6 at Astor Pl.; F, V at Lower East Side-Second Ave.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Grand St. to 28th St., Ave. D to Sixth Ave.
In business since 1973, this place used to be the only alternative to the pedestrian grub and kitschy mood that prevails along the 6th Street strip. Patrons willingly squeezed into its basement dining room without being dragged off the street by menu-wielding waiters. These days, you're likely to eat well at plenty of vamped-up Indian restaurants that serve sexier or more unusual regional food than the pan-Indian standards and Bengali specialties at Mitali. That said, for basic, unpretentious cooking, this older restaurant has a good vibe, and the food is still more sophisticated than the forgettable fare at neighboring establishments. The interior is vibrant enough to keep the place from seeming cave-like: The low ceiling is covered in billowing fabrics, walls are painted a rich red color, spot lighting is strategically placed, and there's glassed in tandoor kitchen in the back. On the walls are large prints of Mughal court scenes; intricately carved jali screens are used as room dividers. For a guaranteed good meal, stick with tandoori dishes. Chicken tikka and the quail appetizer are both succulent, with a fiery barbeque rub. Breads are expertly prepared: naan, fluffy and just chewy enough; poori, light, crispy, and greaseless. Curries are sweet and heavy, but the shrimp, crabmeat, and lobster varieties benefit from fresh seafood in generous portions. Fish masala combines flaky salmon in a coconut sauce made spicy, but not too hot, with green chilis.Weekend Prix-Fixe Buffet
Sat.—Sun., noon-3 p.m., $10.95Recommended Dishes
Fish masala, $13.95; tandoori mixed grill, $14.95