bpb Review: Indian Accent, New York

08.03.2016

It’s been a year since we first heard that the darling of the Delhi fine-dining circuit was making its way to New York. Chef Manish Mehrotra’s Indian Accent has been pretty much writing the rulebook on modern Indian cuisine since 2009; here in New York we’ve been hard-pressed to find a desi meal more inventive than rogan josh.

A late-2015 opening turned into an early-2016 one. What happened while we waited? Curry Hill stayed Curry Hill, but newcomers like Babu Ji and Inday added some much-needed zest to the Indian dining scene. Though at the price point Indian Accent comes in at, there really isn’t much competition beyond maybe Vikas Khanna’s Junoon, which has held onto its Michelin star since 2011.

Indian Accent’s New York outpost finally took its first reservation on February 25th, and after much wrangling, we secured a 10 pm reservation over the weekend – late enough and certainly busy enough for us to feel like we were dining on Indian Standard Time. Looking at the turnout, we could easily have been in Delhi. 

But Le Parker Meridien, located in the well-heeled upper 50s, doesn’t have the same charm of the more boutique Delhi address. The New York Times called the restaurant “elegantly subdued”; we thought the décor leans towards impersonal in the way sleek hotel lobbies can be. That said, it’s definitely a welcome change from fussy white tablecloths and bright turmeric tones. 

Shiso Fine

It’s clear that Indian Accent New York is looking to upend some long-unchallenged perceptions about Indian food. The menu is eclectic but concise, and diners can opt for the two-, three-, or four-course prix fixe meal ($55, $75, $95),  or go all in with the chef’s seven-course tasting menu ($110).

The menu demonstrates an agility and playfulness that’s at ease drawing from all regions across the subcontinent. In fact, some of the standout dishes on our table had their roots in kitchens from the South: a minuscule slider-style idli stacked with foie gras, peppery duck chettinad and pearl onion chutney; a crisp paper roast dosa perched atop wild mushrooms, black truffles and water chestnuts; the flakiest tamarind sea bass, with a barley risotto that was part spinach poriyal, part moilee-inspired coconut sauce.

The Indian Accent legerdemain is evident in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Yes, the meat fell off the bone of our sweet pickle pork rib, and the pathar beef kebab with bone marrow nihari was a paean to carnivorism, but the striking shiso leaf chaat won every vote on the table. The Kashmiri morels with parmesan papad and a rich walnut sauce were well worth savouring too.

For lesser chefs, fusion cuisine might be an excuse for flashy showmanship, but not for Mehrotra. Each dish we tried presented a curious interplay of textures, colours, even temperatures, but they were all as thoughtful as they were innovative. We loved that none of the flavours were tamped down for an international audience, and nor were they exaggerated. And that we were encouraged to put down our forks and savour much of the meal by hand. 

A Bump In The Road

We weren’t equally wowed by all of our meal though: our amuse bouche, a delectable bite-sized blue cheese naan, was let down by an ordinary mushroom shorba. A slab of homemade paneer, daubed with a piquant garlicky masala, felt like the slightly crass country cousin among a table of otherwise very nuanced sophisticates. And the makhan malai, a liquid-nitrogen rendering of the daulat ki chaat found in Chandni Chowk, looked prettier than it tasted. Yes, it was ethereal and light-as-air, but we weren’t convinced about its powdery aftertaste.

Notes On The Service

The waitstaff at Indian Accent New York are impeccably trained and they’re eager to show it. Our server breezed through his descriptions of every dish as if he’d been transplanted from The Manor in Friends Colony, though one of my companions at the table felt he could have been a tad more accommodating of the tweaks they wanted to their cocktail. The service was assured; well paced from drinks to dessert. Still, having a retinue of different people in attendance at every course did feel a little disorienting.

Cheers To That

The beverage menu is as expansive as the food offerings are concise. In addition to craft cocktails, there’s an impressive selection of tea and a few hundred wines to choose from. We ordered a second round of the herbaceous, gin-laced Transcendental Medication cocktail, and also liked their version of the Moscow Mule - there’s plenty that can go wrong with vodka, ginger and rose petals, but at Indian Accent, they got it so very right. 

Getting there: 123 West 56th Street, Le Park Meridien, New York, call 212.842.8070 for reservations, $55 for a tw0-course prix fixe meal. 

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals. 

This review was contributed by Amrita Gupta, a freelance journalist currently completing her Master’s in Food Studies at New York University.