We enjoyed our buffet lunch at Made in Punjab at the start of our stay in Delhi but, as I said at the end of my review, we liked the Punjabi lunch we had the next week even more. That lunch was at Punjabi By Nature, the OG upscale new wave Punjabi restaurant. We last ate there in 2016 and that write-up has some background information on the restaurant and the larger phenomenon of the rise of fancier Punjabi restaurants in Delhi in the era of liberalization. I won’t go into all that again in this report—you can go read the first few paragraphs of the earlier one if you’re so interested. I am happy to be able to tell you, however, that this meal was as good as our previous, which is to say, it was very good indeed. Indeed having now eaten at most of the major contenders I would say that Punjabi by Nature may still be atop the category. Continue reading
We first ate at Cafe Lota in January 2014, just a few months after it had opened at the Crafts Museum. Since then we/I have gone back there on every trip (the one exception being in 2017 when I visited Delhi very briefly on account of a family emergency). We were enthusiastic about our first meals there in 2014; the two visits since then, in 2016 and 2018, yielded somewhat more uneven results with the departure of the original chef a possible reason. I still maintained, however, that it was one of the better and more interesting restaurants in Delhi and so there was not much question that we would go back there again on this trip. Continue reading
My reviews so far from our sojourn in Delhi in January (we have been back in Minnesota for a week now) may have given you the impression that we did not eat any North Indian food on this trip. Now, it’s true that we ate far less North Indian food on this trip than we usually do but we did eat some. In fact, our very first meal out was at a Punjabi restaurant, the aptly named Made in Punjab. We were at the NOIDA Mall of India for some wedding present shopping for later in the trip and of the many restaurant options the boys selected this one. I didn’t put up too much resistance either. I have very little interest in North Indian curry houses in the US but the genre is a very different proposition in Delhi. The boys were motivated by the promise of tandoori chicken and naans—it’s somewhat pathetic just how much better these basic dishes are at pretty much any halfway-decent North Indian restaurant in Delhi than anywhere in the US. I hoped there might be other kababs that might also be pleasing. I am happy to report we were all happy with our meal. Continue reading
We ate at Jamun—located in the Lodhi Colony market—the night after our dinner at Eat Pham. We met a different set of friends here. I’d suggested Cafe Lota but one member of the party nixed it on the grounds of the absence of alcohol and suggested we try Jamun, which had apparently been recommended highly to her. Being of a generally agreeable disposition, I put aside my misgivings—she is the notorious fantasist I’ve had cause to mention before—and we showed up for what in Delhi is a very early dinner reservation, at 7.30. The restaurant was fairly empty but not quiet for long. This because another member of the party—in from New Jersey—can normally be heard from two states away and that when she is not excited. On this occasion she was highly excited even before she got to the restaurant (was there alcohol involved? I don’t like to speculate). With ear plugs fastened we got down to perusing the menu. Continue reading
Late last year I posted a couple of reviews of lunches I’d eaten at Kabob’s in Bloomington (here and here). Those were the best Indian meals I’d yet eaten in Minnesota, I said; indeed, I went so far as to say that I’d be happy to eat those meals in India as well. Having just got back from four weeks in India, I’ll admit that last is slightly hyperbolic—there are far better South Indian thali meals to be had even in Delhi, which is not exactly in South India. But only slightly hyperbolic. It would be far from the best South Indian restaurant in Delhi (and yes, I know “South Indian” is an overly general category) but it would do well enough. I say this with confidence because a couple of weeks before leaving for Delhi I finally ate a non-thali meal there with some friends, and I can tell you that the weekday thalis aren’t the only reason to eat there. Continue reading
Sikkim, which became an Indian state in 1975, is counted as one of the eight northeastern states of the country. It is not, however, contiguous with the other seven northeastern states, being separated geographically from them by parts of northern West Bengal that lie further east than Sikkim. The population is of largely Nepali origin with the Lepchas and Bhutias among the other major indigenous ethnic groups (there are also Bengali and Marwari communities). My family lived in northern West Bengal in the early 1980s and I went to boarding school in Darjeeling in the mid-1980s. We went on many hiking trips to Sikkim and I had Sikkimese friends in school. Sikkimese food is, therefore, not largely a blank space in my culinary map as is the case with most of the other northeastern states (the other exception is Assam). Unlike Manipur—whose food I know only from our recent meal at Eat Pham—or Nagaland—whose food I know only from meals at Dzükou and Hornbill—I’ve eaten a fair bit of Sikkimese food in my adolescence, though not a whole lot of it since then. As on this trip to Delhi we were trying to eat a greater regional variety of food than we usually end up doing, I was pleased to learn that there is a well-regarded Sikkimese restaurant in Greater Kailash-1: Nimtho. We ate lunch there in between our dinners at Eat Pham and Hornbill. Herewith some details. Continue reading
From the North East to the south and to a restaurant I first ate at on my trip to Delhi in December 2018. Bagundi, located in M block on the Connaught Place outer circle, features the food of Andhra Pradesh. The state in fact split into two in 2014, or rather a new state, Telangana was carved out of the north-western parts of the old Andhra Pradesh. As far as I can make out, Bagundi’s conception of Andhra food is not affecting by these border re-drawings: their menu features most of the dishes I would have expected to see on an Andhra menu prior to 2014.
We’re coming to the end of our stay in Delhi on this trip (we’ve been here for almost two weeks). Coming “home” to Delhi has become progressively alienating in the 26+ years since I left for graduate school in the US. For the first few years it was like falling back easily into a mother tongue you don’t speak in your day-to-day life. After that as the Indian economy liberalized and the mediascape and urban landscape began to transform radically, trips “home” began to feel increasingly foreign: familiar roads and places became harder to map, my old points of reference were no longer reliable. And, of course, as my life in the US—work, marriage, children—became more established the question of which was “home” became more blurred. This is, of course, a familiar immigrant story. Though there is a great deal of class privilege encoded in the fact that I have been able to be a regular visitor to India (for weeks at a time) ever since I left, I don’t want to claim that there’s anything exceptional about this sort of thing. But for me this trip has been different. Continue reading
Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading
This was the third of three Indian meals I ate in New York in August. The Bombay Bread Bar was the latest of renowned chef, Floyd Cardoz’ Indian restaurants. I never had a chance to eat at Tabla, Cardoz’ most successful restaurant, in operation from 1998 to 2010. Along with Tamarind under Raji Jallepalli*, Tabla was one of the few restaurants in that period that attempted to move Indian restaurant food in the US past the established cliches. Despite its longevity, however, it did not really spark a movement. Now the zeitgesit has caught up to Cardoz. New York alone is full of restaurants serving modern and regional Indian dishes, in rooms that are trendy and playful (see Adda and Baar Baar, for example). It made sense then that in 2016, after several years helming non-Indian restaurants, he made a return to this culinary space with Paowalla. But it didn’t stick, and in 2018 the concept was switched to the more casual Bombay Bread Bar. This was apparently more successful but not successful enough to keep it in business. It was announced in July that the restaurant would close in September. Nonetheless, I wanted to eat there. Having tried Cardoz’ updated take on Goan food in Bombay (at O Pedro), I was curious to see what he had been up to here. Continue reading
Is this the best lunch deal in the Twin Cities metro? I think it might be. It’s certainly the best Indian lunch deal—and for that matter this was the best Indian meal of any kind I’ve had in Minnesota in 12+ years. I ate it at what is almost literally a hole in the wall in Bloomington, in the same large strip mall that houses TBS Mart. I’ve noticed it out of the corner of my eye over the years but always assumed it was a Middle Eastern place; there’s another Indian place right there and I suppose I assumed there wouldn’t be two Indian places right next to each other like that. Anyway, the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. And specifically an idiot who has been denying himself not just an excellent lunch thali for almost a decade now but also the nostalgic charge of eating it in a place that evokes the no-frills canteens and mess halls that are a commonplace in Indian cities. Here, specifically, is what I—and maybe you—had been missing. Continue reading
Baar Baar is a recently opened mod Indian restaurant in the East Village in Manhattan. Its name means “again and again” but I have no desire to eat there again, which is a shame because there is real talent in the kitchen. But that talent is in service of taking what could be excellent iterations of more traditional dishes and marring them with unnecessary jhatkas or flourishes that must read well to those looking for novelty but which come across as trying too hard on the plate and palate. At least so it seemed to us at our table. I ate here two days after my dinner at Adda and here again I was sans the missus; I dined instead with more people who I know from the food internet. In this case, one person I knew in the heyday of Another Subcontinent (and her partner) and two others I’ve come to know more recently on Twitter but had not met until this meal. So as to not tarnish their reputations by association with me I will preserve their anonymity. Continue reading
I was sworn in as a citizen of the US yesterday/today, along with another 999 people—all of us together representing 96 nationalities before the start of the ceremony. Many of my fellow new citizens doubtless come from countries that allow dual citizenship but India does not. India offers a status called “Overseas Citizen of India” but it is not full citizenship and does not come with a passport. Yesterday/today, therefore, was my last day with a valid Indian passport. Despite being someone who is not very persuaded by the claims of nationalism—culture is a different thing and is not tied to citizenship—I found myself somewhat melancholy about this prospect in the days leading up and after my naturalization interview. I’m never going to stop being Indian; despite having lived here for 26 years I’m not able to flip a switch and think of myself as American; but Indian-American I am now for sure. It’ll take a while to sort all this out in my head but to start with I decided to mark this stage in my translation with a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant and to eat some of the dishes that Americans so love to eat in Indian restaurants. The only question was which one. Continue reading
Hot on the heels of my review of lunch at Rasika in DC comes this review of dinner, almost exactly a week later, at Adda in NYC. Adda may be the hottest Indian restaurant in New York right now, at least among the foodie set. While sketching out our meals I asked New Yorkers on Twitter to recommend Indian places and Adda was the one that showed up on most people’s picks. And when I went about making plans to eat out with various groups of people it was the one that kept getting mentioned as a place people would be happy to go to.
As it happens, I went there with a group of people from Mouthfuls, the venerable New York-focused food forum. We’ve all known each other for a long time online and we’re all huge pains in the asses and most of us not easy to please. But we liked the food at Adda. Herewith the details. Continue reading