Devi is palatial, but not in the sense of unattainable grandeur?rather, it seems stuffed to the gills with earthly comforts and visual delights that completely insulate it from the world outside. ?There are restaurants that bring you back to yourself and those that spirit you away. Devi belongs to the latter group, delivering a heady retreat even when the odds against such an escape are longest,? wrote Frank Bruni in a two-star 2004 New York Times review. He also praised the ?pyramid-shaped rice puffs, too golden, crunchy and airy to permit unpleasant thoughts,? the ?faultless? lamb chops, and the ?splendidly moist? halibut.
The tandoor is responsible for the latter two dishes, and it?s a virtuosic instrument in the hands of Executive Chef Dheeraj Tomar, who learned its secrets in New Delhi before honing his expertise at five-star hotels in Dubai. Amid all the grilled meats, his menu is exceedingly vegetarian-friendly: a vegan harvest stir-fry brims with a cornucopia of produce, joining beyond-chana-masala dishes such as jackfruit biryani, corn-and-bean curry, and tandoor-grilled vegetarian malai tikka kebabs. The eatery?s meticulously constructed wine list eschews large wineries in favor of small-batch, handmade varieties selected for their ability to complement the cuisine.
Inside Devi?s two-story space, nearly every square inch that?s not covered in richly patterned fabrics or panels of gauzy raw silk is festooned with marble and carved wooden arches and balustrades, both imported from India. Lighting is whisper-soft and romantic, supplied by lanterns of ornate colored glass that cluster across the high ceiling like artisanal party balloons left behind after the birthday of a child prince.
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.
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]]
The heart of any Indian kitchen?the clay oven?is the main cooking source at Delhi Chaat. The oven (also known as a tandoor) reaches temperatures of 800-degrees, allowing it to quickly and perfectly cook morsels of chicken, lamb, and shrimp that have been marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and exotic spices. The result: sizzling entrees packed full of flavor. The oven also produces freshly-baked naan, roti, and other breads (more than 15 varieties, in fact), perfect for scooping up mouthfuls of curry or fanning the face of a spicy food-loving dining companion. When they aren't manning the oven, chefs stay busy simmering lentils and vegetables in creamy tomato sauce and cashew paste, or by concocting the restaurant's sweet desserts, including pastry balls drizzled in syrup and rice pudding peppered with raisins.
Under the guidance of the Sarma brothers, who own and operate Haveli Indian Cuisine, the chefs take care to turn out traditionally crafted Indian dishes that showcase tender lamb and chicken baked in clay ovens. Each geographic region of India has its own variation on common recipes, and Haveli's menu mirrors this broad culinary scope. Plates of vegetarian saag paneer spice up spinach cooked with cubes of cheese, and fiery vindaloo entrees send bites of shrimp or chicken blazing across taste buds. Platters of rich curries and sides, such as freshly baked roti or samosas, keep the lunch buffet packed for people on a break from work or spelunkers searching for something that's truly bottomless.
The chefs at Paradise Biryani Pointe prepare a sprawling menu of Indian cuisine that showcases authentic flavors drawn from Hyderabadi and Mughlai traditions. Chefs kick off meals with succulent appetizers that range from peppers coated in chickpea flour to fried cauliflower florets coated in sauces to boneless fish fried with curry leaves. Soft slabs of naan—with or without garlic and onions—mitigate the intense, spicy flavors of chicken or goat vindaloo’s tender chunks of curry-laced meats and potatoes. Desserts round up sweet teeth with qubani ka meetha’s dried apricots, dates, and rose petals or gulab jamun’s traditional milk dumplings served in sugar syrup. In addition to chai and mango lassis, Paradise Biryani Pointe also offers beer and wine, perfect for sipping alongside the restaurant's ample lunch buffet.