The team from acclaimed New Delhi restaurant Indian Accent is just a couple of weeks away from opening its New York outpost. It's taken some time for the staff to nail down the mix of an upscale presentation and classic Indian flavors, says owner Rohit Khattar. "There’s some really good Indian restaurants here," he says. "However, even when we opened in India, our chef [Manish Mehrotra] is really really credited with having invented a lot of dishes that did not even exist." Service staff are still working on things like the pronunciations of some dishes, he says.
But Khattar has rounded up an all-star team to run the New York location. Aside from Mehrotra, who will be working in New York, Eleven Madison Park veteran Paul Downie and former Cosme assistant general manager Sarah Stafford are running the house. The restaurateur, who opened Indian Accent in 2009, chatted with Eater about what to expect at the New York location in the Le Parker Meridien hotel, from experimental Indian desserts to butter chicken bread.
1) Indian Accent New York will be similar in spirit to the one in New Delhi, with modern and upscale presentations of old-fashioned flavors that Indian diners will remember from childhood, Khattar says. "It looks beautiful but when you bite into it, 'Oh my God, it’s just like a dish that I used to have'," he says. "A lot of Indians have that 'aha moment.'"
2) The menu's not totally set yet, but it will be a combination of favorites from New Delhi and new items using local ingredients. A meetha achaar spare ribs dish with sweet mango pickle is one popular New Delhi option that will end up in New York. Mehrotra boils the ribs in coconut to prep the dish, Khattar says, and the tender meat dish is a hit in India.
Some of Mehrotra's experimental New York dishes will be in the dessert section. He's making a halwa, a dessert pudding made of carrots, but he's using black carrots instead. He's then topping it with a salted chikki, a type of Indian brittle made of nuts, and an ice cream flavored with milk cake, another classic Indian dessert.
Dishes typically found at North Indian restaurants like curries will be on the menu, but they won't be served in a bowl or with rice the way most places do. Instead, Mehrotra has created a series of naans and breads that are stuffed with classic dishes like butter chicken and saag paneer. "You get that wonderful taste when you actually bite into the bread," Khattar says.
3) The crew made a space that does not look like a typical Indian restaurant. Khattar's wife Rashmi worked with the designers BHDM to create a contemporary look, with a lot of clean lines. The only nods to the Indian origin are some brass pillars and white marble that's called Calcutta gold. The decor, in that sense, matches the concept behind the food. "We’re trying present modern food, and the accent is Indian," Khattar says.
4) The chef's tasting table is the big hit in the New Delhi restaurant, where regulars come in to try the changing menu. The team is hoping that New Yorkers will fall for a tasting menu, too, Khattar says. "It's a very well-balanced mixture of the best dishes that we have," he says. That said, the a la carte menu will debut along with the tasting menu, and Khattar hopes that people will try some of the dishes and ultimately want to check out a broader range of the restaurant's menu through the tasting menu.
Khattar has been happy to hear that interesting, casual Indian restaurants like Babu Ji are doing well, and the crew is excited to check out Floyd Cordoz's planned new restaurant Paowalla, too. "This is good to have more and more Indian restaurants opening," he says. "I think it's a cuisine whose time has come."