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Dec 11, 2011 10:31 AM

Why are there no really good Indian restaurants?

I have a guest coming for the holidays and he wants spicy, full-flavored delicious Indian food, Either places have bit the dust that were once very good, and the reminders serve overcooked, dreary v ery boring food, Why? are there any not on these boards secreted away?

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  1. Have you been to Tulsi or Junoon? Imo, they both serve spicy, full-flavored, delicious Indian cuisine.

    Tulsi photos:

    Junoon photos:

    211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

    27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

    1. There are some great spots in Queens.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Peter Cuce

        Which? (Point to appropriate Outer Space -- sorry, Boroughs -- thread if necessary.)

      2. That's a rather broad and unsupported claim. Is your friend looking for north Indian? South Indian? Vegetarian / non-veg? Family style / haute? Which places have you tried and found lacking?

        1. We actually just had a very good meal at Chola. Not every dish was superb but some were. They had the best chicken tandoori we have had since Asia. Place was packed for a weekend dinner. Though we still need to get to Junoon.

          232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

          10 Replies
          1. re: comiendosiempre

            The one time I went to Chola, I found the food rather disappointing in comparison to its younger sibling Dhaba, where I thought the food was very good. Neither is anything like the haute style of Junoon or Tulsi.


            1. re: RGR

              Precisely the problem. It is the 'haute' style that kills it for me. I have been to both places, and although the food was good (not great), the preciousness and tiny portions rendered it a bad experience. I think most people want an Indian place to be more direct, relaxed, and less presentation oriented.

              1. re: NYJewboy

                When you say "both places' and "tiny portions," to which restaurants are you referring?


                1. re: NYJewboy

                  " most people want an Indian place to be more direct, relaxed, and less presentation oriented."

                  Why is that? Should French, Italian, and Japanese places (for example) also be "direct, relaxed, and less presentation oriented" or are they exempt from the requirement?

                  As I've said, I agree that Indian restaurants in Manhattan are not good, in general. But knocking the couple of places that are experimenting with the cuisine at the high end isn't the answer.

                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                    If they can do it without the the expense of losing the soul of the cuisine, then more power to them. It's not a matter of being high end.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Well stated. Nevertheless, very few chefs can successfully cater to their "high end" clientele without losing the "soul of the cuisine." In fact, that appears to be the OP's fundamental premise as well as the shortfalls of the places exemplified as the "haute" offerings in this subthread.

                      By way of analogy, I submit that Pat Boone sold a lot more copies of "Ain't That A Shame" than Fats Domino did.* Similarly, if it were not for Elvis Presley, who would know who Big Mama Thornton was? Cuisines that are more familiar to the popular palate** can be triumphantly "recreated;" however, in many ways it seems that the current state of Indian food in Manhattan restaurants is still devoid of its essential funk and it is that fundamental funk that sometimes takes certain dishes to that next level of delicious.

                      *At least contemporarily.
                      **I refer to the examples given above.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        By funk, do you mean the romanticized Taxi stand buffet experience or throwing up crazy pepper lights for decor? Few of those places ever turned out top notch foods.

                        When I think of good Indian food in New York, I think of a misnomer for a mish mash of national cuisines of that region, and as I said before, a UK experience, or mimicking Colonial hotel fine dining with showy serving presentation. It was a poor man's replication of high end dining, so the notion that anyone rejects Indian or Pakistani food at a certain price point holds no water. Even 6th Street has Mitali East, which tries.

                        What's missing is the proper high quality spicing, and fresh food cooked in ghee and other expensive ingredients that gives it the signature flavors. The Tamarind generation of places purposely aren't offering that.

                        Who uses good spices for starters?

                        I don't mean masking poor food with heat, I mean the full range of spices.

                        Any suggestions?

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          When I think Indian funk I think asafoetida (heeng) and the lack of it in most dishes geared for the western palate. It is pretty potent, I keep mine very tightly sealed in a small mason jar to prevent my whole house from smelling.

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            Well yeah, the elephant in the room is we're talking about Westernized versions of the food. Of course, there are differences even between home cooking, and high end cooking in India itself, but it's probably off topic.

                            I think the question here is where you can get a worthwhile Samosa this side of the Holland tunnel.

                    2. re: FoodDabbler

                      Exactly what I wanted to say - thank you, FoodDabbler.

              2. Unfortunately, i've yet to find one that i like either.

                You might find this thread interesting:


                Indus Valley, on the UWS near 100th St was good when i went there once years ago, but not enough to make a destination place for me...i've disliked every other Indian place...

                However, if your friend is interested in related cuisines, there are some wonderful options.

                Sigiri serves Sri Lankan food (very spicy, and cooked in light canola oil) in a casual BYOB setting.

                And, Kin Shop is Thai-influenced yet serves rotis and some dishes that taste similar to Indian: as mentioned in the other thread, i took my Indian-food-craving friends there and they loved it.

                91 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                Indus Valley
                2636 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

                Kin Shop
                469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                1 Reply
                1. re: Simon

                  Simon, Off-topic for this thread, but we had dinner at Ponty Bistro last Sunday. I've posted about it on the appropriate thread: