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Pete Wells Wants You to Stay in Manhattan for Indian Food

The Times critic makes a case for Curry Hill

Four dishes in various shades in pans with handles.
A spread at Sahib
Liz Barclay

Curry Hill is a far better metropolis for Indian cooking than Jackson Heights, Queens, according to Pete Wells. “You less often meet somebody who sends you to Curry Hill for the cooking of India,” Wells writes. “But it’s the correct answer.” The Times critic poses that there is no better recent example of this than Sahib, the restaurant Robert Sietsema reviewed last month.

While many of the other Indian restaurants in Curry Hill focus on one region, Wells notes that Sahib “darts around India.” He adds: “It pays a little bit of attention to several regions and ignores others entirely. This makes it hard to get a firm sense of any one regional style, but easy to enjoy several dishes you may have never seen before.”

Here is Wells on some of the dishes he enjoyed most:

From the city of Mangalore on the Arabian Sea comes kori gassi, a very mild and irresistible chicken stew; coriander, asafetida and curry leaves season the coconut milk.

The recipe for Mr. Natarajan’s chicken biryani comes from Lucknow. Made with both yogurt and milk, cooked in a pot sealed with a leaf of pastry, it’s his favorite version of this rice dish, he says. It may be mine, too.

Basic staples, though, were unusually good: fragrant lemon rice; thair pachadi, a South Indian raita with mustard seeds and okra; and the dal of black lentils with an uncommonly fresh taste (from ginger, green chiles and cilantro) under the cream and butter.

Wells notes that even though service can be overeager at times, it provides a nice respite from the anxiety triggered at cheaper Indian restaurants, and the pretension of more expensive restaurants.

He ends with this note on Sahib’s dessert: More than once when I tried to skip dessert, the servers talked me into gulab jamun, warm globes of cheese and milk dripping with a rose-scented syrup. I’d always protest and I’d always surrender, and I was always glad I did.” Two stars.


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