New casual Indian restaurants around NYC with stylized cooking and stylized dining rooms get a thumbs up from Pete Wells, who writes in the Times today about the trend.
The critic calls places like Badshah, Old Monk, and ARoqa “Baby Ji” restaurants, named for being descendants of the lively and popular Babu Ji. In particular, Rahi — an ambitious restaurant at 60 Greenwich Ave., near West 11th Street — serves “the most exciting food” of these newcomers, Wells says, crediting Junoon alum chef Chintan Pandya. Though it’s not always consistent, dish flavors are frequently “vivid and unexpected”:
With a chaat of fried artichoke hearts and edamame in a fruity and sour sauce of tamarind and pomegranate molasses, Mr. Pandya showed that he could infuse non-Indian ingredients with flavors that are very true to Indian cooking. There is a captivating appetizer of dark-meat chicken in a basil-chile sauce called Tulsi Chicken, and an inexplicably good snack of Melba toasts under chopped shishito peppers mixed with melted Amul cheese, a processed and highly shelf-stable product that’s everywhere in India. And I’m slightly in awe of his tandoori skate, a pristine hunk of fish cooked so it just slides off its cartilage and coated with a yogurt sauce so rife with cinnamon and cloves that it tastes like A.1. Sauce that some gifted cook had improved almost beyond recognition.
Also praised: Old Monk’s Tibetan momos, mixed lentils, and tandoor lamb chops. He doesn’t enjoy everything at all the restaurants but likes the gap that they’ve filled in New York’s dining scene. “They’re learning to create atmospheres and present cooking in ways that resonate with a modern audience, the way Hanjan and Atoboy have done with Korean food or Atla does with Mexican,” he writes.