A Parade of Curry
To the ever-expanding roster of the city’s mellifluous-sounding Indian establishments—Tabla, Tamarind, Vatan—my friend the Delhi connoisseur respectfully wishes to add Utsav Festive India, a place already famous among midtown corporate curry hounds for its copious and reasonably priced lunchtime buffet. The sparsely decorated dining room resembles an upscale cafeteria in some new, nameless suburb of Bombay, but the menu includes creations from all over the subcontinent, like tandoori filet mignon (“broiled to your liking,” according to the menu), delicious Kashmiri lamb shanks, great curling hara masala shrimp flavored with coriander and fresh mint, and a fine rendition of the sweet-and-sour arsi specialty called zardaloo, made with braised lamb and tiny apricots with their pits still in.
Diwan (meaning “honor” in Hindi) is the new midtown home of the tandoori specialist Hemant Mathur, formerly of Tamarind, and if you order the tasteful though frighteningly bulky venison chops, he may even emerge from the kitchen to explain that the dish is not a normal Indian delicacy but flown in, mind you, all the way from the wilds of New Zealand. If you’re lucky, you might also get a taste of tandoori wild boar, the lemony, charcoal-crisped squares of tandoori halibut, or a tiny, melting portion of quail, served on a banana leaf and smothered in a pale orange-colored sauce flavored with saffron and coriander. For a quick midday dosa infusion, I like the lunchtime potato and ground-lamb dosas at Tamarind and Café Spice, respectively, and if you can’t make it out to the original Dosa Hutt in Queens, a reasonable facsimile of the crackly, whole-wheat rava masala dosa is available most days from the friendly gentleman manning the NY Dosas cart at the southern end of Washington Square Park.
If it’s exotic curries you crave, the adventurous proprietors of the Brick Lane Curry House, on the old Indian row down on East 6th Street, will give you a free bottle of beer if you can finish a bowl of their famously punishing phaal curry, which has a foreboding, swampy color and the consistency of sand (I couldn’t). The suitably peppery lamb vindaloo tasted almost soothing by comparison, as did the house salia rolls, filled with spiced ground lamb and egg. If you’ve ever dined at the curry houses along 6th Street, the thick, creamy, un-oily variety of chicken tikka masala served here has a disorienting, slightly jarring effect, like stumbling on fresh-baked cherry pie, say, at your local Burger King.