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.
Bombay Masala's chefs draw inspiration from the familiar spices and sauces that characterize Indian cuisine and create an eclectic spread of aromatic and flavorful recipes. Brooklyn Magazine heaped praise onto the chicken tikka masala⎯an Indian-style entree historically co-opted by the British⎯by naming Bombay Masala's version one of The 10 Best British Bites in Brooklyn. This particular dish, along with several others, begins cooking in the kitchen's clay tandoor oven, which roasts skewered meats and vegetables over a pile of smoldering charcoal and old love letters. As the skewers bake, the chefs whisk together curries and cream sauces that they spoon over everything from lobster to housemade cheese.
Behind its nondescript storefront and kelly-green vinyl awning on a tree-lined stretch of Flatbush Avenue, King of Tandoor conceals lavish feasts of fine Indian cuisine. A warm, homey space of linen-covered tables, smartly dressed servers, and warm light from wall sconces awaits those who enter to enjoy mulligatawny soups full of earthy spices, ponir makhanee made with creamy homemade cheese, and Madras curry made with spicy tomato sauce. As the name implies, King of Tandoor prides itself on its clay-oven dishes: boneless chicken tikka and marinated leg of lamb emerge from the traditional oven piping hot, their sizzling sounds elevating full meals or adding informed points of view to quarrels between clock radios.
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.
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.