Dawat is the creation of Madhur Jaffrey, who opened her restaurant in 1986 in an effort to bring Indian cuisine to the western world. She is, perhaps, the most well-known name associated with Indian food, having written many cookbooks and been featured on numerous television shows. Dawat is where her dishes were first served, and to this day Madhur Jaffrey is the driving force behind their success, as she continues to stop in periodically making sure that the taste and quality of the food remains at her high standards.
The decor is sprinkled with classic Indian pieces, including traditional fabrics and masks from Rajasthan, a state in northeastern India. On the day that Manhattan Sideways visited, manager, Anil, kindly allowed us a quick peek into the busy kitchen, where colorful curries were boiling in large pots, and tall stacks of pappadam were on their way out to the tables. I then had us stop to observe the chef behind the glass enclosed space in the dining room as he readied chicken skewers to go into the clay oven, while also preparing the dough to drop into the hot oil for Poori, a scrumptious fried bread that magically puffs up.
At lunch hour during the work week as well as weekend afternoons, there is a constant line out the door as people wait to order a Kati roll. A customary street food of Kolkata, India, these are the namesake and main draw of this restaurant. The rolls consist of Indian favorites, like Chicken Tikka or Aloo Masala, wrapped up in traditional Bengali roti bread. Decorated with a tin roof, and tattered posters from Bengali and Hindi feature films, the Kati Roll Company offers up fresh, tasty Indian food that is less formal than a typical Indian restaurant.
Chola takes its name from the powerful South Indian dynasty that ruled for over 1, 500 years — an appropriate title given that its founder, Indian entrepreneur Shiva Natarajan, built a culinary empire of his own. In addition to Chola, Shiva established twenty-three restaurants in New York, all inspired by his abiding passion for his home country’s cuisine. With such a vast domain, it is little wonder that he sought a partner to keep his businesses running. Fortunately, Min Bhujel, who left Nepal in 2006 to find new opportunities in the States, proved the ideal companion to ensure Chola’s success and serve as general manager for ten of Shiva’s establishments. Though Min, his wife, and their son, Nischul Bhujel, now run Chola as a family business, Shiva’s contribution remains essential. “Mr. Shiva guides us through all the spices and reminds us that the focus must always be on the food, ” said Nischul. Shiva traveled throughout India to educate himself on the authentic preparation methods and ingredients used in different regions. He then funneled his extensive knowledge and recipes directly into Chola. Specializing in cuisine from both northern and southern India, Chola places a strong emphasis on its seafood-rich coastal dishes, with various delectable fish fries, curries, and roasts. Equally as important, the restaurant is recognized for its hospitality. “We take care of this place like it’s our home and treat our guests like dear friends. "
Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Bistro Vendome was still abuzz with chatter when the Manhattan Sideways team stopped by at the tail end of lunch hour to meet with the delightful owner, Virginie Petiteau. Although she and her husband Pascal, who is the executive chef, hail from Brittany, France, they met in New York, where they both worked at Jubilee, a French restaurant on First Avenue. After fifteen years there, Virginie said they felt ready to open their own place. She told us that it was great to already have a base of customers in the area that knew and supported them when they opened Bistro Vendome in 2010. And she was pleased to tell us that they have maintained a loyal clientele ever since. As Virginie put it: "Some people who come here saw me when I was pregnant, and now my daughter is fourteen. "Pascal started working at high-end French restaurants in France at an early age. After coming to New York, he decided to focus on more casual French food. In 2014, he was inducted as Master Chef in Mątres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious organization aiming "to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development. " An unusual occurrence continued to happen as we resumed our walking on 58th, as so many other businesses told us that they eat at Bistro Vendome on a regular basis because the food was as traditionally French as one could hope for in Manhattan.
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.