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Indian Accent

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#1 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 04:04 AM

Indian Accent is the new New York branch of one of the new wave of fancy Indian (in this case, pan-Indian) restaurants that Mongo has told us about in New Delhi.  These restaurants (or some of them) are notable for diverging from strictly traditional cooking and being positively cheffy.  I read some promotional materials for the Delhi original of this place that emphasized, as if it were a matter of note, that the chef makes up the dishes.
 
I put off writing this up for a week because I frankly feel incompetent to evaluate it:  I know even less than many other Americans about Indian food.  (Also, Mongo cautioned me not to go right away but to "let them get their legs"; instead, I went the first Saturday night they were open [as I was leaving Carnegie Hall, around the block, and very hungry] -- I guess I wanted to come across as more temperate than I was.)
 
You read a lot about how Indian Accent is on 56th St. in Midtown.  What you don't read so often -- or at least, I've missed it -- is that it's in the Parker Meridian.  In the space, to be precise, that used to house that decent bistro that was originally run by Raoul's.  Boy does it look different.  Now, it's very upscale -- although not in that prepossessing way of Chevalier.
 
Although they had announced they had opened a couple of days before I went, I think they might have thought they were still in soft-opening mode.  Open Table showed no availability at all that night.  But when I arrived there at around 10, fully prepared to be turned away, I was warmly greeted (almost with relief) and shown to a table in a dining room that had only two other parties in it.  I wanted the dining room because I had company.  They have a fairly nice bar, at which they will soon start serving bar snacks after the kitchen closes at 10:30 (till 1:15 AM, God bless them!).  They are now serving the dining room menu at the bar (until dining-room closing at 10:30); although it is not absolutely clear to me, I think they will continue to do that even after the bar menu kicks in.
 
Chef Manish Mehrotra didn't get the (accurate) memo that Enrique Olvera got about current New York dining trends.  Not only did he (and/or his bosses) locate in Midtown, and not only did they commission a traditionally formal dining room (I mean, let's not go crazy:  there were no tablecloths), but the menu is composed of fancy food at the level I assume Chef Mehrota serves in New Delhi; this is not a casual version of his cuisine, adjusted for The Way We Eat Now, like Cosme.
 
The menu is the kind of prix fixe where you can have two, three, or four courses for, respectively, $55, $75, or $95.  (There's also a Chef's Tasting for $110.)
 
I thought the food was remarkably good.  Not earth-shaking, I've-never-even-conceived-of-anything-like-this good.  But very good:  interesting, well-prepared food.  The spice level is fairly low (which I think will be held against this place).  But it's not like that new Chinese place in the Waldorf seems (I'm engaging in the time-honored MFF practice here of judging restaurants I haven't eaten in).  It doesn't seem forced, it doesn't seem contrived, and (here I'm talking through my ass, because I really have no idea) it doesn't have that strong wreak of inauthenticity that tanks so many fancified Asian restaurants in New York, at least.  To the extent I can tell with little knowledge of the tradition, this chef seems to be working out from within it, rather than just inserting foie gras into dishes where it doesn't appear to belong.  At least it seemed that way to this untrained diner.
 
After a standard pumpkin-soup amuse that doesn't taste standard, the first course is a bunch of smallish snacks, of which you get to choose two.  I had the potato spheer chaat -- sophisticated chaat; no grease, not even a hint, whatsoever; and the gloppy stuff, while properly gloppy, wasn't too -- and duck purportedly in the Chettinad style, although I'm sure that style doesn't usually incorporate (here it comes) foie.  This was one of the spicier dishes I had here.
 
The second course are more straightforward appetizers.  I had the baby squid with "everything" chutney.  And the tasty, pungent chutney did indeed include pickled versions of a whole host of stuff.  Also very good.
 
For the third (main) course, I kind of wimped out and ordered the pork belly vindaloo, perhaps the most obvious thing on the menu in terms of appealing to Western diners.  I liked it -- although it had to be the mildest vindaloo I've ever had.  But don't get me wrong:  it was very flavorful nonetheless.
 
You can order a kulcha with the usual (but tweaked) assortment of dips for an additional $14 (a lot, I admit, for stuffed bread).  I had one of the few dishes they tout as having been specially formulated for New York:  pastrami kulcha.  I don't know where they source their pastrami, but it was bland.  That's too bad.  Next time the bacon kulcha!
 
I ordered the Makhan Malai, a sort of pudding, for dessert -- and I quite liked it.  They, however, insisted we also try the treacle cake, and so sent us out one.  They are absolutely right to be proud of this dessert.  It's right up there Esh/Gorbals's toffee pudding if you like this sort of thing.
 
Service was excellent:  friendly but inobtrusive.  The wine list is good.  A Movia orange wine seemed like it would be perfect with this food -- and it was.  Knowledgeable, friendly Somms (both the chief and an assistant).
 
I liked this restaurant a lot, and am very happy to have it here in New York.  But I fear for its survival.  It may well be too "interesting" for the Old Skool Uptown crowd.  It may strike the old-line "foodies" as too fancy and expensive.  It will almost certainly strike its natural audience -- the Young Food Community -- as too stiff and formal; too "pre-crash", as they like to put it.   I will be very shocked if Babu Ji is a pimple on Indian Accent's ass as far as food quality goes (here I go again:  judging another place without having eaten there).  But I'll bet I'll be able to walk into Indian Accent whenever I want (as long as it remains in business), while Babu Ji will quote two-hour waits until everybody moves on to the next place.
 
At least no one called me "sahib".
 
COMP DISCLOSURE:  That treacle cake.  And a bunch of stuff for my dining companion (who at least initially took the position she was only there to watch).


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#2 mongo_jones

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:15 AM

i assume the treacle cake is similar to the doda burfi treacle tart we ate at our delhi meal 2 years ago. that was one of the highlights of that meal: as i said in my review, a perfect example of how well "fusion" can work if thought through organically.


my annoying opinions: whisky, food and occasional cultural commentary

 

current restaurant review: house of curry (sri lankan in rosemount, mn)

 

current whisky review: glen ord 28

 

current recipe: white bean curry with green peppers

 

 

facts are meaningless. you could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
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#3 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:21 AM

It is, indeed, named Doda Barfi on the menu.

 

I didn't want to reread your review before I wrote my write-up (I obvs read it when it was first posted), because I didn't want to be overly influenced by your opinions, which given your superior knowledge and taste I'd have followed doggedly.  I can't wait to reread it now.


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#4 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:26 AM

Oh, I forgot:  the cocktail list is full of things that sound good.  The one I had -- I have no recollection what it was -- actually tasted good (for a restaurant cocktail).


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#5 Orik

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:29 AM

Sounds like Michelin is their only hope.


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#6 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:58 AM

I really miss a lot by not clicking Mongo's slideshows.


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#7 Orik

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 12:58 PM

You do. The blog posts tend to contain no useful information - it's all hidden in the slideshow. The business plan is to get you used to clicking repeatedly and to then introduce native advertising. 


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#8 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 02:08 PM

Clearly though his mobile strategy needs work as whatever horseshit blogging program he's using moves to the next pic when you scroll down to read said annoying opinion.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#9 mongo_jones

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 03:01 PM

mobiles? my blog is optimized for 26" crt televisions. they're coming back!


my annoying opinions: whisky, food and occasional cultural commentary

 

current restaurant review: house of curry (sri lankan in rosemount, mn)

 

current whisky review: glen ord 28

 

current recipe: white bean curry with green peppers

 

 

facts are meaningless. you could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
~homer simpson


 


#10 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 07:28 PM

It is really visionary how you mail out magnetic tapes with blog content for your readers on Commodore PETs

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#11 Neocon maudit

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 01:39 AM

Coming here directly from the Chevalier thread made me consult the OED for the definition of 'prepossessing'.

 

...my dining companion (who at least initially took the position she was only there to watch).

 

:ph43r:



#12 taion

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 04:11 AM

It means toothsome, right?
I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#13 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 11:06 PM

I guess I meant whatever the word is for "unsuccessfully pretentious".
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#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 11:07 PM

I also guess "pretentious" implies "unsuccessful".
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#15 Neocon maudit

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 01:40 AM

https://twitter.com/...496499014045696







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