Kinara dishes up an authentic Indian menu in a casual, BYOB restaurant. Pre-meal nibblers such as the chicken and coconut mulligatawny soup ($4.25) pair well with tandoor-oven–baked traditional naan ($2) or a chicken-tikka-stuffed variation ($4). Like a DeLorean hot-rodded with a flux capacitor, Kinara’s entree selections span various meat and veggie dimensions. The rice casserole vegetable biryani ($13.95) and the spicy hara bhara kabab ($13.95) cater to herbivore diets, and almond curry-infused chicken korma ($14.95), lamb curry delicacy roghan josh ($15.95), and spicy crustacean classic shrimp vindaloo ($16) please meat eaters of all stripes.
Aromatic herbs and spices, such as ginger, garlic, and saffron, are the foundation of Indian cuisine. Chef Mathew of Amla roasts and grinds these and other spices every day to season a South Indian menu of dishes such as yogurt-marinated basil chicken, lamb boti kebabs, and seasonal achari mushrooms, which simmer in a mélange of turmeric, coriander, and cumin. No matter what they order, diners are likely to find it accompanied by an unusual amuse-bouche: a preparation of amalaki, the Indian gooseberry plant from which the restaurant takes its name. Depending on the season, Chef Mathew may incorporate the flowers, fruit, leaves, or root into a complimentary treat, inspired by the plant’s many uses in Ayurvedic herbology. Born in Mumbai, the chef studied for more than a decade in high-end kitchens in India before arriving at Amla’s brick-walled, white-tableclothed storefront, where he’ll gladly take requests to make dishes extra spicy for a chili lover or extra-salty for a chili lover’s arch nemesis.
Traditional Indian meals served on gilded-edge plates infuse Maharaja Palace with a bouquet of curry, mustard seed, and mint. Crisp pani poori puff appetizers give a satisfying crackle as teeth break through to their chickpea-and-potato-filled cores, and drifts of basmati rice arrive tossed with green peas or beefed up with saffron and chicken. A simmering array of vegetable, seafood, chicken, and tandoori entrees emerge from pots or a clay oven, helping owners of factory-defect atlases experience the world's other side. Garlic naan or pudina paratha wipe plates clean of sauce, and glasses brimming with wine, beer, or sweet lassi clink occasionally, like the world’s laziest steel-drum player.
Orange banquettes, curtains, and hanging lights surround Tamarind’s tables, which host mildly or wildly spicy dishes that range from poultry to vegetarian arrangements. Lamb, shrimp, and chicken cure in a clay oven with yogurt and fresh ginger, or lie enveloped in curry in steaming entrees. Handmade Indian breads such as stuffed naan and paratha mingle with chickpea- and eggplant-based veggie dishes. To quell the stimulated palate, Tamarind’s staff can enhance an Indian tea with a shot of sambuca, whip up any chosen cocktail from a vast array, or mix every cocktail simultaneously while arranging them in alphabetical order.
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.