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Outer Boroughs Indian Queens

KILLER food at Indian Oaiss (LIE service road in fresh meadows, queens)


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KILLER food at Indian Oaiss (LIE service road in fresh meadows, queens)

Jim Leff | Dec 8, 2004 11:00 PM

indian oasis 184-22 horace harding expwy fresh meadows 718-353-3804. on the south service road of the LIE, a couple blocks east of Utopia Parkway.

Was just at Indian Oasis, where I had the latest of a long line of insanely delicious meals. Place was empty. What's wrong with people?

This is by far the best indian/chinese (great thai, too) in NYC, and one of the best eateries, period. It's worth a trip from anywhere. I'll reprint my earlier writing about it:

Indian Oasis is a humble boxy storefront transformed by smart design into a surprisingly tranquil and transportive space. Even the fish-filled grotto/fountain somehow manages not to come off as tacky. And the waiters, dignified uniformed pros, are a lot better than you'd expect in such a place, too. They're Nepali, as is the chef (though the restaurant's Indian-owned).

There's no Nepali food on the menu, but they've got their hands full turning out Indian/Chinese and Thai dishes. And everything's sublime. Everything! You try the "drums of heaven" appetizer, amaze at how chicken drumsticks have been coaxed into a rarified level of spicy deliciousness, and you work into the Penang curry and are further stunned at possibly the best Thai curry in New York City. And there's so much more, like spicy fish dishes, black pepper chicken, Manchurian lamb, etc., and the crescendo of revelation never slackens. I've eaten through more than half the menu, and have yet to find a dish that doesn't hit a new height of grandeur. I keep trying to hunt down that disappointing dish, so I can feel like I've taken a level. but my efforts have been completely thwarted, as even hopeless-seeming orders kill. It's the single most exciting restaurant I know right now, and I'm obsessed with it.

With such magic coming out of the kitchen, the wait staff's dignity is easy to understand. Their place is killer and they know it. That Newsday's reviewer completely missed the mark doesn't bother them. That business is light doesn't bother them. They're a point of culinary light, energized by pure radiation.

I need to talk more about that shrimp Penang curry, the first thing I tried there. It's outrageously delicious; worth a special trip from anywhere in the city. The shrimp, the shrimp, the shrimp are very slightly battered, perfectly plump and dreamily tender. The sauce is sweet and coconuty, but so deeply balanced that no facet glares. It makes love to the rice.

The pad se eow (wide noodle, egg and Chinese broccoli) are remarkable; the chef has found a way to evoke both the sweet and the bitter aspects of tamarind, and the resultant sweet/salty/sour/bitter flavor combination sends your taste buds into joyful overload.

Perhaps the most interesting item is kung pao potatoes, a dish unlike any other, and a must-try for spud lovers. Potato chunks are gently but thoroughly sauteed (akin to a rissolÈ) until they're massive crunchy outside and tender inside, and enrobed in a beautiful spicy sauce (the chef's true forte is sauces...even the hot sauce on the table is profound), scattered with peanuts. In most kung pao dishes, the peanuts are a graft-on. In Indian Oasis' kung pao potatoes, everything seems devised to welcome and integrate those peanuts. I generally ask for an encore helping once the kung pao potatoes vanish, and the waiters don't blink.

As I said, the crescendo never falters, so dessert must wail, too...and it does. Date pancakes are a nutty, soulful dab of date paste between slivers of crisp, layered, perfectly fried dough. It comes with ice cream, and you must specify lichee, which is lightly perfumed with rosewater makes for the ideal bright, clean-tasting counterpoint.

The above are examples, not recommendations. I have nothing to urge you toward or warn you against, so I'll refrain from further description and let you discover the place for yourself. Go ahead and order randomly. And I promise you one thing: no matter how far you travel to eat there, you'll soon return. This is one of those magnetic, infatuating restaurants you can't stay away from.

I do have one bit of advice. My first few times at Indian Oasis, I dined alone, concentrating on a single dish. I subsequently brought larger parties in order to try a wider range, but that's not the best way to experience this restaurant. Each dish is a fully-formed world of unique flavor, and it's impossible to do justice to an array of them in parallel. We think of Indian/Chinese as a homely, comfort-food cuisine, and so it's easy to order up a slew of eats, but Indian Oasis is too important a restaurant for such glib consumption. Treat it more seriously, lest you overlook subtleties.

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