I’m getting old. We went to Chote Nawab the week before Christmas and I’m only getting around to writing about it now. In the two whole weeks since then I’d forgotten why I went. Finally I remembered.
It was Sietesema. He wrote a pleasantly complimentary review in the Voice back in November and it piqued my interest enough to give the place a try. We’ve been going to Dhaba for our Indian fix for quite awhile and had been on the lookout for something new.
It turns out we weren’t diversifying quite as much as we had thought. Chote Nawab is owned by Shiva Natarajan who also owns Dhaba and Chola on the same block. Mr. Natarajan is a regular Indian Danny Meyer. A little Googling uncovered a short NY Times article from last June which revealed that he’s opened 12 restaurants in the NY metro area over the years. He is not new at this.
Based on the Times article it appears that Chote Nawab opened sometime last summer. In terms of décor Indian restaurants sometimes seem like they’re stuck in a 1980s loop. Natarajan’s places break that mold – they have a pleasant gloss to them
We arrived relatively early on a Saturday night to find the place about 30% full. By the time we left at 9:00 it was 80% occupied with more people coming in.
Time to talk about the food.
Because we find it impossible not to order it. Very good.
Tunde Ka Kabob
Sietsema had touted this in a way I found irresistible.
"About the size of a half-pound burger, the macerated lamb patty sizzles in a cast-iron skillet on a bed of purple onions, charred on both sides and crowned with cilantro. It has the damp slipperiness of a tartare, and a heavenly smell rises up as the app is delivered to the table. You'll never taste anything more tender."
It *was* very good but to us, not quite as magical as he made it seem. I found the flavor a bit milder than I’d prefer. If you’re going to visit the place three times I’d definitely order it at least once, just not on all three visits.
This won’t be a revelation if you’ve ordered Indo Chinese dishes in the past but this was as good as I’ve had anywhere. Fully flavored, medium spicy, and juicy. Now this is something I might order three times in a row.
Murgh Zafrani / Chicken Tikka Masala
Because we lack imagination, two saucy chicken dishes. In our defense the tastes were distinctly different. The Zafrani was served in a almond based sauce that added richness and a bit of nutty flavor. It was a dish that was new to me and very good.
The tikka masala, OTOH, is an old friend. This was a very good rendition, a bit creamier and richer than most. Sometimes you regret ordering familiar dishes – not this time.
We ordered a dry prosecco to go along with the food and it worked well. It was the same wine we’ve had a dozen times at Chote Nawab’s sister restaurant Dhaba. Somehow in traveling across the street the price has increased by $4.00. The Mystery of the East.
Service was seamless and attentive. Couldn’t have been better. And at the end of the meal they comped us some rice pudding.
What can I say? I liked the place and I look forward to working my way through the menu looking for unfamiliar dishes to discover. Good neighborhood places like this are rife in London but all too rare in New York. I wish there were more of them.
115 Lexington Avenue (28th St.)