Picking the top Indian restaurants in a place like New York City, where there’s an Indian place every few blocks, is tough. However, these three Indian restaurants stand out from the pack, each in its own way. Taj Mahal, located in the East Village neighborhood, offers great budget dining. Pongal, located in the Gramercy region of New York City, offers a unique menu packed with South Indian specialties. Last but not least, there’s the famous Dawat, the premier Indian Restaurant in New York City, and perhaps in the whole of the U.S. From affordability to surprise to a meal worthy of worldwide acclaim, no matter what you’re after from an Indian restaurant in New York City, one of these three top choices can get the job done.
Best For Budget Dining
318 E. 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Taj Mahal is located on the stretch of E. 6th St. sometimes known as “Little India” or “Curry Row” by New York City residents for its overwhelming bounty of Indian restaurants. Taj Mahal’s devoted crowd of regulars agrees that it is the standout in its price bracket. With entrees in the $6-10 range, Taj Mahal offers great Indian food for anyone watching their budget, and offers a welcome alternative to the high menu prices found throughout New York City. The generous portions, and the complimentary coconut pudding they serve after your meal, mean that although it’s a great place for anyone on a budget, it’s not so great for anyone on a diet! The best entrees are the classics like saag paneer and bhind masala. For a novel start to your meal, try the coconut milk soup; it’s creamy, light, and delicious. Excellent vegetarian and meat options make this one of the most enjoyable Indian restaurants in New York City, regardless of price, and it’s certainly on the top of the list for budget Indian dining in Manhattan. For directions, reviews, and a glance at the menu, check out the Taj Mahal entry on Menupages.com: http://www.menupages.com/restaurantdetails.asp?areaid=5&restaurantid=2575&neighborhoodid=0&cuisineid=32
Best For An Unusual Meal
110 Lexington Ave, Between 27th and 28th St.
If you want an unusual Indian dining experience in New York City, you’ll definitely want to make a trip to the Gramercy area to sample the unique dishes at Pongal. Pongal offers South Indian cuisine, which means a menu packed with items you won’t see at more traditional Indian restaurants like Taj Mahal. The specialty of the house at Pongal is the wide variety of scrumptious Dosai, slightly spicy lentil crepes wrapped delicately around fillings like chutney, fried onions, or mashed potatoes with cilantro. A Dosai is roughly a foot in diameter (no exaggeration!), and they are best eaten with your hands, which makes them a hearty and memorable meal. Dosais range from $8-10 apiece, and the reasonable prices may explain why so many of the New York City residents who’ve discovered Pongal make the trip again and again. The clientele reflects the diversity of New York City, and ranges from grungy students to glamorous couples on dates. This eclectic mix of people are brought together solely by their love of the unique cuisine served at this mid-range Indian restaurant. Pongal runs a fully vegetarian, kosher kitchen, but meat-eaters won’t miss their beef a bit. For more info, visit http://www.pongalnyc.com/
Best For A High-End Splurge
210 E. 58th St at 3rd Ave.
If you’re looking for a truly exquisite Indian restaurant in New York City, head to Dawat. Dawat bills itself as Haute Indian Cuisine, and they live up to the title. Although focused primarily on North Indian cuisine, the menu is fairly far-reaching and includes a few Southern specialties. Regardless of what you order at this top-caliber Indian restaurant, you’ll notice the high caliber of the ingredients and the restaurant’s signature delicacy in preparing them. Dawat is particularly well known for their take on spicy tandoori-style grilled vegetables, and for their melt-in-your-mouth roasted goat and lamb dishes. The restaurateur behind Dawat is the actress and gourmand Madhur Jaffrey, whose cookbooks and television programs have helped Dawat gain prestige in foodie circles. Many people credit her accessible, innovative recipes with giving new life and bringing new credibility to the gourmet Indian food movements in the United States and Britain. A trip to Dawat is a must for any serious Indian food fan in New York City. Entrees fall mostly in the $20 range, and the menu is mostly meat-based although there is a strong array of vegetarian options. The atmosphere is understated but elegant, just like every meal served here. For superb food and flawless service, there’s no Indian restaurant in New York City, or possibly anywhere in North America, that can compete with Dawat. There’s no official website for the restaurant itself, but you can check out the Dawat menu on Menupages.com: http://www.menupages.com/restaurantdetails.asp?areaid=0&neighborhoodid=0&cuisineid=32&restaurantid=3212