By November, the crisp autumn air takes on a blustery winter chill, and cumbersome winter coats begin to take the place of stylish fall jackets. This change in fashion goes hand in hand with the change in seasons and with the philosophy of Mausam Indian Cuisine. The restaurant’s name means “seasons” in Hindi, and Mausam’s elegant three-story space boasts a restaurant, a lounge, and two versatile banquet halls, ready to change to accommodate a client’s request for any and every kind of event. Mausam’s staff can adapt table settings from simple and elegant pearl-white cloths with minimal accoutrements to bold colors with bountiful bouquets at every turn. Eager to please, the staff will even trade in the house specialty, Indian food, for any cuisine the client wishes to bring themselves, such as Mexican, Italian, or Lunchables.
Patrons simply looking for a low-key dinner out can head to the restaurant for traditional Indian favorites, such as chicken tikka masala, spicy goat curry, and plenty of vegetarian options laced with fragrant Indian spices. Red and white wines and a dozen kinds of domestic and imported beers wash away the last morsels of dessert, such as black-and-white cream puffs or orange-pineapple ice cream.
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.
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]]