Blending Northern and Southern Indian Cuisine at Chote Nawab
Curry Hill has gotten a makeover - at least at the corner of Lexington and 28th Street. The New York City neighborhood known for its kitschy Indian joints strewn with seizure-inducing flashing lights welcomes Chote Nawab, a new restaurant presenting regional Indian cuisine in a contemporary, Bollywood-inspired setting.
Restaurateur Shiva Natarajan's "little prince" (a literal translation of the restaurant's name) stands apart from its neighbors with a movie poster mural painted by artist Ziggy Bober looming over the dining room. Natural wood furnishings and banquettes allow the vivid wall treatments to pop while vibrant yellows, corals and blues set the scene for the menu's Northern- and Southern-inspired dishes.
"Indian is such a vast country and each region has its own food," says Natarajan, "Though there are so many Indian restaurants throughout New York City, each is region-specific. Chote Nawab blends together northern and southern cuisine, without losing authenticity."
The Little Prince
The authenticity can especially be found in the Kababs. Chote Nawab is truly unique to the Indian culinary community in New York City."
If dining with guests, start your meal with Kabab Peshkash, an assortment of grilled kababs that offers an array of complex flavors and spice combinations. Skewered lamb rolls, chicken in green masala, and shrimp in a creamy marinade are but a few of the offerings that will whet your appetite.
Chote Nawab offers diners the opportunity to explore both northern and southern Indian cuisine. Generally, northern cuisine features roasted meats, mild curries, and because of the abundant wheat crops, delicious flat breads such as naan, poori and paratha.
Dairy also becomes an important ingredient and is used for raita, ghee (clarified butter), and buttermilk. In contrast, southern cuisine is often served with rice. Coconut is prevalent and typically used to thicken curries, which tend to have a more pungent or sour flavor.
Northern specialties at Chote Nawab include Dum Kokur (chicken curry served on the bone), Butter Murgh (a popular Punjabi creamy chicken dish), and Kashmiri Dahi Murg (chicken cooked with yogurt). Southern standouts include Mirapakaya Kodi (a spicy chicken dish with green chiles, coconut and curry) and Murgh Zafrani (an elegant chicken dish served in almond gravy with saffron).
While chicken may dominate the menu and appease a western palette, one of the most outstanding dishes on the menu is the Goat Madras, a fiery combination of tender meat, dried red chiles, and curry leaves.
Presentation at Chote Nawab is a mixed bag. Entrees arrive at the table overflowing from traditional silver serving bowls and steaming hot. The kababs, on the other hand, appear in a skillet atop a foil-wrapped platter, which feels less princely and more like street food.
Kingfisher beer - an Indian classic since 1978 - is served ice cold and straight from the tap but arrives in a Duvel glass, another incongruous choice.
In spite of these small missteps, Chote Nawab is a fresh coat of paint in a neighborhood restaurant scene in need of cosmetic touch-ups. It’s also good to know that underneath the pretty exterior, executive chefs Manjeet Singh and Khollil Uddin are offering authentic dishes that span the immense geographic and cultural influences of India.
115 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10016
Tunde Ke Kabab
Jhinga Malai Kabab
Chicken Tikka Kabab