For all of the cuisines represented by New York’s uniquely multicultural dining scene, there’s never been an especially strong showing of Indian restaurants. At least not really regional ones. Sure, there’s a sizable concentration of standard, tikka masala spots in Murray (Curry) Hill, Junoon and Tamarind, essentially New York’s only Indian fine dining options, as well as a more recent handful of scattered, casual eateries representing the Southern, largely vegetarian side of the country. But there have been precious, few places that have examined the more nuanced, hyper-regional Indian dishes, making the newly opened Awadh a notable addition to the Upper West Side.
Owned by North India native, Guarav Anand (of Moti Mahal Deluxe and Bhatti Grill), Awadh is currently the only restaurant in New York to showcase the cuisine of its namesake region. If you’re not familiar, Awadhi fare is especially known for dum pukht — a technique that involves slow cooking food in a sealed, heavy-bottomed pot, or “handi,” over a low flame, so that it stews in its own juices. As such, the menu is rife with succulent curries and fall-off-the-bone joints of meat, such as Nali Ki Nihari; Lamb Shanks simmered overnight in stock, and Mahi Musallam; a Whole Fish coated in turmeric and masala. Especially interesting are a trio of Biryanis, a mixed rice dish so often rendered tasteless and dry at other establishments. But prepared in the dum pukht style (and covered with a bready lid of pillowy, toasted naan), each fragrant grain of basmati remains utterly moist and flavorful, studded with either coriander and mint-spiced potatoes, chunks of cream-sauced chicken, or a hearty, musky lamb stew.
Another thing you’re not likely to find at many of New York’s Indian restaurants is an especially interesting wine program, but Guarav was able to enlist acclaimed consultant, John Slover (of Daniel, Le Bernardin, Charlie Bird and Cru), to create an accessible, global list of 100+ bottles. And be sure to end an evening at Awadh with tea, as that program has been designed by second-generation tea producer (and tea sommelier – yes, that’s a thing!) Anamika Singh, of Anandini Himalaya Tea. Offerings such as “First Flush” (with lavender and lemongrass), “Emerald Spice” (infused with marigold) and “Indian Bouquet” (rose petals, chamomile and rhododendron), are grown on a family plantation in the foothills of the Himalayas, and then blended with local herbs, flowers and spices.
So if you’re in search of beyond-saag paneer fare in the city, or just looking for a viable dining option on the the Upper West Side, be sure to check out those savory, dum pukht-style dishes at Awadh.