Back from a longish trip to Asia, with a stop in London on the way back, and couldn't help comparing food onsite with what we get here in NYC. Overall impression is that between Sripraphai and Zaab, we can do at least reasonable facisimiles of Thai and Lao food in this town. Granted we can't get everything that we had in Asia, but I think that you get at least a very good approximation of the taste sensations that we experienced. Maybe we were being less adventurous than we might have been in S.E. Asia, but we feel very fortunate to have Srip and Zaab close by, and left those parts assured that we would not suffer acute culinary deprivation on our return.
India on the other hand was a completely different experience. The Indian food in India is absolutely oustanding. That might sound like a really stupid thing to say, but that actually was not always the case. About 20 years ago, Indian restaurant food in India meant unimaginative tandoori/mughlai dishes in the North and Udipi (masala dosas, idli) in the south--neither of which were terribly different from what you might have been able to get in NYC. But now, middle-high end restaurants and hotel kitchens in India have become a lot more interested in offering regional cuisines, interesting dishes, etc. E.g., a place might offer 3 different dhals, while its neighbor might have 2 completely different lentils. Southern non-vegetarian cuisine, especially Kerala seafood curries was the major highlight of the trip, and I haven't seen anything of that quality in NY. Our favorite dish, which we managed to have in Kerala, Bombay and Goa, all to a consistently high standard was fish tikka (usually kingfish), which was spicy, slightly crispy charred on the exterior, and deliciously moist on the inside. So does anyone know an Indian restaurant (not just outer-borough) that does Indian, and especially South Indian non-vegetarian food really well? And I must say that I do not think Mina's is the answer.
Along similar lines (i.e., damn, why can't we get this at home), just being in London (and not even Beirut) has us looking for recommendations for a really good Lebanese restaurant anywhere in NYC. Have done some of the Atlantic avenue locations, and some of the Astoria locations, and have come across nothing to compare with neighborhood Lebanese in different parts of London. Kibbeh had a delicious lightness and moistness that I have not experienced before. Similarly, there was a dip of ground nuts (cashews, pine nuts and others, I think) ground to small chunks with shallots, spices, some tomato paste that was delicious, and I have never seen before. So, please your recommendations for most authentic (or Londonian) Lebanese, and for South Indian non-veg. would be greatly appreciated.