Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A night out in “Curry Hill”

Winter is officially arrived in New York and cold weather, among other things, means comfort food. Martin and I are huge fans of Indian cuisine: this amazing mix of rich flavors and fire that goes perfectly with the month of January. As cooking Indian meals requires numerous “exotic” ingredients, and as temporary housing doesn’t usually go with a well stocked pantry, we haven’t had the chance to cook with cumin, coriander and fenugreek these past months. This has given us a major curry craving!

When one of my English teachers told me about “Curry Hill” – what a creative name– the little India of Murray Hill in Manhattan, I was kind of relieved to confirm that there is a place in New York where we can access great Indian restaurants and grocery stores for reasonable prices - because you can get almost anything you want in the City but you can easily shell out. 

A few weeks ago, we decided to give ourselves a treat: We tried Dhaba, a restaurant situated on Lexington Avenue that seemed well rated.

With its trendy, noisy and busy atmosphere, Dhaba is a great place to go on a Friday night. It was pretty small and packed; not an empty table from our arrival at 9 to our departure around 11:30. The restaurant also seemed to be successful with the Indian community, which I always perceive as a good sign in an Indian restaurant. Music was good though a little too intensely rhythmic, which made me wonder if the staff was not trying to make us eat faster!

Though a little salty – we always cut some of the salt out when we cook curry meals, it's just a question of taste I suppose – and the presentation could use a little work, Dhaba’s food was very good: tasty with just the right amount of fire. I particularly enjoyed the Butter Paneer: in which the popular Indian cheese was flooded in a rich curry made of creamy tomatoes, bell peppers, fenugreek and house blend spices. This was simply amazing! I also found very interesting the Bhel Pori Chatt Bazaar, this cold street side snack that consists in puffed rice stuffed with contrasting flavors and textures. I would recommend it for sure.

If you ever decide to go, I recommend you do the same as we did and order a few small plates to share. Not only is Indian cuisine all about sharing, Dhaba’s dishes are prepared in a way that makes it easy to put everything in the middle of the table. Count between two and three plates per person. Also, you can ask for them to make each dish spicier but I would suggest you taste the food before getting yourself into that.

I learned on Wikipedia that a dhaba is a popular local 24 hours restaurant situated along a highway, close to a petrol station. Dhabas serve local cuisine. Their food is typically inexpensive and has a 'homemade' feel to it.

Want to know more about Curry Hill? I suggest you read this New York Times article about a grocery excursion in this neighborhood and this one which lists good places to eat.

Have you tried Indian restaurants in New York? Where is for favorite spot to find good Indian cuisine?

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