Rahi. 60 Greenwich Ave. NYC

Artisanal Indian food comes and goes in NYC, but we haven’t tasted anything this good since Indian Accent last year, and Rahi beats it in every category: much better value for money, funkier, and healthier. Chintan Pandya, formerly of Michelin-starred Junoon, has created an eclectic menu spanning many regions with appetizers (the jhat se, or in-a-NY-minute category) such as Chilli Cheese toast ($14), Nargisi Kofta Dhokli (chicken keema, egg yolk & ricotta ravioli, $16), Keema Pao (ground lamb, milk bread, boiled egg, andhra chilli oil, $16) and Chettinad Octopus (with coconut-turmeric mousse and lime gremolata, $21). Entrees, or the aaram se (leisurely) category impressed us too, with the Wild Mushroom & Truffle Khichdi ($24) and Banana Leaf Chicken (in a Kerala coconut curry, $25) being the real crowd-pleasers. We found the Kashmiri Lamb Ribs exceedingly fatty, but when we sent them back we got a very understandable explanation for why they seemed so: the recipe can over-accentuate the heritage meat’s natural fat layer and bring it to the fore. We also had a great chat with the affable entrepreneur Roni Mazumdar, CEO of the operation (and of Tapestry before in the very same space), and stellar service from the staff. The atmosphere is bustling and the drinks selection is extensive. So needless to say, this is my new favorite Indian restaurant.

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Subway: 9th St (PATH) & 14th (1,2,3)

 

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Studio Restaurant at Freehand Hotel. 23 Lexington Ave. NYC

We love this popular lunch spot next to Curry Hill, mostly for its breezy atmosphere, lack of pretension, and delicious North African-accented food. The new venture from Gregory Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality group is a hit with the young Desi crowd and the number of fresh-faced gay couples is noticeable too; furni and colors, service and music are all laid-back and pleasant, and at times you can feel like you’re in a modest Brooklyn joint rather than a Flatiron hotel. We had the baked eggs with curried tomato, brik-style eggs (both $15) Simit bagels with lox and a side of tasty chicken sausage. Heavy on the Mediterranean flavors, ingredients are fresh and simple menu descriptions give way to more complex flavors of za’atar and harissa.  Later in the day, there are more small plates like Turkish beef dumplings and pungent purees such as taramasalata. Wait times can be high, so time it right.

 

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Subway: 23rd St (6)

 

 

Gaonnuri. 1250 Broadway. NYC

Overlooking Koreatown and Herald Square, this 39th floor restaurant has great views and a definite sense of occasion. Sleek, spacious and atmospheric, our only qualm here was with portion size and prices: we spent $60 each excluding drinks/desserts and left with partially-full stomachs. Service was excellent, and the Haemul Pajun (tiny scallion & seafood pancake, $15) Bossam (pork belly, octopus & oyster kimchi, $18) and Octopus Bokkeum ($22) were tasty appetizers. The Black Cod Gui ($42) is like a Vietnamese claypot fish, caramelized and soft, and the high-quality Bulgogi ($32) was cooked at the table unobtrusively. Drinks selection was great, with wine, cocktails and even some craft beers; we just wish there had been double the amount of food.

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Subway: 34th St/Herald Square