There are tasting menus, and then, there are tasting experiences. Such is the case at New York City's Indian Accent, a restaurant that's putting inventive cooking at the forefront, reinterpreting Indian meals with a contemporary approach. The original brick-and-mortar, opened in 2009 in New Delhi, was one of the first to shake up Indian cooking within the country, taking inspiration from international dishes and using non-traditional ingredients in a traditional way. I had the privilege of enjoying Indian Accent's Chef's Tasting Menu and sitting with Chef Manish Mehrotra to talk more about his openness to challenging the traditional when it comes to Indian cuisine.
Chef explains that many of the restaurant's guests are surprised during their first visit to Indian Accent. "You won't find curries, a naan bread or a biryani on the menu. This is because it's the time for Indian food to move forward in the U.S. All the other cuisines are doing so, French, Italian, Spanish, by taking their traditional roots, keeping [the food] authentic, but incorporating new ingredients and methods to create a more global approach. That is the whole idea here."
"In India, what is cooked at home is strictly eaten at home. If you want a chicken tikka masala, you're only eating that at a restaurant." With a non-region-specific approach Chef Mehrotra's menu offers dishes from all the regions of India, taking dishes one would traditionally find at the tables of Indian households, or on the country's street, and making them worthy of being served in a restaurant setting.
One of the many examples of this concept is with one of the restaurant's first courses: the potato chaat. Chaat, one of the most famous street foods of India, can be found in every city, with each region serving up its unique variety of chaat. Most often, they are found made with spinach. Chef's interpretation of the dish incorporates shiso leaf, often used is Asian cuisine, and water chestnut, for a nice crunch.
When Chef blends combination of ingredients and presents them in a dish, there is intention behind it and each plate aims to tell a story. The soy keema found on the menu is a nod to Chef's mother's cooking: "I was raised in a completely vegetarian household, and there was no question of meat or seafood coming into the home. Because of this, my mother would make a keema made with soy granules to create a stew reminiscent of the flavor and texture of a bolognese."
This, in combination with the keema Chef has tasted in Mumbai--made with lamb meat and egg on a hot plate, enjoyed with a Portuguese bread called pao--were the inspirations behind his soy keema, served with a quail egg and a lime leaf butter pao ( photos below).
An experience at Indian Accent is a journey to the country via your seat at the restaurant. With beautiful presentations, an unexpected marriage of flavors and unorthodox Indian cooking done right, this place is worth more than one visit.
Thank you Chef Mehrotra and Indian Accent for hosting me for this lovely meal.
123 W 56 Street, New York, NY 10019