Gary and Isabel MacGurn met in an ashram in southern India. They had both traveled there to perform seva—an act of selfless service—by cooking in the community center’s kitchen for thousands of hungry mouths. They quickly bonded over a mutual love for chutney and dosa, and after returning stateside the couple teamed up to sell their gourmet chutneys to upscale Hampton markets. When demand inevitably spiked, they decided to open some restaurants of their own. Today, Hampton Chutney Co.’s menu includes sourdough crepe dosas, pancake-style uttapam, and traditional sandwiches inspired by the MacGurns’ time in India. A popular—though less conventional—option is the breakfast dosa, whose combination of eggs and vegetables wakes the mind up faster than a pot of coffee in the face. All entrees arrive, of course, with a selection of chutneys.
Spread across present-day Pakistan and northwest India, the Indus Valley produced one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations. The area’s population once swelled to as many as five million people who developed their cuisine using masala, mint, coriander, ginger, and turmeric.
Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Indus Valley draws on ancient culinary traditions to create a menu of spicy curry dishes such as lamb vindaloo and cochin shrimp curry. Their tandoori entrees are baked in a traditional clay oven, and they marinate meats in thick-bottomed pots for their biryani dishes.
Ayurveda Cafe’s prix fixe meals consist of 10 rotating vegetarian menu items that span the six Sattvic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. Drinks such as the mango banana lassi are less concerned with balance, favoring sweetness above all else.
With Bombay Talkie, Sunitha Ramaiah envisions a restaurant whose cuisine reflects her own life experiences, which include a childhood in southern India and adulthood in the cultural mélange of New York City. Her chefs, she says, serve "the food of my childhood, the food of everyday India," basing their menu on recipes from Indian roadside cafés and using fragrant blends of fenugreek, tamarind, and cloves, which characterize meals from the country's southern regions. Bombay Talkie sets itself apart from tradition, however, by serving dishes in a tapas style, with large entrees minimized in favor of smaller, well-composed plates of vibrant cuisine. Lemon-tinged rice balances red swaths of tandoori chicken, and the lamb chops' cilantro-mint sauce lends a splash of color more vibrant than Willy Wonka’s contact lenses.
The gallery-white walls and exposed brickwork of Bombay Talkie's dining room feature paintings of Bollywood film scenes, alluding to India's ubiquitous displays of movie billboards. Carved from a single piece of teak, a stool-lined communal table dominates one entire side of the dining room, with the rest of the space featuring a similarly earth-tone collection of custom-designed leather booths.:m]]
Shalom Bombay operates under the strict supervision of The Orthodox Union, meaning compliance with kosher dietary laws, such as nixing milk and butter for olive oil, and replacing meat from tofu birds with the vine-ripened alternative. This approach has earned Shalom Bombay a unique following, including celebs such as Rosie O'Donnell, Matisyahu, and Senator Menendez. Bombay's more than 20 vegetarian entrées have also helped earn the 50-seat eatery positive reviews from both The New York Times and The Jewish Voice.
Four-foot flames warm the faces of Bombay chefs as they fuse beef and lamb with sumptuous accents of ginger, onion, and fenugreek. While fresh naan and cashew accented chicken bake in Shalom's clay tandoor oven, a fully stocked bar serves up unique beers such as India-imported '1947'––a nod to the year of India's independence, and universally agreed to be the best year for salt water taffy.
Reflected in its name, Chote Nawab sources its menu inspiration from the Indian city of Lucknow’s chote nawabs—“little princes”—who were famous for their kebab-crafting royal kitchens and hospitality. Their signature kebabs come to life as cooks place skewers lined with grilled garlic broccoli, rolls of lamb, boneless chicken thighs, and other kebabable morsels into tandoori ovens. The cooks also specialize in Hyderabadi dum biryani, which involves preparing basmati rice and on-the-bone meat inside a sealed pot designed to trap in flavors and keep out food-licking ghosts. Patrons also enjoy a modern version of Lucknow princes’ renowned hospitality inside a dining area featuring high ceilings and minimalistic concrete walls lined with colorful Indian artwork.