Another month, another good new Indian restaurant. Last month I wrote about Chote Nawab, an Indian restaurant which opened last summer.
In researching the place I learned that the owner, Shiva Naratjan, had just opened yet another restaurant on 6th St., Malai Marke.
Yes, 6th St.
This strip of Indian restaurants has been there since the late 1970s. The food was never stellar but most of us eating there didn’t know any better. They were our introduction to Indian cuisine.
As time went on a lot of us gradually outgrew them. In my case frequent trips to London opened up whole new vistas of Indian dining. With occasional exceptions most of the 6th St. places were barely acceptable. They were also very much alike – the long standing joke was that they shared a common kitchen. Over time the center of gravity for Indian restaurants moved north to Curry Hill. The old strip seemed like it was caught in a time warp; mediocre food served in a fusty atmosphere.
But sometimes things change. We’ve liked Dhaba and Chote Nawab, Naratjan’s other places, so we figured we’d give Malai Marke a try. It worked out nicely.
Like Naratjan’s other restaurants MM has a nice contemporary glossiness about it.
The menu had plenty of familiar things on it as well of plenty of dishes that were new to us. We mixed and matched and ordered too much food because, well, that’s what we do.
Patiala Lamb Kabab spiced - pan grilled lamb patties. This was new to us. Not overwhelmingly lamby but certainly more assertive than a chicken patty. Juicy and nicely spiced. Dishes like this are why I go to Indian restaurants.
Ragara Patties - spiced potato patties with chickpeas, yogurt and chutnies. This was served at room temperature. A classic side dish, relatively mild and made for offsetting the spicier options on the menu. It would have been nice if the menu had mentioned the temperature. I still would have ordered it but my mouth was expecting a hot dish.
Chicken Achari. We’ve had this before but I can’t remember a better version. This was suitably moist with mid range heat. Very good indeed.
Garlic nan, because we always order it. Greasy in a very good way.
Seekh Kabab - skewered lamb rolls. The best version I’ve ever had of this dish was served at the Delhi Brasserie in London’s Soho, a 10 out of 10. I try not to think about it too often because I’ve been disappointed by versions served in New York. Malai Marke’s version was really pretty good, juicier than others. I marked it down a bit because the spicing wasn’t as complex as renditions I’ve had in London but really, their’s is very good.
Chicken Tikka Masala. A perennial favorite of my GF’s. MM’s iteration was very good indeed, rich in a good way. I’ve never had a better version.
We later learned that Malai Marke had only opened the previous week. Had we known we would have held off our visit for at least 3 or 4 weeks in order to give the kitchen a chance to settle down and to let the serving staff find their stride. I attribute the unusual smoothness of our meal to Naratjan’s professionalism. He’s been in this business for awhile and he knows how to open a restaurant that hits on all cylinders from the start. I also suspect that owning multiple restaurants is an advantage. He probably switches seasoned staff around to avoid staffing a new restaurant with people who’ve never worked with each other.
All of that worked in our favor. Our meal was first rate and we look forward to getting back and working our way through the menu.
You know who the only people around who probably aren’t very happy about Malai Marke? The owners of those tired and mediocre places on 6th St. They’re going to have to get better fast or have their business take a real hit. MM has raised the bar.
318 E 6th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
Manhattan, NY 10003