Drunken Monkey – Cramped but Craveworthy

Let’s be very clear about something:

I love Indian food. All kinds of Indian food. Mild, spicy, Northern, Southern, pork vindaloo and vegan channa masala.

So if the restaurant is Indian, I am predisposed to like it.

Spoiler alert – I had a blast at Drunken Monkey.

Make a reservation, leave your bulky coat at home, don’t expect fast service, and anticipate being crammed in like sardines.

If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy my experience, than I have mislead you…because I had a great time. 

20141121_193657 The restaurant is minuscule and it’s really more of a bar with food than vice versa. It is REALLY small…cramped…a wee bit uncomfortable, even.

But also really fun. Loud. Boisterous. Buzzy and filled with laughter and intoxicating aromas wafting out from the kitchen.  20141121_193700 It’s a great spot to jump start the weekend.
20141121_200109 Army and Navy

This craft cocktail bar earns its stripes with this one gin based libation alone. It’s almost like a lemony Creamsicle cocktail. Light, creamy, citrusy, and sweet. I could drink it for dessert, but it works as an aperitif as well. I drank 2 of them over the course of the night and though I couldn’t detect the taste of alcohol, they didn’t skimp on it at all. Just ask my ‘hair of the dog’ Saturday morning Bloody Marys.
20141121_204138 Batata sev puri

You either love or hate these hollow crackers filled with tamarind water, chickpeas, and other ingredients. I love them – these aren’t spicy enough but they are sweet with the tamarind water and fragrant with cilantro. Pop them into your mouth all ant once and quickly, before they get soggy. The whole point here is to savor the difference in textures and temperatures – it’s ruined if you don’t eat it quickly.  20141121_204539 Tandoori chicken

The finest I have had outside of merry olde London town. It arrives in juicy, sizzling hunks on a plate hot enough to blister your skin on contact. It’s so incredibly tender and juicy that it seems to be dark meat, but it’s white – clean flavored with a charred, crispy outside. Dip it in the sweet and spicy sauces alongside for some of the best chicken you are likely to enjoy anywhere in the vicinity.  20141121_204801 Mutton kebabs

Hold the line, these are sublime. Coarsely ground sausages that are flavored with all of the best Indian flavors – fragrant coriander, smoky cumin, spicy garlic, and sweet onions. They are juicy and almost sticky on the outside with the mutton’s own fat. It’s earthy but not gamy – just like a very deep, complex lamb. This was my favorite dish of the night.  20141121_211525 Butter chicken

This is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Murgh makhani is where it’s AT. This is mild, creamy, and a little sweet – a great dish with which to introduce someone to Indian food. A creamy tomato sauce infused with garlic, cumin, and onions with soft, juicy pieces of chicken. The sauce is addictive, perfect to spoon over the basmati rice and warm, puffy naan served alongside.

The whole experience is rather intoxicating. It’s not relaxing, the service is SLOWWWW (though the servers are great, they are just always slammed), and dinner is pretty pricey. But it’s fun, the drinks are wonderful, and the food is delicious.

What more could you want on a Friday night?

Amaya – Tandoori Foie Gras is Just the Beginning

I think that you probably remember my love affair with London. If you don’t, then go check out those posts. I am now, and always, an Anglophile.

And I still LOVE Indian food in London. The stuff here – with the exception, perhaps, of Junoon – can’t even compare. Which is why I was so excited that, almost 4 years after my first visit there, I was finally able to get pictures of my meal at the Michelin starred, very fabulous, usually photography barring restaurant, Amaya.

20140508_202510 Amaya is still as bustling and busy as ever. It’s chic but not too precious – you can tell from the incredible aroma that people might come here to be seen but they stay to eat. This is a great date place or a spot for a night out with friends. 
20140508_203152 If you have to wait at the small bar for a few minutes, don’t think of it as the restaurant running late. Think of it as your opportunity to try one of the excellent cocktails from the wine and cocktail list. Go for the orange juice, prosecco, and gin concoction for something a little sweet and very refreshing.
20140508_203201-001 Or, order the absinthe lassi for a more savory, tangy drink that not only calms the stomach but actually increases your appetite. If you don’t like the faintly licorice-y taste of absinthe, ask for it to be made with gin. 
20140508_204614-001 The restaurant specializes in food cooked over an open grill – the kitchen is enormous and open air, and you can see tandoori ovens cooking chewy naan bread, sautee pans filled with fragrant sauces, and the grill cooking giant, sweet shrimp from Madagascar, lamb from Scotland, and any number of vegetables. It’s dinner theater with a twist – you get to taste the final product instead of being treated to a stirring rendition of “The Music Man” while dining on dry prime rib. 
20140508_205459-001 Chutney sampler

Oh, please get this. Smoky tomato chutney, traditional tangy mango chutney, diced peanuts, and a thin, hot tamarind chutney improve most things in life, but especially this intricately spiced food. The peanuts are a truly inspired touch – nutty, a little sweet, and pleasantly grainy for a textural contrast.  20140508_210625 Charbroiled oyster with coconut cream sauce

Be still my heart. One of my favorite oyster preparations on the face of the planet. Small, plump, and sweet. Covered in tasted panko with a touch of bright citrus zest. Served in a pool of rich coconut cream with a slight hit of curry. It’s unexpected and totally addictive – Thai coconut mussels gone upscale and even more mild. I could eat 1,000 of these
20140508_211218-001 Coconut crusted sea bass

Also tasty, but not the best dish of the night. It’s mild and flaky, infused with the light flavor of coconut and covered in crunchy coconut shreds with a hint of red pepper, but it doesn’t stand out. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd of this caliber.

20140508_211332-001 Pomegranate and rose raita

Delicious – and this is coming from someone who usually avoids rose flavored things like the plague. To me, rose is a keyword for “tastes like swallowing a bottle of perfume,” but these roses are purely ornamental – I couldn’t detect any rose taste at all. The pomegranate adds bursts of tart, juicy flavor to the thick, cooling yogurt. A must get, especially for the abundance of spicy dishes to follow.
20140508_211440-001 Tandoori foie gras

The most sensational dish of the night. One of the most sensational foie gras dishes ever. (Do I say that every time?) This is really something else. It’s foie covered in aromatic spices like coriander and ginger, and then flash seared until the outside is sticky and caramelized and the inside absolutely melts. It actually has to be eaten with a spoon, that is how fatty and lush it is.  20140508_212126 Tandoori broccoli

This ain’t yo mama’s broccoli. This broccoli is seared in a blazing tandoori until it is BARELY tender at the stalk and incinerated to a crunchy, salty golden brown at the top of the floret. It’s served with a creamy yogurt sauce that has a vaguely tahini-esque nuttiness. It’s so good that it’s barely vegetarian.

Oh yes, I went there. Don’t miss this. 
20140508_212342 Grilled quail

Perfect. The meat is JUST medium, with a hint of pinkness that leaves it juicy and savory without being too gamy. It’s almost sweet, like lamb, and tastes much more like meat than poultry. It’s split for you, so you can pick up the tiny pieces with your hand and eat the crunchy, burnished skin that is laquered with a sweet glaze. Don’t forget to drag it through the accompanying dots of fragrant cilantro and spicy chile sauces. This is awesome. 

This restaurant is just dreamy. The food focuses on fresh ingredients and careful spicing – don’t expect over seasoned, greasy food at this joint. The food couldn’t be better in any way and neither could the service. It’s prompt and informed but still friendly, and the manager himself came over to every single table to ask what diners enjoyed and what could be improved upon. Wow…now THAT is attention to detail. This meal is absolutely expensive, but you don’t feel fleeced. Really, you get what you pay for at Amaya.

It’s my favorite Indian food in one of my favorite cities. 

NYC’s Best Lazy Buffets

I happen to love a good buffet. The hedonistic, gluttonous, slightly(more than slightly?) trashy experience of eating mountains of sushi, prime rib, eggs Benedict, and “gelato” until your stomach is distended and the clock has turned from AM to PM.

But…there is something a  little better than the standard buffet, which also includes lines, sneeze guards, and less than optimally heated food.

That would be the lazy person’s buffet.

Where the endless food is just brought to you. You don’t even need to get up from your chair. Expandomatic pants are all that’s needed.


Churrascaria Plataforma

Have you ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse? Because if not – and you eat meat – you have been missing one of life’s greatest pleasures. A pleasure that starts with cheesy, puffy yuca rolls, like doughy gougeres. That progresses to a massive salad bar filled with vegetables, pasta,  spicy bean stew, and other items. A pleasure that reaches its savory climax in the parade of meats. Servers come to your table and slice you different cuts of freshly roasted meats – as much as you can handle. Literally – you have a little token that you make red when you want to stop eating, but as long as it’s green…you keep getting fed. And this stuff ain’t hot dog meat, either. We are talking smoky pork chorizo, garlicky rubbed steak, salty and wonderfully rare prime rib, Parmesan crusted juicy pork chops, and every kind of rib you can imagine. Don’t forget the bottomless mashed potatoes, fried bananas, and french fries. And don’t forget to come early…you can stay as long as you want and with food this tasty and at a price this reasonable-you will want to eat as much as you can.


Moti Mahal Delux

This New Delhi export makes the UES the best brunch neighborhood in town. For just $15, you get intricately flavored, delicately balanced Indian food – as much as you can handle, and then some. Pungent bhel poori, creamy tikka masala, buttery dahl, fragrant saag paneer, fresh naan…and the menu changes every weekend. If you gett he brunch special, you get what the Michelin-recommended chefs want to make that day. And if they would eat it themselves, why wouldn’t you eat it? The food is not heavy or salty – it’s complex in flavor and texture, and is highly recommended for the most discerning Indian food connoisseurs (not that I’m discerning, but I have had a lot of tandoori in my life…just saying). Do NOT miss out on the gulab jamun for dessert – the yeastiest, warmest, softest doughnut I have had in  many a moon. As added bonuses, service is excellent and the menu is very vegetarian friendly.


Mish Mosh at Sugar and Plumm

Not a buffet, but it might as well be…do you SEE the size of this thing? Vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, potato chips, gummy bears, chocolate candies, whipped cream, blondies, and chocolate sauce…and a spoon.

Or 2 spoons if you want it to be more of a meal with loved ones and less of an ode to lactose tolerance and gluttony.

Whatever floats your boat.

It isn’t cheap, but it is insanely decadent (LOVE those salty chips!), and where else can you go at 9 PM and see an entire menu filled with desserts, fit for an out-of-town guest (for those times when a diner just won’t cut it)? It’s over the top, but then, that’s just what buffets are.

Especially lazy person’s buffets.

I’ll meet you at the table.

Moti Mahal Delux on Urbanspoon

Gonna-Make-You-Sweat-and-Cry Samosas

Bringing another recipe out of the “Forever lost in Blogger to WordPress Transfer” files.

This one is another recipe that I took straight from someone else – no inventions, no new techniques, no unique spin on things. This is just the story of a lazy Jewish girl who loves samosas.

And decided to make them one day.

Spoiler alert – these are as good as any samosas I have had in any restaurant, and the cilantro chutney is even better.

Second spoiler alert – they took many hours, lots of sweat, and a few tears out of me.

Was it worth it? Wait and see…

Samosas with Tamarind Water and Cilantro Chutney (from Tropical Asian Cooking )

Tamarind Water and Mint Chutney Ingredients:

2 tbsp tamarind pulp

1/2 cup warm water

3.5 tbsp chopped mint leaves

2 cloves garlic, smashed

3 birds eye chilis, chopped

1 medium red or green chili, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 sliced scallion

Samosas Ingredients:

2 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen peas

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 jalapeno, chopped

11 curry leaves chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp each minced garlic and ginger

1 tsp chat masala

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves 

2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading

2 tbsp veggie oil

1/2 cup water

Extra oil in which to fry

1. Combine the tamarind pulp with the warm water.

2. After a few minutes of letting it steep, pour the mixture through a colander…

taking care to mash the pulp through the colander. Then set the results aside, tossing the fibrous pulp. 

 3. Throw the rest of the ingredients in the “chutney and water” section int o a food processor, and pulse to mince and combine.

Take out the mixture and set it aside. Now it’s time to get down to business…

4. Drop the potatoes in a pot of boiling water until they are fork tender. At the last minute or so, drop in the carrot so it gets tender too. Then remove the veggies and drain.

5. Mash up the potatoes and the carrots in a large bowl. It’s okay if   still some bite to the carrots. Also, add the peas.

In case you aren’t exhausted from all the peeling, dicing, pureeing, and the like, don’t worry…there is still time for you to drop dead of exhaustion.

6. Now put the oil and your mustard seeds into a skillet over medium high heat and start to fry them until they get really fragrant. When they start to audibly pop…

7.  Throw in the onions, chiles, and curry leaves.  By now your kitchen should be smelling vaguely nutty and incredibly fragrant.

8. After the onions start to caramelize and turn golden, add the ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

9. And after 30 secs of mixing those into the mixture, add the potatoes and carrots to the pan.

10. Now take the mixture off the heat and add the cilantro, the masala, and the salt.

Try not to eat this straight out of the bowl. Even though it would be delicious with some creamy Greek yogurt and that bright, spicy cilantro chutney…NO.. must keep making samosas. In the recipe that never ends…

Now onto the dough:

  11. Set the flour in a bowl and made a well in the center of it…

and pour  in the oil and water.

12. Now mix the whole thing  until it comes together and forms a ball.

13.   Turn it onto a well floured cutting board and…


And press.

And push that sucker into oblivion. Well, just for about 5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and has a bouncy quality.

14. Separate the dough into 8 little balls.

15. Then pound each ball flat with your hand,

and roll them out to about 5.5 inches in diameter. Don’t be afraid of applying some force to really form those flat little circles. They will be quite thin.

16. Cut each disc in half, and…

put a heaping 1/2 tsp of your potato filling into one of your dough half moons.


17. Dip your finger in some water, then run your finger across the edge of half of the dough.  Then just fold the dough over, and crimp it.  The dough will hold together in a little parcel…

like this. (There will be lots of filling left over that is just perfect as a side for some nice flank steak.)

18. Now, pour enough oil to cover a few samosas into a big pot or dutch oven, then put the pot on high heat.  When the oil shines and starts to have tiny bubbles, throw a piece of bread in.  If it fries, the oil is ready!

19.  GENTLY lower your first samosa into the oil…don’t throw that thing in unless you are craving some serious oil burns.  Put about 4 samosas in at a time-you don’t want to overcrowd the pot and lower the oil temperature.  Remember, the higher the temperature, the less greasy the samosa.

 After about 1 minute or so, when the pastry puffs up and is lightly golden on one side, turn it.  After the other side turns golden-about 1 minute more-take those kids out, drain them on a paper towel, and throw the next batch in the pot. Repeat until the samosas are all fried.


20. Serve

This is just a phenomenal recipe. The pastry is light and crackly with eggshell thin air pockets.  The  creamy potatoes, sweet carrots, and juicy peas are complimented by spicy peppers and fragrant masala.   The sauces are tangy, salty, garlicky, and vaguely sweet .  This doesn’t taste Indian.  This IS Indian.

It will take you forever. It will give you burns and it will make your kitchen smell like a restaurant on East 6th Street. But they payoff is extraordinary.

I may have cried and I definitely sweated (swat?).

But it was, indeed, worth it.

Saag Paneer

Creamed spinach is one of my secret pleasure foods. I love the smooth texture, the taste of cream and nutmeg, and the slightly minerally, clean aftertaste of the spinach. To my mind, nothing goes better with a thick slab of prime rib than a Yorkshire pudding and some warm creamed spinach, topped with a flurry of salty Parmesan  cheese.

Not everyone appreciates my tastes though. Some people like their spinach to have some more kick, some more zing, and some more heft.

For those people, the way  to go is saag paneer. This Indian spinach dish is insanely easy to make, with mostly frozen ingredients, very little fat, and a few spices that you already – or at least, should – have in your kitchen.

Paneer is an Indian farmer’s cheese that is firm, a little salty, and cooks up beautifully, so it is crisp without and soft within. If you can’t find it, substitute halloumi – it should work perfectly.

Oh yeah, and I also threw in cauliflower, just because cauliflower is mighty tasty.

Saag Paneer (loosely adapted from Serious Eats)


14.4 oz. package frozen cut spinach

1 10 oz. bag cauliflower

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plus more to garnish

3 tbsp. butter

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 serrrano chiles, diced

1 – 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 package paneer or halloumi cheese, diced into cubes

1 tbsp. curry powder

2 tsp. each ginger, cumin, and coriander

salt and pepper, to taste

cilantro, chiles, and onions to garnish (optional)

1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed stockpot. When it melts, add the chiles, garlic, onion, ginger, curry, coriander, and cumin.

2. Sautee until the onions are translucent and the kitchen is very fragrant, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the spinach directly to the pot.

4. Add the stock and stir until the spinach has started to defrost and wilt. Cover and let boil for about 20 minutes, checking to make sure that the spinach is not burning. Add more chicken stock if it seems to get absorbed too quickly.

5. Meanwhile, put the paneer in a very hot, dry nonstick skillet, and sear on one side until it is very golden brown. This should take about 2 minutes. Flip and do the same on the other side. You need not do it to every side, but it really should be crispy on at least 2 sides. Once it is cooked, set it aside on a plate.

6. Lowering the pan to medium high heat, add the cauliflower to it. Cook until there are some charred spots and the cauliflower is totally cooked through. Set it aside with the paneer.

7. Now, going back to the spinach, put the contents of the pot into the blender and blitz the whole thing for 3 or 4 pulses, until it is creamy and smooth.

8. Return it to the pot, put the pot on low heat, and…

9. Add the cauliflower and paneer.

10. Add the yogurt, stir to combine, and taste for seasonings, salt, and pepper.

11. Garnish and serve.

Okay, so maybe creamed spinach isn’t totally where it’s at. Because this…is…awesome. Creamy and tangy from the Greek yogurt, with the bite of chile and aromatic ginger. The paneer is squeaky and crunchy next to tender-crisp cauliflower and the blanket of rich spinach. This is perfect served alongside daal and some steamed basmati rice. The best thing is…it actually tastes better a day later, and even better the day after that. The flavors really develop and mingle the longer that it sits, and the spinach’s clean flavor mixes with the chile’s heat and the sweet taste of the caramelized onion. This is both hearty and healthy, something nice as we head into the meant-heavy winters.

I’ll never give up creamed spinach, but I surely am glad that I was forced to look outside my comfort zone.

Brick Lane Curry House – I Phought the Phaal

Some people skydive to get their thrills. Some people race cars, or even shoplift.


I eat food so spicy that even Adam Richman threw in the towel.

Brick Lane Curry House is an English style curry house. This means that it has a huge menu with classic British-Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi, and naan. It also has phaal, which is listed on the menu as:

“An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor! For our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry. If you do manage to finish your serving, a bottle of beer is on us, as is a certificate of completion and your picture in the (P)hall of fame.”

It is considered by many to be the spiciest dish in NYC, so hot that all flavor is obscured and those who eat it are solely doing so because they are masochistic.

So, of course, I had to do it.

The restaurant is just what you imagine in an Indian restaurant – sitar music playing, cloth napkins, servers carrying burnished bowls of curry and biryanis. The vibe is one you have seen a thousand times before, and it is welcome every time. It is equally good for families, a group of friends, or even a date.

Maybe not a first date. Unless you are really sure that the other person will be turned on by seeing you snarf down smelly Indian food.

Pappadums and Chutneys

Each table is brought a crisp, lentil infused pappadum and a selection of chutneys – sweet tamarind, fragrant cilantro, and fresh tomato and onion. The basket is not incredible, but it is welcome and introduces you to the pungent, tangy flavors that will permeate the rest of the meal

Lamb Samosas

The measure by which I judge any Indian restaurant. The samosas arrived piping hot, and the flaky exterior broke open to reveal minced lamb and juicy peas. The aromas were of cinnamon, cumin, and the slight sweetness of fennel. The lamb was mild, with just enough gaminess to counteract the sweet tomato chutney served alongside.

These are some of the best samosas in the city, and I could make a meal of these alone.

Onion Kulcha

Fluffy, hearty, stuffed with sweet onions, this bread is not only delicious, but necessary to sop up the many sauces.

Saag Paneer

A generous portion of creamed spinach served with soft, creamy paneer. This Indian farmer’s cheese has the mild taste of cream cheese and the texture of soft tofu, and is a welcome accompaniment to the garlicky spinach. This dish is ideal for anyone who loves creamed spinach or is new to Indian food – there is no pervasive cumin or ginger flavor, and the spinach is so thick and savory that it is a main dish all on its own.

Now, for the main event…

Chicken Phaal

At first glance, this looked like chicken mole. A few peppers, a few scattered seeds…meh, I can handle that.  And, at first, I could. The aroma was smoky and a little spicy with red pepper, and at first bite chicken was moist and tender. At first it was a bit spicy and deep, like chipotle peppers. I became brave and took another spoonful of sauce. Then, it started. The burn flooded the insides of my cheeks,   then my lips. It went from a slight prickle to an insistent burn, and by the time that it stretched to the back of my throat it was an all out pounding, scraping, insistent burn. I was sweating and my nose was running. I was miserable. But beneath the misery…I was in heaven. The sauce was layered with ginger, coriander, and cumin. The spice made my heart beat faster and gave me a sort of high – I was drunk off the pleasure and the pain. Forget 50 Shades of Grey…you want hot, this is hot. Even a spoonful of cool raita couldn’t cool it.

Needless to say, I couldnt’ finish it. My raw, throbbing tongue and chapped lips made me give up. I got not beer. No certificate. No honor. But the very cheap prices, excellent service, and really wonderful food ensure that I will be back, and soon. That certificate will be mine.

You won the battle, Phaal, but not the war. I’ll be back.

Brick Lane Curry House on Urbanspoon

Bombay Deviled Eggs

When my sister was little, she swore she hated eggs. She once started dry heaving when I ordered sunny side up eggs at a diner.

She was really a delight.

My mother, an ovophile from way back, was determined to make my sister like eggs, and after trying everything from spaghetti carbonara to egg salad, finally found the winning ticket: deviled eggs.

My sister helped her make them, and by the end of the cooking session was licking the filling from the bowl. Who wouldn’t love deviled eggs? Creamy, rich, and piquant, they are an indulgent and comforting two bite snack.

Though deviled eggs are a classic American dish, jazzing them up with Indian spices and flavors brings a new dimension to them. Zesty, earthy, and fragrant, they totally reinvent an old favorite. It’s impossible not to love these.

Bombay Deviled Eggs


1 dozen eggs, hardboiled and peeled (I like this Serious Eats recipe)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs. curry powder

3 oz. Sweet and Spicy Tabasco Sauce

2 tsp. turmeric

1. Cut all the eggs in half, lengthwise.

2. Scoop out the yolks and place them in a large bowl, reserving the egg whites for later.

3. Add the mayonnaise, curry powder, and turmeric.

4. Add the Tabasco sauce.

5. Using a stick blender or electric egg beaters, whip the yolks to a smooth creamy paste. Remember to wipe down the sides of the bowl to get all that yolk incorporated.

6. Put in a zip-top baggie and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, thaw for 10 minutes (just to get the chill off), and taste for seasonings. The reason you taste just before serving is because as the mixture sits it becomes more flavorful – you want a light curry flavor not a total curry bomb.

7. When ready to serve, arrange the egg whites, divet side up on a tray.

8. Push the egg mixture in the baggie down into the very corner of the bag and cut just the corner off of the bag. Now – automatic piping bag!

9. Now, just squeeze the bag into each empty egg white shell. Fill it only up the the border of the egg first, then go around and add extra yolk mixture if you have some left.

10. Serve.

If my mother had just made these eggs for my sister straight off, she would have loved eggs so much, she would have wanted to get a chicken. The mixture is so creamy and smooth, sitting in its white case. The curry flavor goes perfectly with the eggs, deep and slightly spicy. The Tabasco sauce adds acidity and a bit of sweetness and the turmeric gives the eggs the most beautiful marigold color. This isn’t slap-you-in-the-face Indian food, just gently Indian inspired. The eggs would not be out of place at a picnic or at a fancy dinner party. Or even on a picky eater’s plate.

Just ask my sister.

Disclaimer: Tabasco has compensated me for this recipe.

Indian Spiced Lentils: Hello Daal-y

Lentils are one of my favorite foods. They are so hearty and satisfying, but not at all heavy or greasy. When properly cooked, they are creamy but not mushy, acting as a thickening agent for whatever they are in. I love them cold with crisply fried bacon and a mustard vinaigrette and hot in a comforting winter stew. One of the best ways to enjoy them is in Daal – Indian-spiced lentils that are vegetarian, inexpensive and easy to make. Well…my version is easy to make. And it isn’t Daal as much as it is an Indian Influenced Lentil Stew. So it isn’ really daal. It’s more daal-y.
So of course I have to call this recipe Hello Daal-y.
You can thank me later. 
The thing about this recipe is that these measurements are just guidelines – loose guidelines. I like my stew very spicy, so if you don’t – cut out the jalapenos. Don’t love turmeric? Cut it! Want more smoky flavor? Toss some cumin in there. Bottom line, you can taste as you go with this recipe, and though the tastes will intensify as the stew sits, you can always alter them. 
1 Lb. lentils
2 Boxes chicken or vegetable stock
1 Large can crushed tomatoes
2 Garlic cloves, diced
2 Onions, diced
4 Thbs. curry powder
1 Thbs. turmeric
2 Tsp. fenugreek
3 Dried curry leaves
2 Tbs. minced ginger
2 Jalapenos, diced
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Cucumber, diced
2 Large bunches cilantro and mint
Greek yogurt or sour cream to taste
Vegetable oil, salt, pepper to taste
 1) Saute the onion, garlic and curry leaves in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until the veggies turn translucent.
 2) Add the jalapenos and continue to saute for 10 minutes.
 3) Rinse the lentils thoroughly, running your fingers through the lentils to make sure that there is no grit or bad lentil hiding in there.
 You can pick out any “bad” lentils you see, but you mostly just want to rinse the lentils until the water runs clear.
 4) Now add all…
 of your…
 dry spices. 
 The scent of curry and fenugreek should instantly waft up to you and make your mouth water. 
 5) Remove the curry leaves and discard.
 6) Add the can of crushed tomatoes.
7) Add the chicken stock.
 8) Add the lentils. Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and let the dish simmer for 30 minutes, or until it has thickened considerably and the lentils are tender. 
 9) In the meantime, combine the cucumbers, cilantro and mint in a small bowl.
10) Taste the stew for seasonings, garnish with chopped veggies and yogurt/sour cream and serve.

This dish is so satisfying. It is spicy, savory, complex and stick-to-your-ribs hearty. The lentils are tender yet meaty, the tomatoes are soft and acidic, the jalapenos add a lip-tingling heat and the sugar balances it out. The curry is the star of this dish – if you make it correctly, your clothes, hair, EVERYTHING should be scented with fragrant, deep curry. Might want to take a shower before you go anywhere. The curry leaves themselves add an herbal aromatic note – though they are only in the stew in the very beginning, they go a long way to lightening up the flavor profile of the dish. Fenugreek adds a light tanginess to the dish and the result is a punchy, spicy, Indian inspired stew. I usually suggest you serve dishes with something, but this is really a complete meal all on its own. It actually tastes better the day after you make it. Love when that happens.

Hello, Daal-y. 

Junoon – Home to the Hottest and Possibly Best Chef in NYC

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: 
I LOVE Indian food
The flavor combinations are so complex, the ingredients so foreign and the culture behind the food is fascinating to me. 
 Junoon has been highly acclaimed for its haute Indian cuisine, helmed by  Vikas Khanna, who Eater deemed the hottest chef in NYC,
Hot, shcmot…give me some great aloo gobi, then we can talk. 
 The restaurant is a mix of dark modern elegance and opulent Indian touches. The bar is more about gilded decorations and the dining room is more about muted colors where we could focus on the food. 
 As we got our drinks, we mainly focused on these gougeres – a decidedly elegant and unlikely touch for a South Asian restaurant. Puffy, crispy but not hard shells surrounded a creamy, doughy interior that tasted like Gruyere air. It was that light and rich at the same time. An excellent example of a gougere. 
Sparkling Saffron – Champagne Infused with Saffron. 
This may be my favorite champagne cocktail I have ever had. The champagne was sort of yeasty and toasty, and the saffron gave it an earthy yet heady fragrance that enveloped my nose and throat. Not unlike truffles, saffron is a powerful and deep flavor, where only a little makes a huge change in a dish. Here, it brought out the savory, wheaty notes of the champagne. 
Tandoori Broccoli.
The best broccoli I have had since Amaya, hands down. Less charred than its British counterpart, with tender but not soft stalks, it was cloaked in a ginger-y tomato and onion sauce, and served with a bracingly fresh cilantro sauce on the side. It was fresh but filling – something that can hardly be said for most vegetables. 
 Piri-Piri Shrimp with Avocado, Jicama and Myer Lemon Vinaigrette.
These plump, moist shrimp were coated in a fiery, tart, sweet sauce that was so addictive, I would bet my life there was crack cocaine in there. The flavors were well balanced – burning first at the front of my lips, then a bit sweet on the tongue, then a clear high note that had to be vinegar…I won’t pretend to know how this was made. I will just tell you that if you have any inclination towards powerful, high octane food, this is a must get. Here, even buttery avocado was an afterthought. The shrimp were so outstanding, I just wanted to eat them and them alone. 
 Star Anise Sea Scallop with Cracked White Peppercorn, Cinnamon and Roasted Yellow Pepper Chutney. The scallop had a crust that I had not seen before on fish. It was a spice crust, like one you might see on a steak. A more clumsy chef might have overseasoned the buttery shellfish, but Khanna was careful to grind the spices finely so they did not assault the tastebuds. The peppercorn, star anise and cinnamon created a biting-sweet-spicy effect that was cohesive with the scallops’ rich flavor and the tropical sweetness of the chutney. 
 Mint Paratha.
Though we usually order naan, our enthusiastic and congenial server convinced us to order this paratha instead. Fluffier and lighter than naan, it was almost like an Indian puff pastry, with layer upon layer of flaky, buttery dough that was spackled with shards of fresh, herbaceous mint. It was warm, delicate and a total departure from wheaty, hearty naan.
Starting from upper left hand corner: Lobster Tandoori, Dahe Wale Lamb Chops, Paneer Akbari, Murg Makhani Kebab.
Lobster Tandoori-Huge and succulent chunks of lobster bathed in a tangy, pungent sauce that was similar to tikka masala in its richness and its mildness. It was spicy with cumin and sweet with fennel, but there was no heat to speak of. Just the spices and tartness from lemon. 
Dahe Wale Lamb Chops-Cooked in the tandoor, like the lobster, this had an entirely different texture. Still juicy, but with a charred crust that bordered on bitter, contrasting pleasantly with the sweet grassiness of the lamb. At it’s best, lamb is has a lightly gamy, grassy taste, and that’s just what this lamb had. The yogurt marinade made the lamb soft, while cooking it on the bone retained that full on meaty flavor. Ginger, cardamom and other spices contributed to the rub that did not take away from the lamb, but rather made it taste lamb-ier
Paneer Akbari – This homemade cheese was similar to Greek halloumi cheese – firm and extremely mild, ready to take on other flavors. This fully absorbed the flavors of the sauce – the aromatic, warming garam masala, the fatty, meaty cashews, the smooth cream rounding out the sauce’s edges…it was my favorite dish of the night. Rich, spicy, creamy, hearty…it was almost good enough to make me become a vegetarian!
Murg Makhanphal Kebab-Extremely moist, with that fragrant garam masala, fresh cilantro and spicy hit of ginger. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter. It just hit all the points on my tongue.
Don’t miss the raita. Smooth, cool, creamy with the fragrance of rose and the fruitiness of pomegranate seeds, it takes the intense fire out of the dishes and adds a mild component to an otherwise aggressively flavored meal.
At this point, our awesome server (who was both knowledgeable and friendly) brought out Chef Khanna
We also had the pleasure of meeting pastry chef Angie Lee, who was sunshine to Khanna’s moon. Bubbly and direct, she shared how thrilled she was about opening up people’s minds about Indian desserts. She noted that her desserts were Indian inspired, versus strictly Indian, and was so enthusiastic that she absolutely made us order dessert – the best I have had in NYC.
 Passion Fruit Bombe with Katafai Nest and Coriander-Basil Seeds.
It was a bombe only in the explosion of flavor it delivered, because this sort of semifreddo was incredibly rich but so light it almost floated away. There was a smooth sort of shell around the mousse-like center – frozen but not firm. It was almost like liquid in suspended motion. Quite amazing, really. Incredibly creamy, but with the tartness of the passion fruit that kept it from being heavy or stodgy. The coriander-basil seeds were subtle bursts of earthiness that grounded the totally ethereal dessert and the kataifi added texture in the form of crunchy fried dough. This was everything that a good dessert is – sweet, fulfilling, rich but not heavy and well portioned. At first glance it seemed huge, but, sooner than not…the dish was cleaned. 
As we enjoyed homemade fruit gelees and dark chocolates filled with intense pistachio ganache, I reflected upon the meal. It was certainly not cheap, but was far from what I consider expensive. It was not traditional, but there is no doubting that it was an Indian creation. The flavors were all ones I have had before, but they were produced in new combinations and with different techniques. It was what I was expecting and yet…how could I expect all of this? Junoon is a thoughtful, heartfelt restaurant that has a personal touch that escapes so many hip New York establishments. The food is refined but packed with the flavors that you know and love in Indian cooking. This may be home to the hottest chef in New York, but it is also home to one of the best chefs in New York. 
And yes…okay…he is also really freakin hot. 
Junoon on Urbanspoon

Chinese Mirch – Fusion Flare

Chinese Mirch is unusual. It is a strand of Chinese cuisine that is fused with Indian flavors. 
I like Chinese food.
I like Indian food.
Did I like Chinese Mirch?
I liked how casual but still elegant it looked.

I liked the soy, samabl olek and pickled chilis at the table.

I mean, I REALLY liked those pickled chilis. Tangy, crisp, and spicy enough to bring a tear to my eye, but not incendiary enough to make me cry. Perfect.

Gobi Manchurian – cauliflower florets tossed in fresh ginger, 
garlic, onion seasoning.
Well, this is just the BEST DAMN CAULIFLOWER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. And I know, because I have tried almost every cauliflower on the face of the planet. Perfectly coked cauliflower, tender but not mushy, with a crisp, greasless exterior, laced with sweet onions, bracing ginger and the spiciest chilis imaginable. A bit of fragrant cilantro added an almost gentle freshness to it. The amazing thing is how unsalty this was – there was nothing heavy or sodium laden about it. It was just crispy, tender, spicy, herby goodness. I liked it.
 Honestly…my dining mate, Sarah, almost wouldn’t let me order this, because she “doesn’t like cauliflower.”
Well then how come, after she tasted it, she offered to PAY me if she could take the extra cauliflower home???
Don’t worry…I totally made her pay me for 

Chicken lollipop, spicy pulled back winglets .
These were like less salty versions of Bon Chon. Crisp, fatty, juicy, with spicy and sweet sauces for dipping. Not too spicy for those who don’t like heat, and for those who do, those pickled chilis really enhance the chicken’s natural sweetness and taste. 
I liked them. 

Mirch 65 – chicken spiked with curry leaves and red hot chilies.
Now, this got the spiciest level of heat warning on the menu…I was really expecting to have my face blown off. But…meh. It was good, don’t get me wrong – tender chicken, sweet peppers and caramelized onions. IT was salty with soy, pungent with garlic and fragrant with curry leaves. But did you see what I was missing there? HEAT. That lip blistering, brow sweating, I think I am going to die right here HEAT! 
So…even though I liked it…for the purposes of this review…
I didn’t like it.
But, see, I hate to end the review that way! Because, really, I did like the restaurant! The chicken wings were delicious and the cauliflower BLEW my MIND. Even the chicken was really quite good, just not quite what I wanted. I like Chinese Mirch enough to go back and try something else – making sure it is REALLY spicy.
Because, when it comes to Chinese Mirch…
I like it! 
Chinese Mirch on Urbanspoon