pointed out, in their opinion it was also incorrect. Ok, so none of the major recommendations were near to Times Square, but they were doable options and that's what the poster needed, not an analysis of the state of Indian food in Manhattan.

                          As for you most recent comment "... if there were three Indian restaurants in Manhattan and all three were very good, it would be cause for celebration, optimism, and hope. If it's three out of three hundred, it's cause for concern.", well, I find that similarly overthought. When I want to go out to eat, I want to know if a place exists to fill my need, not what % of the total # of similar restaurants it represents. One of three or one of a thousand... all the same. There are still 3 good options.

                          By the way, I'd recommend Dhaba, Devi or Tulsi as well. I've been to all 3 and wouldnt hesitate to bring friends/family to any of them.

                          -----
                          Tulsi
                          211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

                          1. re: Steve R
                            The Chowhound Team RE: Steve R Feb 21, 2011 06:52 AM

                            Folks, this sub-thread has long since stopped being about chow and started being about the definitions of words and how other people are posting, so we're going to ask that you let it go.

                            If you've got recommendations for the original poster, please do add them below.

                3. h
                  H Manning RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 04:03 AM

                  Try Bay Leaf, a few blocks north on West 56th and 6th Avenue.

                  -----
                  Bay Leaf
                  49 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

                  1. JungMann RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 05:55 AM

                    It's hard to think of a good, fairly nice Indian restaurant within walking distance of the Theatre District. If you're willing to travel a little bit, Earthen Oven is a few minutes uptown by train, whilst Chola and Darbar Grill are a quick crosstown cab ride.

                    -----
                    Earthen Oven
                    53 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023

                    Chola
                    232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                    Darbar Grill
                    157 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022

                    1. j
                      jzungre RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 12:11 PM

                      I love Indigo on the Upper West Side.

                      1. n
                        nativeNYer RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 02:46 PM

                        I will strongly agree with Nirvana and Earthen Oven. It will be worth the trip by cab or subway as there is NOTHING in that area.

                        -----
                        Earthen Oven
                        53 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023

                        1. g
                          gutsofsteel RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 02:51 PM

                          Shaan on W. 48th St. is pretty decent.

                          1. thew RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 03:09 PM

                            dhaba on 28th and lex. same owners as chola i believe

                            1. d
                              diprey11 RE: definiteopinions Feb 16, 2011 04:07 PM

                              Want to travel (by subway, no transfers)? Otherwise, sorry but no.

                              1. d
                                definiteopinions RE: definiteopinions Feb 17, 2011 05:12 AM

                                Many thanks to you all!! Suggestions near AND far greatly appreciated! Heading out this morning, taking the list with me!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: definiteopinions
                                  n
                                  nativeNYer RE: definiteopinions Feb 18, 2011 09:21 AM

                                  please let us know where u wind up and what u think. thanks and enjoy!

                                2. r
                                  rrems RE: definiteopinions Feb 21, 2011 09:26 AM

                                  I realize this is too late to help the OP, but I just had a fabulous meal at Junoon, a new place on West 24th St.

                                  -----
                                  Junoon
                                  27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

                                  Show Hidden Posts