Thursday, November 6, 2014

All Hail Haldi: Curry Hill's Newest And Possibly Best Eatery!

By: Anne M. Raso

As a matter of fact, the first thing that the server asks you after the gratis papadam (which is in a unique burrito shape) and accompanying condiment tray appear on the table is if you like your food mild, medium or super spicy! I will also say right here that their Raita is extra mild as opposed to having the strong cucumber taste that is traditional. Haldi is a simple yet striking Indian restaurant smack dab in the center of the legendary Curry Hill. There is copper cookware hanging from the ceiling but otherwise it is a modern space with clean lines and the occasional piece of classic Indian and New York street scene artwork. There is a fun wall mural of a Checker cab driving by the Taj Mahal to the immediate left when you walk in. The wonderful smells of Indian spices as you enter make you salivate but don’t worry—if you are someone who prefers your Indian cuisine mildly spiced, they take that into account!

I tried a good cross section of dishes and I am happy to announce that not only is it tasty on all counts, but the service is impeccable. The friendly servers are very attentive without being overbearing. The first thing that you notice on the menu is that besides the “Calcutta classics” they have Chaats (“small snacks” usually from a street cart), Jewish-Indian and Chinese-Indian (“Tangra”) cuisine listed. These are all totally new to me. I would like to go back and explore these options on my next visit. On Yelp!, visitors have said that Haldi is their new “go-to” Indian restaurant and I can clearly see why on just one visit so far.
Peanut Masala
The “chatti” item I ordered was Peanut Masala ($3.95), a cold peanut, onion and lime salad that was big enough for two people to share. It seemed to have a plain vinegar dressing and a touch of cardamom and/or turmeric. There were tasty pieces of cilantro in it as well. I had to also start off with classic Nan bread ($3.50)—it was hot and golden from the clay oven and seemed to stay warmer than most I have had in the past for some reason! The manager insisted that I try Haldi’s legendary Chicken Achari Tikka ($9.95), which is so tender and juicy that you will not believe what you’re tasting (it’s mainly dark meat). The owners are very proud of it and have a giant photo of the dish on the home page of their website, I was surprised to learn that the Chicken Achari Tikka—which is listed under Starters even though it’s a huge portion--is not made so amazingly tender via marinade, but rather by a dry rub that includes coriander and cumin.
Vegetable Biryani
The three entrees that I ordered were Vegetable Biryani ($12.95) which was probably a five cup portion chock full of assorted veggies including red peppers; Kesar Murgh ($15.50) which was white meat chicken chunks in a creamy yogurt, saffron and cashew paste sauce (it’s second name is “Korma Our Way”) and Saag Paneer ($14.50), which was pureed spinach with tons of wonderful homemade Paneer cheese and an assortment of kick-ass spices including turmeric. Let me add that the kitchen staff here is eager to please people with special dietary needs. If you want to keep things low cal without any of the rich sauces Indian restaurants are known for, you can order grilled veggies like the wonderful okra with lime that I had called Tandoor Nimbu Bindi ($8.95), which is under Starters on the Haldi menu. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu to begin with but this one is super special as it is served with bell peppers and mustard chutney.
Chicken Achari Tikka
I was so full that I could not even look at the dessert menu; that’s for next time. I want to add that the portions are big here and two diners can be satisfied on two entrees and an Indian Specialty bread. Be prepared to take home doggie bags if you order more than that! Haldi has many more items on the menu than your typical Curry Hill restaurant and the menu is always having new things added, so you will always be delighted and surprised at what’s new! They have filling lunch specials that range from $8.95 to $11.95 that Yelp! Members have been raving about, by the way. All hail Haldi!

Haldi Indian Cuisine
102 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 213-9615
Cuisine: Indian

Haldi on Urbanspoon

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