I love making a quick lunch of hot masala chai and pav bhaji, one of India’s finest junk foods. The bread rolls should be generously buttered and deeply browned, ideally served with a super-spicy curried mash that’s full of flavor and devoid of nutritional value.
Shiva Natarajan’s sparse and shiny Malai Marke already stands out on East 6th Street’s stretch of Indian restaurants, with a glass-encased kitchen and a menu that dips into more esoteric regional dishes than its Northern neighbors. The crisp pav bhaji is lovely ($7 for 2), especially when squeezed with a bit of lemon, and the methi chicken is a good find as well, the fresh fenugreek leaves softened in garlic and green chiles. The kitchen works some of the brighter flavors from the coast, too, as in the Mangalorean dish of shrimp Ajadina.
I was delighted to see that Natarajan is now dedicating a new kitchen within Malai Marke to Indian snacks.
The small flat-top and counter, set aside in one pocket of the dining room away from the main kitchen, fires up today. You’ll find a variety of chaats and many kinds of kati rolls (filled with things like spicy ground lamb, fried eggs, and potato). Much like at Thelewala, the restaurant’s teeny West Village snack bar, prices will range from $4 to $12.
Malai Marke, 318 E 6th Street; 212-777-7729