Jehangir Mehta: Where to Get Great Biryani, What New York Restaurants Need Now


After working at Aix, Compass, and Jean Georges, chef Jehangir Mehta opened Graffiti in 2007. He’s one of the few chefs to have worked professionally in both pastry and savory kitchens, and his cooking style features both sweet and savory flavors. It also combines Indian, Southeast Asian, and French techniques in unorthodox combinations.

This fall, Mehta will open Mehtaphor in the Duane Street Hotel.

Yesterday, in the first part of the interview, Mehta talked Mumbai food memories and his plans for his soon-to-open new restaurant, Mehtaphor. Today, he tells us where to find great biryani, talks underrated ingredients, and says what he thinks New York’s restaurants could use more of.

You’ve been traveling lately — what’s the most memorable meal you’ve had on your travels recently?

A luau which included hunting and roasting a pig.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

I love to challenge my palate, so there is nothing that I’ve eaten that I really dislike.

What’s an underrated or little-known ingredient that you particularly like to use?

Fresh turmeric. It’s a great-tasting root and has medicinal properties.

Are there any Indian restaurants in New York that you particularly like?

The place is not Indian per se, but I love the biryani served at Haandi.

Where do you go out to eat or drink on your day off?

I generally prefer to have friends over and cook at home. It’s the one day I can make anything I want to eat.

How do you feel about chefs using Twitter or blogs to respond to critics?

Social media networks, when used constructively, are an ideal platform to communicate. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. As long as the conversation is honest and non-vindictive, more power to it.

What would you like to see more of in the New York restaurant world?

More originality. Although I will be the first to admit that often it is the economic situation that curbs it.

What would you like to see less of in the New York restaurant world?

Less pretension.

You are one of the few chefs who can do, and has done, both pastry and savory cooking. Does one require a different mind-set than the other?

Attention to detail and knowing how ingredients blend together is what I brought forth from pastry to savory.