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.
Baluchi's chefs sweep regional and classic Indian cuisines into a comprehensive menu of hearty meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. At the heart of the kitchen, a traditional tandoor oven works overtime to bake entrees, such as a whole red snapper or lamb chops, and fresh naan and paratha breads. Meanwhile, chefs simmer seafood curries in creamy coconut milk and top off feasts with scoops of housemade ice cream flavored with mango or pistachio. Though Baluchi's offers delivery, patrons who appear at the eatery treat their senses to a feast: clusters of colorful baubles cast light on shiny hardwood benches and a bar, backdropped by vibrant paintings.
Diners can’t simply order the Phaal curry at Brick Lane Curry House. Instead, the staff requires patrons to repeat a verbal disclaimer, which absolves the restaurant of any liability for "physical or emotional damage" caused by the curry's 10 intensely incendiary ingredients—including the infamous ghost chili pepper. These fiery components make it the one of the spiciest curries in the world, according to Brick Lane Curry House's claims. Diners who can withstand the heat and finish the entire serving earn a free beer and a certificate commemorating their victory alongside strong-willed diners including Adam Richman, the host of Man vs. Food.
Aside from this challenge, endurance is hardly required to enjoy a meal at Brick Lane. The curry shop takes its name from the London street famous for its Indian and Pakistani cuisine and the chefs forge a variety of British–influenced meals from regions throughout India. Beyond the Phaal, the menu features 10 other curries, which include everything from coconut and coriander to creamy, almond-based gravy and saffron. The chefs may not serve fish ‘n’ chips, but the tandoor-roasted kebabs and slow-cooked lentils represent the lesser-known, internationally inspired side of London comfort food.
The white takeout boxes are the only bland things about Desi Food Truck. Everything else—from their bright-yellow truck adorned with colorful images and designs to their spicy Indian street food—is a smorgasbord for the senses. Chefs serve up boxes of traditional Indian street food all around town, from their permanent spot in Soho Square Park and their roving truck that hits NYC's varied neighborhoods. The chefs specialize in street foods from throughout the subcontinent, from the spicy chicken tikka masala to the vegetarian-friendly lentils served with rice and indian pickles. The most highly recommended dish, however, is the biryani. The chefs toss the rice with spices typical of a Kolkata market or pair it with tender cuts of goat to create a dish that's as comforting and flavorful as a beef-jerky teething ring.
The chefs at Maurya Cuisine of India create traditional Indian dishes such as tandoori lobster tail, shrimp masala, and chili chicken. They help guests acclimate their palates to Indian food’s palette of piquant ingredients by serving spiced garlic naan and vegetable samosas that can be capped off by pistachio-mango or tutti-frutti ice cream.
Kiran Palace bestows traditional Indian tastes upon spice-seeking tongues. The lunch buffet unrolls itself seven days a week to reveal a trove of 25 taste treasures, including meat-laden kebabs, an overstuffed salad bar, and a jewel-box of edible rubies. Alternately, on the dinner menu, boneless chicken takes a swim in spiced yogurt before basking in the heat from the tandoor oven, reemerging as the classic chicken tikka ($10.95) and looking good enough to spark plastic-surgery rumors on gossip sites. Submerged in a simmering curry sauce, the lamb vindaloo ($11.95) scorches taste buds with spice, and myriad biryani iterations ($10.95–$17.95) cosset vegetables, chicken, goat, shrimp, or lamb on a fluffy bed of basmati rice. After either meal, linger at your burgundy-swathed table to sip a mango lassi ($3.95) whose sweet, cold smoothness washes away fiery aftertastes.