I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more successful high-end Indian restaurants in New York — legit Indian or Indian-influenced places that are not better than the best down-home spots, but which show subcontinental cooking from a different perspective. (No one ever argues that the great cheap French joint cancels out the appeal of upscale French restaurants, but how often have you heard the phrase “expensive for Indian food”?)
In the limited bunch, Devi is one of my favorites, though I haven’t been there since Hemant Mathur left, and more recently, Tamarind Tribeca has turned out to be awfully good.
But now we’re in the midst of a mini-boom, because this fall, four chefs of Indian origin are opening up new restaurants: three focused on Indian cuisine, one Indian-influenced.
Hemant Mathur, formerly of Devi, is opening Tulsi, a restaurant named for the Hindi word for holy basil, at 211 East 46th Street. The 65-seat restaurant will specialize in Northern Indian food, including at least one dish from Mathur’s native Rajasthan. Last we heard, the chef was shooting for a September opening.
Jehangir Mehta, who also owns Graffiti, will open Mehtaphor in the Duane Street Hotel. It will offer several eating areas, including a cocktail-dessert bar, a small dining room, and a bar. It’s “Graffiti-plus-plus-plus,” says a representative. “The food is definitely Indian-influenced, but also influenced by his French training and other Southeast Asian and Japanese elements.” Mehtaphor is also shooting for a September opening.
Junoon, at 27 West 24th Street, will focus on cooking methods like tandoor grilling and clay-pot simmering. The kitchen will be directed by Vikas Khanna, and the place is owned by Rajesh Bhardwaj, who has been affiliated with Cafe Spice. Representatives say it’s aiming for a September or October opening.
And finally, East India Tea Company is a new project from Peter Beck, of Tamarind. Located at 101 Lexington Avenue, the restaurant is modeled after Calcutta snack shops, plus Anglo-Indian accents, like a tea garden. Look for it in September.