Who says Americans don’t do Indian food ?

I’ve often been told by ex-pats living in the US that there are some things that Americans just don’t do. Back bacon, Marmite, small portions – that sort of thing. But the one I hear more often than any other is that Americans don’t do (Indian) curry. That’s not to say that Indian restaurants don’t exist in the US, but that the skill at cooking this particular style of cuisine somehow can’t find its way through Homeland Security. I always found that hard to believe since it’s successfully migrated to many other countries and, after all, it’s not exactly rocket science.

I met an old friend of mine from my Citigroup days in the bar of Le Meridien on 56th with a view that we’d go and grab something to eat nearby. I had intended to go to Tao (http://www.taorestaurant.com) on 58th and Park since it does some of the best Kobe beef in New York. Their Kobe Rib-eye with Yuzu butter is absolutely amazing and something that I would struggle to find anywhere in Britain. But, as it was, we found ourselves in the Bay Leaf Indian Brasserie on 56th and 5th (http://bayleafnyc.com/). Now, both of us said as we walked into the restaurant that “you can’t get a good curry in America”. Clearly it’s not just me then.

The owner of the Bay Leaf has clearly not done his interior design research by visiting British curry houses as there were none of the usual faux Indian elephants or tacky “days of the Raj” prints on the walls. Instead you are subsumed by a sort of modern-day Bohemia : low, red lights, plush carpets, plenty of candles. I almost felt like I should be arriving in a smoking jacket rather than a business suit.

After some rather disappointing poppadums (undercooked and very dry) which were complemented with the hottest lime pickle I’ve ever tasted, I decided to settle for something a little safe, but also so that I could be confident I was comparing apples with apples. Or curry with curry – you get what I mean. So it was that I ordered the lamb vindaloo with naan and “saffron rice” (no mention of the sometimes dreaded pilau word). It arrived in the standard Balti dish but, I have to say, it was a complete surprise upon tasting. Succulent lamb coated in a thick gravy, hints of vinegar and onion working in perfect balance with one another. In other words a proper vindaloo. Clearly lots of fresh chilli too which was a nice touch as I was fully expecting this to be a Barts Spice Special. The naan bread too was exceptionally good, as good as anything you’d get in even the best British curry house. Oh, and they do Kingfisher beer too – superb.

I left the restaurant rather happy that I’d found somewhere in America that can actually match up to British curry. I’ve still no idea really where this urban myth came from but I can honestly say that, unless the Bay Leaf is a one-of-a-kind, Indian cuisine really is well represented on the land of Uncle Sam. Oh, and there was absolutely no sign of lager louts ordering 15 pints of Skol and a lamb bhuna either.

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One response to this post.

  1. I need to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it.
    I have you book marked to check out new stuff you post…

    Reply

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