Tandoors—clay cooking vessels that land somewhere between an oven and a barbecue pit—have been used in Indian homes since around 1900 BCE. Bringing this timeless culinary method to Brooklyn, Taste of India piles its menu with tandoori and seafood appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Look for the chef’s specialties, which include shrimp curry and pomfret, a pan-fried fish cooked in a mustard gravy sauce, onions, and curry leaves.
Rakesh Aggarwal left India for America in 1980 and his culinary talents soon earned him permanent gigs at New York mainstays such as Club 21 and the Oak Room. It wasn’t until 1994, however, that he set the cornerstone for his very own New York mainstay, though he may not have known it at the time. Baluchi’s, which is reminiscent of Rakesh’s childhood nickname, Balu, became an instant hit both for its Zagat-rated Indian cuisine and its exotic decor. Today, Baluchi’s has expanded to five locations throughout the city and received a fair share of ink from New York magazine and the New York Times, whose writer noted that the potato cakes were “among the best” he had eaten. Baluchi’s in Murray Hill sticks to the traditional Indian fare that has brought this chain such widespread success. The menu alternates nicely between meat and vegetarian options, with options such as minced-lamb kebabs with mango salsa and sweet-potato chaats baked in a tandoor and tossed with spices. The tandoori menus teem with robust options such as racks of lamb and whole fish, as well as curries prepared with seafood, lamb, and vegetables that carry just enough spice and heat to melt the heart of a curmudgeonly businessman.
The chefs at Britain Indian Restaurant flavor their meals with traditional Indian spices and sauces. Pieces of lamb simmer alongside almonds and raisins in a mild korma cream sauce, and chefs dunk jumbo shrimp into bowls of spiced curry, like professional basketball players before a team potluck. Specialties such as lobster marinated in yogurt crisp swiftly in the intense heat of a tandoor oven. Meat-free dishes range from vegetable biryani to saag paneer’s blend of spinach and cottage cheese.
Featuring a host of both vegetarian and omnivore-friendly dishes, Asya's menu showcases plates of lamb, vegetables, chicken, and seafood at one of the newer additions to the Brooklyn Heights dining scene. Ginger, garlic, and yogurt marinate chicken tikka's morsels of poultry, and whole red snapper emerges from the tandoor, a clay oven. Curried mustard leaves swaddle salmon, chefs thread lamb onto skewers for savory fencing matches, and malai kofta’s paneer dumplings join vegetables in a veggie curry. On the weekends, a South Indian brunch pairs unlimited mimosas and bloody marys with masala frittatas.
Inside the open-concept kitchen at Hot Clay Oven, the tandoor oven cooks up a fusion of Indian, Caribbean, and American cuisine, including decadently spiced proteins such as tandoori chicken and paneer cheese. These proteins are just two of the options guests can choose for their custom creations, which start off with a rice bowl, salad bowl, wrap, or naan wrap, and build from there. They can add in Indian, Caribbean, and American toppings, such as banana peppers, Caribbean salsa, or complex tamarind as well as spicy red chutney. Patrons can also choose à la carte entrees—including chicken tikka masala and yellow daal—and pair them with wine and beer.
Taj Tribeca's head chef, Alexander Xalxo, creates Michelin-recommended recipes from the north-central Indian region of Awadh, the home of the Taj Mahal. Xalxo and his staff marinate chicken in mint, basil, coriander, and other spices before roasting it in a clay tandoor, and they simmer dishes such as Kashmiri rogan josh, lauded by Michelin as "a sensational stew" of lamb, chili, fennel, and ginger. They also prepare vegetarian dishes such as vegetable biryani and kebabs with chickpea, spinach, corn, and apricot patties. Musicians occasionally grace the dining room, where they pluck sitars and tap tabla drums as waiters lay plates on crisp white tablecloths. Exposed-brick walls run the length of the dining room, where thick silver frames hold mirrors that reflect any dinosaurs rushing the dining room.