With its rich, fragrant spices, comforting curries and craveable breads, it is unclear why Indian cuisine has not experienced greater acceptance by mainstream American diners. Every city has its Indian restaurants, but they largely remain in a niche that hasn’t shown significant growth. One possible answer may be that, for many dining consumers, authentic Indian cooking is simply too authentic.
If such is the case, three new restaurants in New York may provide clues to increasing the popularity of Indian cuisine by embracing the macro-trend of mashing up global flavors.
At Indian Accent, Chef Manish Mehrotra has created a menu that intentionally blends classic Indian flavors with global ingredients. His pumpkin soup is redolent with cardamom and ginger, but finished with a generous amount of blue cheese. Black Pepper Pork Mini Sliders feature soft, American-style buns. Baby back ribs are served spoon-tender, coated in sun-dried mango glaze. And his Kulchas—stuffed dough pockets similar in appearance to empanadas—contain a variety of nontraditional fillings, including hoisin duck and shredded pastrami.
Dining consumers should find the mash-ups at Pondicheri—the New York outpost of Chef Anita Jaisinghani’s popular Houston restaurant—particularly accessible, as they are primarily a cross of Indian and American casual fare. The menu features Indian flavors woven into many American favorites, such as Masala Chicken Wings, marinated in yogurt and masala spice and fried in a chickpea batter.
The broad offering of tossed salads, based on a blend of arugula and baby spinach, combine mainstream ingredients such as roasted beets, goat cheese, blueberries and pumpkin seeds with the Indian flavors of tandoori chicken, tamarind chutney, crispy “channa” chickpeas and jaggery lime dressing.
Bun Kebabs are Chef Jaisinghani’s take on a “roadside sandwich,” featuring grilled lamb or paneer cheese tucked inside a traditional brioche bun. The menu of bar snacks features Crudités served with a Chutney Dip, and Desi Fries—housemade curly fries dusted with chickpea flour and chaat masala. These offerings deftly meld new flavors with the familiar.
Certainly the most daring and inspired mash-ups are found at Tapestry, where Chef Suvir Saran applies Indian flavors to an eclectic array of global dishes. Here, the Italian bar snack Arancini is flavored with coconut and cashews and served in a pool of green curry. The Parmigiano Lamb Burger is topped with bone marrow butter and Brie, as well as mango chutney and Indian kachumber salad. Steak au Poivre is crusted with cracked Indian Tellicherry peppercorns, accompanied by a vegetable “baklava” and Cognac jus.
Chef Saran also riffs on classic Latin cuisine with his Indio Posole, a stew of tender pork and hominy simmered with ground chiles and finished with saffron and tomato chutney. There is even a taco on the menu, served in a housemade flatbread that is equal parts roti and tortilla, filled with pulled pork, grilled pineapple pico de gallo, avocado and pickled cabbage, and adorned with crispy shards of fried ginger.
Just as the Kogi Taco introduced legions of diners to the flavors of Korean cooking, these mash-ups may prove to be gateway dishes that expose a larger dining audience to the pleasures of Indian flavors, and bring the cuisine that much closer to the mainstream.