It took me a while to get back to posting again. I planned for a small vacation to rest and rejuvenate but it took forever to get back on track! I should be more careful going forward about taking any break at all!
Anyways – if you travel the way I travel, I am sure you would end up eating at a lot of places – mostly at places you would not go back to and probably find some places which are really good. I have my share of places that I would not ever go back to but there are a few good ones as well. I thought I will share those with you.
Let me warn you that I do not always get an opportunity to eat at an Indian restaurant when I travel but when I do, I try to find out about it in advance so as not to waste the opportunity.
Let me go over my list. Hopefully this will help you check some items off of your bucket list!
Urban Spice in Atlanta
These guys are really at the top of my list. One of the few restaurants which really have taken Indian Restaurants a notch higher. It is really obvious from the ambiance of the restaurant, their menu and hospitality. Unlike most Indian restaurants, this is not at the corner of a strip mall but is a beautiful wooden structure that also has a Tapas lounge. You will find that their menu has most of the traditional items but with a touch of modern – a good example is their Kale Pakoda. Food is really great as well. The wait staff is really courteous and is very knowledgeable about the menu. You may want to check their Chef Chintan Pandya’s impressive Bio on their website.
India House in Chicago
Many are probably already aware of this fine restaurant in Downtown Chicago. What impressed me about this place was the size of the restaurant and the scale of their operations while still being able to maintain authentic flavors of the dishes. This is a rare quality to find in Indian Restaurants since you will typically find them losing quality as the scale expands. Another thing that impressed me about this restaurant was that the wait staff could make pretty good meal recommendations from their huge menu every time I visited them, although most were not from Indian origin! Reminds me of the movie Cheeni Kum where Amitabh Bachchan is making the English waiter memorize dishes in Hindi 🙂
I have two choices in the DFW area.
I like Chennai Cafe more because they bring authentic food from Tamil Nadu and I have noticed that they are consistent. They have everything on their menu from South Indian ‘Tiffins’ to authentic Biriyanis from various regions of Tamil Nadu. They also serve up some specials during festivals and also based on the season. The only grouse I have about them – and this is not uncommon among many Indian restaurants in the US, is the service. It varies from very good to plain ordinary at times. But it is the food that made me go back to them several times.
Another one I like is in the Irving area called Underground that is run by an ex-chef Amit and specializes in Dum Pukht. I am not a big fan of their ambiance nor the quality of food during lunch, which is basically the regular buffet menu. But I usually ask for Amit and chat up with him and ask him to recommend what I should eat. That has worked really well for me. I think his staff pays more attention when the orders come from him 🙂 I really love their Biriyanis. If you like lamb, ask Amit what he can make for you. Sometimes if he has fresh stock of lamb, he will not stop short of serving some of the best lamb dishes you can find.
Chote Nawab in NYC
And last but not the least, Chote Nawab in NYC. For me, this place would be right up there with Urban Spice. These guys have a great ambiance too but are smaller in space compared to Urban Spice but score much better when it comes to food. I love their grills and also their Biriyanis. They are also one of the few restaurants who serve ‘Phaal’ on their menu. If you have not heard of it before – it is supposed to be the spiciest Indian curry! I have never gathered courage myself although I do eat spicy food simply because I do not want to take a risk upsetting my bowels as I travel to NYC typically for work 🙂
I am sure it can be argued that there are more better Indian restaurants – a few scores of them just in the New Jersey Area or the San Francisco Bay Area. I feel that each one of the above are very consistent and optimal when you consider authenticity, hospitality and ambiance. These factors always made me go back to these places whenever I could. One thing that the owners or staff at each of these places do, and that impressed me, was that they are willing to tell you what is the best in their menus and are flexible enough to make changes to suit your taste. I am not sure if every good restaurant does that.
As I reach the end of the post, I strongly feel that I should have a follow on post that covers some of the better restaurants in India. Let me compile that for you guys in the next couple of days.