Babu Ji

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Now that Winter has actually kicked in, in NYC, you probably crave comfort food. And, if you’re like me, you want comfort food that’s hot and spicy too, because, extra warmth. I love Indian food, which pretty much checks these marks for me, so, I was off to Babu Ji in Alphabet City.

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A mix of modern elegance meets local deli kind of sums up the aesthetic of this contemporary Indian restaurant. You’ll find striking, large print photographs framed on the wall, along with a projecting Indian movie, and, a stuffed peacock on top of a self-serve beverage refrigerator. But once your food starts coming out, you won’t even be paying attention to what’s around you, and only what’s in front of you. Not only are the dishes all visually captivating, they’re insanely delicious. And, the entire staff here was so amazing, attentive, courteous, and, if you’re a crazy food-picture-taker like myself, you’re in luck, because one of our servers asked a few times if I’d like him to provide some additional light from his phone. What a gem! Ok, food, let’s get into it. Get some Naan. It’s warm, soft and pillowy, but still has a nice chew to it. The flavors are delicate, but give the dough a little pizzaz.

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All of the appetizers sounded amazing, so, I started with a couple to share. First was Papadi Chaat (chickpea, cucumber, pomegranate, tamarind, mint and yogurt chutney). They describe it as the motherland’s version of nachos and salsa, a must try. And, they’re 100% right, this dish was unbelievable. First off, it’s stunning to look at, but each ingredient is so fresh and dynamic, and you can really taste all of the flavors individually, while going so wonderfully all together. Texture wise, you really have everything here, you’ve got crunch from the slaw and the chips, creaminess from the chutney, and all of the other elements in between. It was really fantastic, and you must order it.

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Ok, so, before I even start about the second appetizer, I need to take a breath. Ok, breath taken. This was possibly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while, and definitely my favorite thing from my meal here. I had their Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower (Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato chili sauce, sesame and onion seed, chives). So, they killed it in the immitation department, replicating General Tso’s Chicken from the outside. But, take a bite and this vegan dish made out of cauliflower tastes crazily similar. Everything about this dish was pure perfection, from the sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce, to the airy and crisp breading around the tender and flavorful cauliflower. I wish I could go on forever about this, but, my fingers will get too tired from typing. So, let’s meet up for a plate of Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower and I’ll talk your ear off about it.

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For my main, I ordered Baingan Bartha (Spiced and fire roasted eggplant curry with green peas). Again, presentation on point. And flavor wise, excellent. The eggplant is pureed into a consistency in between a spread and a paste, making it very substantial. There’s a really nice kick of heat, and the freshness of the peas and shaved veggies on top help to cool your mouth a little bit and add a nice textural component.

The Shorts:
Name: Babu Ji
Location: 175 Avenue B, NYC
The Shorts: Would I go back? Let me think about it…YES! Did you not read my obsessive fan-girl review of that cauliflower?
Would I recommend it? 100%. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go. I can’t even think of one complaint. The staff is incredible, the food is outstanding, what else could you ask for?

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Tamarind

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I love Indian food, and have gone to my fair share of restaurants. But, oddly enough, I had yet to visit Tamarind. Well, I finally made it, better late than never, right? So, I was off to experience Tamarind in TriBeCa as part of my Michelin Challenge.

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You enter into a grand space, open, airy, light and pretty magnificent. There’s plenty of space in between tables, which, is pretty uncharacteristic of NYC dining rooms with space always being an issue. There’s also a wall of booth seating, almost like individual cabanas.

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The service here is impeccable, and no detail is left off. You’re brought an amuse bouche, we received an Onion Fritter (with green chutney). This was delicious, and unlike the name might infer, it was not greasy or heavy at all. It was light, soft, with pieces of of sweet onion throughout. The chutney was a perfect compliment as well, adding a slight bit of heat to the mild and sweet fritter.

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They offer a prix fixe lunch menu for just $25, which, is a total steal with the amount of food you receive and the quality. For my appetizer, I ordered the Kashmiri Salad (apple, celery, mix greens, walnuts, mustard-vinaigrette dressing). This was such an amazing salad, and I was pleasantly surprised at the generous portion (the plate in the photo is huge, for the record). The apples were fresh, tart, and thickly cut. All of the flavors went really nicely together here, and, the mustard-vinaigrette dressing was a great contrast to the sweetness of the other components.

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For your entree, you choose two main items. I chose Kasundi Macher (salmon in tandoor, yogurt, kasundi mustard, tandoori spices) and Kaddhu Ke Kofte (green squash, chili, gram flour, roasted onions, creamy tomato sauce). These. Were. Both. Amazing. The salmon was soft, juicy, and topped with a hot mustard, giving it a very unique and dynamic flavor. The Kaddhu Ke Kofte, similar to a hush puppy consistency, was really delicious. Similar to the Onion Fritter, this was substantial, but not overly heavy or greasy. And the sauce was incredible, spicy and savory, and I used it to mix in with the rice you also get. For the table, you also receive Naan and the vegetable of the day, which was Chickpeas and Potatoes. The naan was like a dream, pillowy and soft. And the vegetables were served similar to a stew, in a sort of vegetable gravy, a little bit sweet, a little savory, and very tasty.

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Lastly, for dessert, I ordered the Mango Rice Pudding. I really loved this, it was different from any other rice pudding I’ve had before. It’s served hot, and almost more of a thick soup consistency versus the more congealed version. The rice is tender and almost melts in your mouth, and the the creamy mango flavor really comes through nicely.

The Shorts:
Name: Tamarind
Location: 99 Hudson Street, NYC
Michelin Star: One Star
The Long and Short: Would I go back? In a second. Everything here was truly incredible.
Would I recommend it? For sure. Whether you go for lunch, dinner, a special occasion, you’re guaranteed an amazing meal and experience.