Finally had a chance to eat at Indian Accent, I've been very excited about this restaurant since a mention in the NYTimes early last year. The NY restaurant is an outpost of a Michelin starred original, located in New Delhi, that is very well regarded.
The interior decoration is spare, but tasteful with golds and browns, seating is comfortable with plush chairs and banquets with pillows.
You have the option of choosing from 2, 3, 4 course or chef's tasting menu. I asked whether there was difference in the total quantity of food between the 4 course and chef's tasting and was told there was not a substantial difference. We opted for the 4 course with supplement.
You get to choose two items from the appetizer section, which count as 1 course.
Amuse bouche was a nan stuffed with blue cheese, a delicate silver dollar of fragrant bread with funky and sweet blue cheese. The blue cheese was delicious but unexpected and if not for the assertiveness of spicing in later dishes, I don't know if I'd want to start my palate with such a strong flavor. Also included was a miniature mug of pumpkin soup that was exceptionally smooth in consistency, aromatic, with a touch of heat.
I had the shiso leaf chaat and it was stunning. The pakora coating was ethereal, crisp, disappearing on the tongue with a cleanness that impressed me and the sharp mint of the leaf tempered by heat, beautifully melded with sweet tangy tamarind, mild creamy yogurt, smooth textured potato (without even a hint of mealiness), and lifted by bright pudina. I am not easily impressed by boiled or simmered potatoes. There was a pear like note in the dish and a pleasant crunch from high quality water chestnuts. This dish is one of the best bites I've had in the past year, elevating street food into culinary art.
I tried the duck chettinad, a small discs of idli sandwiching shredded duck with a slice of foie on top and a crisp papadum. The idli were perfect and the duck tender but the flavor of the duck was muddled and the cumin, spices, competed with rather than complemented, especially with the foie becoming textural and having its flavor suppressed.
Also ordered the sweet pickle rib, there was no strong sour or pickled funk element to the rib, tasted more of a straight forward sweet barbecue preparation with background acid. The sundried mango relish is delicious, complex and sweet but not achingly sweet. The meet itself is perfectly tender, falling off the (small) bone. Both the duck and rib apps are delicately portioned. While the rib is delicious, the presentation is perhaps one of the least appetizing I've seen in a high end restaurant/restaurant of this price point.
Had the baby squid which was battered and fried like calamari, exceptionally tender, with crispy coating and sauced table side then dusted with rice crisps. There was an overall garlick/onion/paprika-y flavor profile peppered with brightness reminiscent of mukwha (maybe fennel/anise?). The baby squid is beautifully cooked, very impressed with the technique, but the rice crisps were a bit too hard, too much crunch and the coating a bit too crisp unlike the pakora from earlier in the meal.
Also had the beef kebab, even more tender than the squid, without a hint of tendon, gristle, or chew, very easy to eat, which may or may not appeal depending on personal preference. As a stew it works, as a kebab I expect some char and some tension. The garlic chips are superfluous and the rich, sauce is sublimely textured, with wonderful mouthfeel. The meat itself is subtly seasoned and doesn't taste particularly beefy.
Ordered the pork vindaloo and was informed that this dish was not spicy, and told it was in a Goan style which is milder. While the pork is superbly tender, the flavor of the pork itself was lost and I found this dish to be one of the least successful of the night. Not unpleasant, but didn't work for me. It comes with a cracker of puffed rice which was also a miss for me. Nothing in this dish came together, but without anything being bad.
Also tried the tamarind seabass, fresh, tender and expertly cooked. The sear/crust is thin and light and gives way to melting softness that works far better (for me) in this dish than the beef. The coconut sauce is redolent with curry leaves that give a crustacean like note to the sauce, combined with juicy pops of salmon roe, really deepened the flavor of the seabass. I'm not sure if it is kaffir lime or cardamom in this dish but there are tiny dots of citrus-like brightness. Such a masterful use of Indian flavors and spices to make the dish soar.
Ordered the ghee roast lamb with roti. I was told this was the chef's homage to Peking duck. It was an interesting contrast to Enrique Olvera's homage to Peking duck at Cosme. We have an Mexican take and now an Indian take on the iconic Chinese dish. I favor lamb and goat in Indian curries because the gaminess of the meat is transformed by deft spicing. The lamb comes with a choice of condiments, garlic sauce, green chili sauce, Indian style hoisin, and pudina chutney. The green chili sauce is the spiciest item I tasted my entire meal, it has a piercing heat. The roti come in a cute basket like the pancakes of Peking duck.
The lamb was very tender, aromatic and well-spiced (especially delicious with juicy morsels of ginger) with minimal heat. The roti were light, well made, held up to the lamb with some wheat-y chew. Each condiment was made with care and a deft hand. Their hoisin is a playful riff and delicious. The portion of this dish is entree sized (relative to the menu) and enough too share, as a supplemental course. I appreciated that the staff asked if more pancakes were needed (they were), and the extra pancakes were provided gratis unlike Cosme.
For dessert, I had the rice pudding. Delicious, mildly flavored, light, ever so slightly runny, topped with crispy, thin, airy and clean flavored seviyan, and a scoop of rich, dense coconut ice cream. There are shards of an effervescently crunchy graham-like cracker. The mix of textures make for an appealing, if not intensely flavored dessert.
The treacle tart on the other hand is bursting with a sweet, nutty flavor and rich, fudgy chewy texture that makes it taste almost like pecan pie. I really enjoyed both desserts.
Within the past few years, we have several different takes on "ethnic" fine dining, with Hakkasan, Cosme and Indian Accent. Noise level at Indian Accent is the most pleasant, low enough for conversation, high enough to satisfy those who need background chatter. Cosme and Hakkasan are both loud to the point of being unpleasant with the music at Hakkasan being obnoxious past 7pm. Hakkasan has the best decor, and gives the most feeling of luxury. The tables at Cosme and Indian Accent, both have a cheapness to them, but Cosme especially in its hipster-cafeteria approach like I'm dining in a noisy Ikea. Indian Accent has the best service, I cannot stress this enough, the other two restaurants should take note. The water glasses were always full, service was warm and cheerful and COMPETENT, they know the menu, they anticipate questions, they explain well. The service is head and shoulders above. The service at Cosme was brusque and neglectful. The service at Hakkasan has been scattered and unknowledgeable. Portions were smallest at Cosme, followed by Indian Accent with largest at Hakkasan. I was still a little hungry after my meal at Indian Accent. I think overall the food and desserts are better at Hakkasan, followed by Indian Accent then Cosme. My cost pp after TT (no drinks) is $125 at Hakkasan, $150 at Indian Accent and $150 at Cosme. The food at all three is very different but overall I've enjoyed the food at Hakkasan most with overall experience breaking even due to noise levels and better service at Indian Accent.
Indian Accent is relatively new and has found surer footing, more quickly than La Chine. The service is much, much better, more knowledgeable, competent and management/FOH is on point. There is good, technically well-executed food at both but the food at Indian Accent is overall more sophisticated with larger missteps at La Chine. It will be interesting to see how both evolve. La Chine is less expensive than Indian Accent and has more luxurious decor, I hope the food will continue to improve.
I was very impressed with how Indian Accent handled/modernized classic Indian desserts and would love to experience their take on gulab jamun or rasmalai. If they had a biryani option, it would be something to look forward to as well.
Indian Accent is the most expensive Indian restaurant in NYC and from what I've eaten, simply blows Tamarind out of the water in terms of Indian fine dining. The quality, ingredients, skill in flavor combinations, cooking technique are all much better at Indian Accent.