Indian food is best known for its bold flavors, creamy sauces, simple breads, and complex spices. When Indian food is mentioned, naan, samosas and mango lassi usually come to mind. These classic dishes define the Indian dining experience. With Indian cuisine having roots going back 8,000 years, there’s an expectation to hold on to the tradition of this diverse culture that has become increasingly more popular over the years. Restaurants like Chola, make it clear why Americans are opening up to Indian food more and more.
Chola, located on the east side of NYC, has been refreshed after 20 years of serving authentic indian food. This two-star New York Times reviewed restaurant has a new elegant interior and a new delicious menu. The reboot was concocted by Shiva Natarajan, Chola’s original owner, who recently passed the baton to new owner, Min Bhujel, his protégé. What makes Chola special is its commitment to its roots. Maintaining the integrity of Indian cuisine is more important than competing with it’s modern, fusion counterparts that seem to be appearing all over the city. This decision to stay true to tradition is what gives Chola its distinction.
Chola’s latest menu is inspired by Shiva Natarajan’s culinary journey around the coast of India. It places an emphasis on the flavors he came across during his trip. After his travels, Cafreal Paneer Tikka, a house made fire grilled cheese fresh from the Tandoor oven that comes out smoking with green masala; Karela Karare, a fried bitter gourd with smoky paprika for a sharp bite; and Khekda Nariyal, a sautéed crab dish with coconut and mustard seeds that will have guests fighting over the last spoonful, amongst others, made it on the starters menu.
The entrée menu includes Meen Moilee, a light and flaky Branzino with turmeric, coconut and curry leaves, topped with green banana chips; Lata Shetty’s Yeti Ajadina, Mangalorean style shrimp with fresh coconut and pounded spices; and Malvani Rus-Golichi Amti, a fish of the day curry with kokum from red chili paste.
Even though Indian food is known for its rich cream and yogurt based sauces, Chola’s manages to offer a number of vegan dishes that don’t skimp on richness or flavor. Adrakki Gobi Keema, minced cauliflower with green chilies and ginger; Doodhi Chana, white pumpkin with yellow chana dal; and Jeera Methi Alu, home style fresh fenugreek potatoes with roasted cumin are all carnivore and omnivore friendly!
Not only is the food at Chola’s excellent but the drinks are too. Chola engaged one of the nation’s leading experts on distilled spirits and cocktails, Allen Katz, to design the cocktail menu. His selection of cocktails includes Himalayan Sunset with Spring 44 vodka, King’s Ginger liqueur, mango puree and fresh lime juice and East of Manhattan mixing Ragtime rye, La Copa sweet vermouth and saffron syrup.
In a world when there is something new and shining waiting around every corner seeking attention, it’s refreshing to know that restaurants like Chola can still shine brighter by honoring tradition and staying committed to delivering excellence.
By Brandy Cochrane, Plant Candy