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Malai Marke - a new Indian on (gasp!) 6th St.

Another month, another good new Indian restaurant. Last month I wrote about Chote Nawab, an Indian restaurant which opened last summer.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885389

In researching the place I learned that the owner, Shiva Naratjan, had just opened yet another restaurant on 6th St., Malai Marke.

Yes, 6th St.

This strip of Indian restaurants has been there since the late 1970s. The food was never stellar but most of us eating there didn’t know any better. They were our introduction to Indian cuisine.

As time went on a lot of us gradually outgrew them. In my case frequent trips to London opened up whole new vistas of Indian dining. With occasional exceptions most of the 6th St. places were barely acceptable. They were also very much alike – the long standing joke was that they shared a common kitchen. Over time the center of gravity for Indian restaurants moved north to Curry Hill. The old strip seemed like it was caught in a time warp; mediocre food served in a fusty atmosphere.

But sometimes things change. We’ve liked Dhaba and Chote Nawab, Naratjan’s other places, so we figured we’d give Malai Marke a try. It worked out nicely.

Like Naratjan’s other restaurants MM has a nice contemporary glossiness about it.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8046/83...

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8085/83...

The menu had plenty of familiar things on it as well of plenty of dishes that were new to us. We mixed and matched and ordered too much food because, well, that’s what we do.

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Patiala Lamb Kabab spiced - pan grilled lamb patties. This was new to us. Not overwhelmingly lamby but certainly more assertive than a chicken patty. Juicy and nicely spiced. Dishes like this are why I go to Indian restaurants.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8238/83...

Ragara Patties - spiced potato patties with chickpeas, yogurt and chutnies. This was served at room temperature. A classic side dish, relatively mild and made for offsetting the spicier options on the menu. It would have been nice if the menu had mentioned the temperature. I still would have ordered it but my mouth was expecting a hot dish.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8506/83...

Chicken Achari. We’ve had this before but I can’t remember a better version. This was suitably moist with mid range heat. Very good indeed.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8356/83...

Garlic nan, because we always order it. Greasy in a very good way.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8218/83...

Seekh Kabab - skewered lamb rolls. The best version I’ve ever had of this dish was served at the Delhi Brasserie in London’s Soho, a 10 out of 10. I try not to think about it too often because I’ve been disappointed by versions served in New York. Malai Marke’s version was really pretty good, juicier than others. I marked it down a bit because the spicing wasn’t as complex as renditions I’ve had in London but really, their’s is very good.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8505/83...

Chicken Tikka Masala. A perennial favorite of my GF’s. MM’s iteration was very good indeed, rich in a good way. I’ve never had a better version.

We later learned that Malai Marke had only opened the previous week. Had we known we would have held off our visit for at least 3 or 4 weeks in order to give the kitchen a chance to settle down and to let the serving staff find their stride. I attribute the unusual smoothness of our meal to Naratjan’s professionalism. He’s been in this business for awhile and he knows how to open a restaurant that hits on all cylinders from the start. I also suspect that owning multiple restaurants is an advantage. He probably switches seasoned staff around to avoid staffing a new restaurant with people who’ve never worked with each other.

All of that worked in our favor. Our meal was first rate and we look forward to getting back and working our way through the menu.

You know who the only people around who probably aren’t very happy about Malai Marke? The owners of those tired and mediocre places on 6th St. They’re going to have to get better fast or have their business take a real hit. MM has raised the bar.

Malai Marke
318 E 6th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave
)Manhattan, NY 10003

(212) 777-7729

http://www.malaimarke.com

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  1. Thanks for the review (and great photos). How would you compare the quality to Dhaba?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      It's premature to compare Malai Marke with Dhaba since I've only had one meal. At least for that one, however, the quality was comparable. I was planning on going back the past weekend but the snow crossed up my plans. I'll post about my next meal.

      FWIW I've eaten twice at Chote Nawab, Natarajan's other NY restaurant (besides Chola), and the food quality there was certainly comparable with Dhaba's.

    2. Thanks for the good and surprising news. I'll be sure to check the place out.

      1. We went to Malai Marke on a recent Saturday night. We had an excellent meal.

        Plainly the restaurant has been "discovered." We did not have a reservation and at a little before 9 p.m. we waited about 15 mins for a table in the "main" room. As we waited quite a number of other folks showed up; some with reservations, some without. There did seem to be an issue as to whether reservations were properly taken down. Some diners showed up claiming a reservation and none was there. We were told that by ten p.m. you can walk right in. I would call in advance. Lunch is much calmer.

        In any event, we had generally good service. The kitchen is open as you walk in to the back of the restaurant and you can see the chefs are flying and, to my eye (I cook a bunch of Indian at home) were well on their game. They have a number of wine and beer options. The bengali sixpoint was good, and I have not much seen it in other spots.

        We had an excellent spicy sauteed paneer appetizer. With onions, a few peppers. Perhaps a bit like a chicken 65 sauce. Spicy. Really very very good. Addictive; we enjoyed it very much. The much talked about okra was also very good. Both our chicken and lamb dishes were excellent. The lamb spicier than the chicken. Very good lemon rice and an outstanding garlic naan. We did watch the chef make a very interesting looking shrimp dish as we were waiting, in a light coriander sauce; it looked great. We will try it next time. Currently, it is our favorite Indian in NYC and prefer it over Dhaba and Mohti Mahal. Cheers.

        2 Replies
          1. re: comiendosiempre

            ComiedoS, thanks for the report. I'm glad you liked it.

            Malai Marke is on OpenTable. I just checked and as of now, Friday at 7:45AM, they have tables for two available at 8:00PM on Saturday.

            OpenTable is the way to go.

          2. I went three times in the first month it was open and was disappointed because not only wasn't it as good as Dhaba, it wasn't better than any other average Indian place in town. None of the food had much depth of spice or flavor and tomato seemed to be over-used. But I trust your taste - it must have gotten better.

            20 Replies
            1. re: Peter Cuce

              Wow. I'm sorry about that. I've been to MM 3 times and it was good to very good each time.

              Based on my rec. a number of people from another food board went there in the first 6 weeks. Some of them are huge PITAs (in a good way, of course) and they all liked it. Believe me, these folks wouldn't be shy in voicing their disappointment.

              Maybe there's a difference in what we ordered? I didn't have anything that contained tomato. Do you remember what you had?

              Dhaba's been our benchmark for years. We've also had a couple of good meals at Chote Nawab, Dhaba's sister restaurant. I've thought MM was comparable although a bit different. These places aren't chains - their menus overlap a bit but they have their own personalities.

              Anyway, I'm sorry for your bad meals. That happens to me occasionally at other restaurants and I take that type of thing personally.

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                Didn't take any particular note of food eaten due to aforementioned disenchantment, but what I was trying to indicate was that shortcut a lot of Indian restaurants take when creating dishes. They're not hewing necessarily to the recipe but instead making some generic base and using it for many dishes. Anyway, I'm in the area every Thursday so will try to hit it next week. If it's good I am happy about it - I never want to have bad meals of course.

                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  You're a brave guy. I don't know if I'd give them another chance after 3 bad meals.

                  On my last trip I had a dish which I liked a lot - Chicken Xacuti. If you're feeling lucky give it a try.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    Peter, did you ever make it back? trying to decide on a visit here but would love an additional data point.

                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                      We have been back to MM a few times, and have always had a good meal. We think its one of the best options for Indian in the city right now. Their spicy sauted paneer starter, with onions and chili, is excellent. We ask for it very spicy and usually it arrives that way.

                      1. re: comiendosiempre

                        I've ordered delivery from them twice now (chicken tikka masala and lamb biryani) and it's been very, very good. Their lunch special is a large portion served with a lot of naan, cabbage, and a very good dal. Like Bob said, the tikka masala is extremely rich. Best when sopped up with a lot of rice and naan.

                      2. re: tex.s.toast

                        Sorry for the late reply - hit a real busy streak. I made it there two weeks ago for lunch and found it to be up with best Indian food I've had in NYC. Got the dry lamb curry. It was so much better than my first visits. I've tried Kokum since then and thought it was solid-good, but Malai Marke I'd return to any time.

                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                          I had lunch there today and it was, in a word, TERRIBLE. I had the Allepy Red Curry which tasted like it was made with Rao's Marinara sauce with a couple of Curry Leaves and a few pieces of nondescript fish tossed in. The cabbage was bland and the Nan was surely left overs from the night before.

                          1. re: hoi lai

                            Most likely a misstep: l ate there with my family last night, and everything was as good as ever, most especially the chicken tikka and mattar paneer.

                            1. re: howdini

                              I ate there tonight. It was very good.

                              Hoi La, could you list some of your favorite Indian restaurants in New York? Good suggestions are always welcome.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                I have not eaten at the high end expensive Indian Restaurants in New York so I can't comment on them. I really liked Southern Spice and went often before they left Flushing and Spicy Minas which was hit or miss but had some delicious meals there.
                                There was an Indian place on the East Side that got a lot of publicity last year in the 60's ( Lex or 3rd Ave? ) that I meant to try. Do you know the place I'm thinking of?

                                1. re: hoi lai

                                  There are quite a few Indian restaurants on 58th Street between 3rd and Lex, Yuva, Chola, Dawat. I prefer Yuva out of the three after a bad ras malai incident at Chola. That being said, I like Nirvana better than all three.

                                  Southern Spice was really one of my favorite Indian restaurants in NYC, though the quality of their meat was deplorable during lunch. The flavor of their chicken 65 and biryanis was exceptional.

                                  Malai Marke does an excellent rendition of lamb madras, if you like lamb, I would give it a try. Their chicken tikka is also very good, albeit very sweet. Their lamb is closest in flavor to something you would get at Southern Spice, and the meat at Malai Marke is better quality.

                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                    Hm...you found the regular chicken tikka sweet? l do find their tikka masala sweet, but not the plain tikka.

                                    l'll definitely try that lamb madras next time.

                                    1. re: howdini

                                      I did not try the chicken tikka. Sorry, I should have clarified (I'm used to people shortening chicken tikka masala to chicken tikka and I know that causes unnecessary confusion and is not accurate). The sauce for the chicken tikka masala is really sweet.

                                    2. re: Pookipichu

                                      Thanks, I'll follow your suggestion and try the Lamb Madras.

                                    3. re: hoi lai

                                      <There was an Indian place on the East Side that got a lot of publicity last year in the 60's ( Lex or 3rd Ave? ) that I meant to try. Do you know the place I'm thinking of??>

                                      Moti Mahal Delux on 1st at 63rd, probably. It got reviewed in the NYT, so it was all of a sudden on everyone's radar.

                                      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/din...

                                      1. re: small h

                                        Yes, that is the place. Thank you.
                                        Have you been there?

                                        1. re: hoi lai

                                          No. I intend to go and check it out for lunch one day soon.

                                        2. re: small h

                                          It's very good, but I like Malai Marke slightly more. Definitely try it and see how it compares for you.

                                          1. re: rrems

                                            I should get over to Malai Marke, because I just reviewed my - and your - posts on Indian food, and I see that you like Malai Marke more than Chote Nawab, a restaurant I thought was just okay. I have never been thrilled by Indian food in Manhattan, except for one scallop dish at Tamarind a million years ago (and I was much younger and less discerning then). I hate to think that my one trip to India ruined me forever, so I keep trying, but not that often.

                      3. Loved the intro to your review. I (we) lived on 6th St. in the early to mid '70's, when there were only three Indian places--Shah Bagh was our go-to joint, probably because we could get out for about 50 cents less than the other places. Once we left the nabe for Brooklyn, we returned to the block a few times, but eventually the Jackson Diner stole our affections. They relocated and went downhill about the same time we moved to Jersey. We now live just a short drive from Oak Tree Road in Edison, where our general impression is overpriced food that can be OK, but not good enough to get us back. This sentiment seems to be borne out by posts on CH's New Jersey board, where no single place has garnered a critical mass of favorable comments, and the consensus seems to be that downhill slides are so predictable, no review is valid more than six months after it is published.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: albinoni

                          Aah, the Shah Bagh days. Thanks for reminding me of my mis-spent youth.

                        2. Ironically, had we not been able to get into Malai Marke we would have gone to -- Chote Nawab. We have not tried it yet and it looks interesting.

                          1. I dearly hope this is true. Living in EV and traveling to Curry Hill has never been convenient. I love indian and love EV but the two have been mutally exclusive to my dismay. Will check it out soon!. Thanks!

                            7 Replies
                              1. re: rottyguy

                                Banjara, on the corner of 1st Av. and 6th St., is very good.

                                1. re: howdini

                                  Yeah, I like it, too. And they will make food very spicy for you if you ask. I sometimes get lamb vindaloo there and ask for it to be not sweet but very sour and very spicy, and it's great!

                                  1. re: Pan

                                    Oo, l gotta try that, thanks for the rec! Usually l order stuff that l don't see at other lndian places [the pot pies, dumpakht, are terrific], but all of the standard fare is nice, too. l'm a sucker for navratan korma, and they do a great version of it.

                                    1. re: howdini

                                      Yes they do. I order that, too, sometimes. The dumpakht is very rich, but that's authentic, as I understand.

                                    2. re: Pan

                                      I hadn't been to Banjara in about 10 years, but gave it a go the other day based on these recs, and have to say, I remember why I hadn't been back. I got the vindaloo, asked for it as above, and found it just as one-dimensional as most Manhattan Indian food, tomato-y, vinegary base, with lots of hot spice but no depth or breadth of flavor.

                                2. Went here last night and had a great time. Ordered 3 appetizers (actually 2 but they sent the wrong one and gave it to us for free), a beer, lassi, chicken saag, chicken tikka massala, nan, and rice.

                                  Firstly, I find places that charge for rice to be despicable. That said, for all that food, the entire meal was around $60 (w/o tip) so I won't complain too loudly. CTM was fantastic, the chicken saag was good but a little heavy on the salt. That said, we're happy that a good indian place in EV is here. The space is a little strange. It's narrow and split down the middle as it's two store front that straddles and apartment entrance. Hopefully their success will offer them some mobility options to relo at some point.

                                  1. So for someone who has not been to Malai Marke, Chote Nawab and Dhaba, which would you recommend trying? Our favorite Indian restaurants are Moti Mahal, Tulsi and Junoon, if that gives you some idea of our tastes.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: rrems

                                      Well, since no one replied, we decided to just go ahead and try Malai Marke, as it is in walking distance for us. We had a very good meal. The appetizers, chicken achari and Patiala lamb kebab, were good, and nicely spicy, but the chicken was oversalted and both could have used a sauce of some kind to add a bit of moisture and complexity. The main courses were exemplary. We had shrimp caldeen, goat curry, punjabi cabbage and lemon rice. It was a lot of food, seriously delicious, and spicy. For dessert we shared a rice pudding, nothing earth-shattering but a really good example of comfort food that we polished off in a minute. Sixpoint Bengali Tiger was an excellent accompaniment to the food. We liked this at least as much as Moti Mahal, maybe a bit better.

                                      1. re: rrems

                                        Thanks a lot for the report! What time of night were you there, and how crowded was it? I ask because I'm wondering whether I'm likely to have luck just showing up as a single diner.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          We had an 8:30 res. It was not crowded, so you definitely could walk in,but Opentable allows a reservation for 1, so why take a chance?

                                          1. re: rrems

                                            Because I'm in the neighborhood and like to be impulsive. :-)

                                    2. This falls into the “still really good” category of posts.

                                      After a 2 month break we went back to Malai Marke a few weeks ago on a Saturday night. They’re much busier than they were back in January right after they opened. Justifiably so. The weather was perfect and we were seated near the open French doors.

                                      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7344/91...

                                      http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3693/91...

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                                      The dish descriptions are cut and pasted from their menu. (I’m not quite that flowery.

                                      )

                                      The Patiala Lamb Kabab (spiced, pan-grilled lamb patties) were particularly good this time around. I’ve always loved the spicing but they were juicier than in the past. Wonderful.

                                      http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7330/91...

                                      Chili chicken was perfect as well. It had just the right amount of heat – enough to make it complex without being overwhelming.

                                      http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2842/91...

                                      My GF’s chicken tikka marsala was as good as ever. Rich, juicy, and flavorful. Nobody makes a better version. In my perfect world they’d bottle that sauce like Sriracha. I’d use it on everything.

                                      http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5508/91...

                                      Chicken Xacuti (cooked with roasted coconut, peanuts and poppy seeds.) Steve R. had ordered this on our last visit and I liked it a lot. This time around I didn’t have to share. Bwa-ha-ha.

                                      http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3744/91...

                                      All curries look 95% alike but they sure don’t taste that way. If I was an expert on Indian cooking I’d try to explain the different levels of spicing at work here. Because I’m not, I have to fall back on tired adjectives like “complex” and “terrific.” It’s really excellent and I haven’t seen this at other Indian restaurants around the city. You should try this.

                                      OK, time for a bit of whining. Since Malai Marke opened the restaurant’s management has dimmed the lights by about 30%. It wasn’t overly bright to start with but now it can get kind of murky. That’s great if you’re on a first date when you want to appear at your most attractive best but if you’re there to eat you lose part of what makes food great – its appearance. I really do want to see what I’m eating. The pictures I’ve posted here are as good as they are because we were seated by a window.

                                      I have an idea. Malai Marke has 2 rooms. I suggest they make the front room into Dater’s Delight and keep the lights down for maximum romantic effect. They should turn the lights in the back room back up to where they were in January for those of us with permanent partners who now want to fall in love with our food.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        We were there this week, our second visit. This time, as the first, we really enjoyed everything we ordered. Started with the chili chicken and jhinga luchi. I agree the chicken was delicious and well-spiced. The shrimp were tangy as the menu describes, and the luchi bread was great (never had it before). I was surprised to find that luchi bread is deep-fried, as it had no grease whatsoever, just a nice crunch.

                                        We then got the lamb madras and allepy red curry. The fish was in a sauce of tomato, garlic and kokum, which is apparently an Indian fruit, which I have never encountered before. The sauce on the lamb was delicious. I seems all of their sauces are interesting and complex, not your typical fare.

                                        We also had sides of aloo saag, which I enjoyed even though I'm not a big fan of potatoes, and lemon rice, which I love.

                                        I'm also very impressed with the beer selection. This time we had the Founders Porter, which was superb and went really well with the food.

                                        Next time I want to try the patiala lamb kebab again. The first time we had it it was dry, so it's good to hear you found it moister this time. Still, I think I would order a side of raita, to add some more moisture and tang.

                                        All in all I think this is a great find.

                                      2. I went to this place for the first time with my girlfriend and a friend a couple of weeks ago. Everything was delicious. Based on that meal, it's better than Banjara down the street, and it will definitely get repeat business from me.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pan

                                          Agreed. We have not gone back a couple of times. Their spicy paneer starter is excellent. Great breads.

                                        2. On a trip back to Malai Marke last Saturday we made it a point to order a number of new dishes.

                                          “Chicken Malai marinated in a mild creamy sauce.”

                                          http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2873/94...

                                          “Mild” is the key word here but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fully spiced. Very good. This would be a nice counterbalance on a night when you were ordering a number of spicy starters.

                                          Patiala Lamb Kababs. These are an old favorite and I wouldn’t have bothered posting this picture except that they seem to have shrunk quite a bit since our last visit.

                                          http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3824/94...

                                          Here’s a shot from our previous visit.

                                          http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3677/91...

                                          Maybe it’s a kitchen misstep and it will be corrected next time. If it’s a stealth price increase I would really prefer they just raise the price rather than shrink the portions. We’re adults – we can take it. BTW, the flavor was as good as ever.

                                          “Murgh Korma chicken malai kabab in a creamy almond sauce.” MM and its sister restaurants seem to specialize in these mild curries with nut based sauces. They’re all distinctive in their own way and all very good. I’d happily have this again.

                                          http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2810/94...

                                          And finally, a little heat. “Chettinad peppercorn chicken infused curry from the house of chettiyars.” I like that “house of chettiyars” bit. It reminds me of something out of one of those Hammer horror films from the 1960s. The menu description is spot on – the peppercorn based curry has real heat and is pleasantly unusual, at least for me. I’d happily order this again.

                                          http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7343/94...

                                          One more new dish, this one a side – “Keema Pulav - rice tossed with minced lamb.” I’d never seen this before anywhere so it fit into our new dishes theme.

                                          http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3680/94...

                                          I thought it was very good but it didn’t quite work as a side dish. It was too rich and assertive to play a complementary role but not quite complex enough to work as a full fledged main. If I was with a group of four I might order this again. A small taste would be nice. Split between two people it’s a bit too much of a good thing.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            l ordered the chicken from the house of Chettiyars when l last ate there a couple of weeks ago; l thought it was excellent, too.

                                          2. Actually Bob, the Keema Pulav got me. I dont remember ever seeing that anywhere before. The picture looks really interesting. I also will visit the 'house of chettiyars' as well. Thanks for a great write up.

                                            1. Just came back from a very enjoyable dinner at MM. We had...

                                              Kurkuri Bindi - Okra. fried and dry which was a surprise. I was expecting a saucy okra. It was still very good tho. Reminded me of one of those spicy indian nut snacks.

                                              Chili Chicken- Like the menu says Chinese like. Packed with flavor. Milder than I anticipated which was a good thing in this case. I was expecting heat levels of Chote Nawab

                                              Chicken Xacuti - Excellent. Thanks for the reco. Since not even the waiter can pronounce the name they should just change the name to Chicken Bob Martinez

                                              Lamb Madras - One of the better Madras dishes I've had. Maybe the best who knows. Lamb was very tender. Fairly similar to the Chicken dish which I enjoyed slightly more.

                                              I'll be back

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Ziggy41

                                                I got a big laugh out of the "Chicken Bob Martinez" line. Thanks so much.

                                                One of the best things about CH is sharing information about good restaurants and finding that other people like them too.

                                              2. Went back to M&M for some more deliciousness with friends. Every single dish outstanding, possibly with the exception of Chicken Chili which was very good but got a little tiresome eating it again in 4 days. Great Tand Mix Grill, Bindi Sasuralwali "okra you would eat at your in-laws house." as it says on the menu just like in Chote Nawab. If anyone here can introduce me to someone who's parents can cook like this I might need to reconsider my status. My inlaws don't even know what Okra is. Funny that my friends who live here didn't know what it is either. If you go to New Orleans you find Okra everywhere but in NYC you don't see it much

                                                Lamb Chettinad - so good. Thicker and heavier but in a good way. Again I expected more heat but was pleasantly surprised with just the right amount. Chicken Tikka Masala - something I eat often but never in places like these even tho I'm always sure it would be much better. This was no exception. Creamy and perfectly buttery, tho I sort of liked it more as an occasional bite vs eating it continuously if it makes sense. Chicken Rizzala - green nutty korma almost dessert like compared to all the other dishes. Korma is another dish we eat often and this was like eating it for the first time. Chicken Bob Martinez again, and unlike the chili chicken I did not get tired of it yet. Perhaps my favorite dish at MM. Great meal and a great find.

                                                1. Ate here with my gf again yesterday for an early dinner: started with ragara patties [delicious] and tangra chili paneer, the dish with paneer in a sweet and spicy pepper sauce. This tasted almost exactly like an excellent, well-balanced Peking sauce [ala Peking pork chop]; really delicious, and l'm usually not one for sweet things.

                                                  Picture-perfect onion naan, thin and crispy on the bottom, moist and savory on top.

                                                  My gf is [mostly] vegetarian, so our mains were aloo gobi ghar ki, "potatoes and cauliflower with garlic and ginger", and daal saag, spinich with yellow lentils. Both vegetables in the first dish were cooked exactly right, the small potatoes creamy, the cauliflower tender with a little bit of crunch. l thought the cauliflower was a little bit too salty, but not egregiously so. Mildly spiced, rich. The daal saag was a bit thinner than l'm used to, easier to eat with a spoon than a fork. My gf describes it as "light, fresh and clean tasting, not overloaded with butter, with barely wilted spinach and a little bit of cumin. Not too exciting, but tasty nonetheless."

                                                  So much yet to explore there! l love having this place practically around the block from me.

                                                  1. Well this is not the 6th Street Indian of my memories... I ordered Malai Marke via Caviar for lunch today based on the recommendations on CH. They include curried cabbage, lentils, rice and naan. I was only expecting the rice so the other items were a welcome surprise. Even though naan travels poorly, it was still very much appreciated.

                                                    I ordered saag paneer, chicken tikka masala and lamb madras. The paneer had a firm but smooth texture and was enjoyable, the dish itself had a slight lingering heat but was underspiced for my taste. The chicken tikka masala had tender and moist chunks of chicken, nicely done, but also could be spiced a bit more aggressively for me, less salt, more spice. Also the sauce for the chicken tikka masala is a little too sweet for me. As noted by others, the sauce is very rich. The lamb madras was perfect. The lamb is tender and moist, the curry leaves and chilis and fragrant spices make the sauce addictive. All in all, very good food. I haven't been back to Nirvana in 2 years, but based on what I've had, Nirvana offers some dishes that are of similar or better quality, albeit at a higher price point.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                      if you think naan travels poorly, you shoulda gotten the puri. it travels extra poor-(l)i.

                                                    2. I have been unable to start new threads since the latest site renovation, so I'm posting here. The title of my new thread would have been "Malai Marke, Downhill?"

                                                      I went there for dinner again yesterday. Until then, in several meals (I'd say over 5 but probably fewer than 10), everything I had had at Malai Marke was delicious, without exception.

                                                      The first warning sign was when I got the salty lassi I had ordered. Their salty lassi used to be actually a delicious, spicy, complex masala lassi bursting with flavor, but what I was given last night tasted only of rich yogurt, and the layer of spices on top was not tastable, even when I mixed it up thoroughly with my straw.

                                                      On to the meal. My appetizer was Kurkuri Bindi, and it was extremely aggressively oversalted, to the point that I considered sending it back and would have done so if I hadn't been so hungry.

                                                      My main dish was Chicken Xacuti, which was perfectly OK but not exciting, and with none of the explosion of taste I would have figured to have gotten previously when ordering a dish at Malai Marke that was described as "Chicken with roasted coconut, dark peanuts and poppy seeds."

                                                      The only thing that fully satisfied me last night was my order of garlic naan, but if I'm going somewhere just for bread, it kind of might as well be a bakery.

                                                      My overall feeling was that this was a mediocre meal of a quality I could have gotten at many other restaurants, but wouldn't really want to.

                                                      Malai Marke certainly was not having trouble attracting customers last night, but has the chef responsible for their erstwhile excellence gone on vacation or left permanently, and did I catch a downward trajectory in progress? I hope not, but after my experience last night, I don't plan on returning soon.

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        The last time l ate at Malai, maybe a month ago, l was also underwhelmed in a way that had never happened before. l was considering writing it up, but hesitated because, hey, everyone's entitled to an off night, right? l can't now remember specifically what it was we had [l was with my gf and her two daughters], but it was a bunch of dishes, and every one was lacking in the complexity and oomph to which we'd grown accustomed, and a couple were oversalted, as well, making them taste not too dissimilar to Punjab on Houston. l'd planned on returning, but your post now gives me pause...

                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                          I was there last night too! I thought the food was about the same as I remembered it, but I've never been blown away by their food. I got salty lassi, lamb patty kebabs, chicken curry (dhabawali murgh), and fried okra (the main not the appetizer) and garlic nan. The most interesting dish from a spicing standpoint was probably the lamb patties. I also liked the fried okra, but I have a hard time not liking fried okra in any context.

                                                          1. re: pravit

                                                            I feel a little awkward weighing in here. We've all seen this type of thing before. Somebody writes up a restaurant, gets some positive feedback, and then someone else posts a dissenting opinion and the OP becomes wildly defensive, like someone told them their kid was ugly and stupid. I don't want to be That Guy.

                                                            OTOH I think it's fair for me to post about my own recent experiences and people can factor those in. We've been to Malai Marke 4 times since last December; the most recent was about a month ago. All our meals were very good. Now of course it's possible that there's been a change. And individual opinions can vary. Pan's been around for as long as I have and I respect him enormously. We don't always agree but we usually do. Also keep in mind that he ordered different dishes than we do.

                                                            Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no unanimity on CH. I'm fine with that.

                                                            FWIW I'd rate MM as an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Unfortunately we don't have any 10s in NYC. You have to go to London for that. OTOH ten to fifteen years ago all we had were 4s and 5s so I'm damn happy for an 8.

                                                            We'll get back to MM sometime in the next month and I'll post about it. I haven't been bothering to post about my recent meals because I figured it would be repetitious. We've all seen That Guy too. The one that launches a thread about a restaurant and then dresses up like a cheerleader and praises it to the skies every other week. That's embarrassing.

                                                            Anyway, I'll let you know how my next meal is.

                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              Good luck, and there would be no reason for you to feel defensive. Before last night, I had a bunch of great meals at Malai Marke, so my post really didn't dissent from your original praise of the place.

                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                Yeah, l'm with Pan: we've grown to really appreciate Malai, and we've both recently been disappointed by meals there. l, for one, sincerely hope that it was just hiccups, but l was surprised by that last meal, how it wasn't anywhere near the level that l'd come to expect. lt was definitely a 5, 6 tops.

                                                                l look forward to your next dispatch, Bob.

                                                            2. re: Pan

                                                              Pan, let me start by saying I have always respected your opinions, but I think you may have just hit an off night (chef's night off, maybe?), not that this is a legitimate excuse for a mediocre meal, but maybe another try is in order. We have been going there about once a month and have never been disappointed. Last time we went there, about a month ago, I recall saying to my partner that the shrimp jalfrezi was not as spicy as it should be. Otherwise, all was fine. Partly as a result of your report, we went there tonight, and I am happy to say it was as delicious as ever. We had chili chicken to start, then shrimp curry and rogan josh. All was well spiced and tasty.

                                                              1. re: rrems

                                                                Perhaps it was the chef's night off, but if so, that's pretty rough. By the way, when I said to a couple of staff members that the okra was "extremely salty," they had nothing to say to me.

                                                                1. re: Pan

                                                                  <Perhaps it was the chef's night off, but if so, that's pretty rough.>

                                                                  I agree. I was just proposing a possible reason, not justifying in any way.

                                                                  1. re: rrems

                                                                    I had two bad meals there, one lunch, one dinner, a couple of months ago that were akin to my initial visits: muddy flavors, tomato predominant. I figured they had given up caring and stopped going. I can't afford the inconsistency.

                                                            3. Something I should have apologized for a long time ago - spelling the owner's name wrong. He's Shiva Natarajan.