The Cuisine of Northern India on the Upper West Side

street view

Located on the Upper West Side, “Indus Valley,” a cozy place that has been in business since the end of 2003, brings not only the food, but also the spirit of Northern India to New York City. A cute addition to authentic Northern Indian cuisine, which is, by the way, the most popular in India, the name of the restaurant shows good taste as well . Apparently, Indus Valley was the place where one of the earliest civilizations in the world was formed, with its own language, traditions and of course, food.

Besides the name, what pleases the guests right upon entering “Indus Valley” is warm and pleasant fine dining atmosphere. You can sit by the entrance looking out to the street from large glass windows, or proceed to the dining room, chic and especially bright in sun light, although it is also animated by candles later in the evenings. The tables are covered with snow-white tablecloths, and there are brass cups for water on the tables, which creates an impression that we are not in a restaurant in Manhattan, but in a modern and large Indian house.

Speaking of that, the staff makes the customers feel at home as well, with professional smiles and kind answers to any questions those who are not knowledgeable about Indian cuisine may ask. Believing that hospitality is the key to great service, the wait staff does a great job and encourages guests to come back for dinner some other day.

Since the food is essentially something everyone goes to a restaurant for, “Indus Valley” has a lot of things for you to try. Both chefs who run the kitchen are originally from Northern India, and the food they are making is something they grew up with, and it tastes a lot like homemade. The restaurant is therefore perfect for local families who don’t cook every day and tourists who stay in the hotels in the area, as you get a delicious meal for an affordable price (the cheapest entree is $11.95, and the most expensive is $20.95).

When ready to give it a shot and have a dinner at “Indus Valley,” you may choose to start with a soup, a salad, or an appetizer. Ask for the lentil soup, as this is the most favorite one of the restaurant’s customers (find out why when you try). You could get a Kuchumber salad with it as well. Despite its odd name, it’s really what it sounds like, a Julienne of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, fresh coriander leaves and fresh lime juice. The salad is light and refreshing, and it’s a great beginning of the meal.

Tandoor at "indus Valley"

Another thing on the menu that you shouldn’t miss is the variety of home baked breads that are made in a traditional clay oven, Tandoor. A pancake-like piece of bread is put on the wall of the oven, and is being baked there for two or three minutes until it’s taken out, browned and mouth-watering, by means of a metal poke. With the choice of whole wheat and white breads, you can have yours with dry fruits and nuts, garlic, or even lamb. The breads can be served with a dip as an appetizer (yogurt, mint and cilantro, tamarind and onion relish dips are available upon request), or as an addition to your meal.

As bread is not the only thing that is made in Tandoor, you may also go for Tandoori specialties with chicken, lamb, halibut or sea bass. Vegetarian tandooris are also served if you fancy one. The average price for those dishes is $15, which isn’t bad for a dinner in a fine dining place, and the taste makes it worth it.

If your choice is not a tandoori, you have probably set your mind on having a curry, which means “gravy.” Meats or vegetables are cooked slowly with various spices, herbs and nuts, filling the gravy with distinctive flavors. The most popular choices in this category are Chicken Tikka Masala, boneless cubes of Chicken marinated and grilled in clay oven and simmered in a tangy sauce or light cream and tomatoes, and Kashmiri Roganjosh, lamb cubes in an exotic sauce of green and cardamoms, Kashmiri chilies, cloves, cinnamon leaves, mace, coriander, ginger, garlic, onion, yogurt and fennel. Try those or discover your own favorite.

To complete the meal in a pleasurable way, spoil yourself with one of the homemade desserts or a Lassi, a yogurt-based drink (mango flavored one is recommended as the most delicious).

Not satisfied with that? Ask a server for everyday specials. Also, if you stop for lunch, there is a prix fixe menu, which includes a soup, a salad or a samosa with vegetables of the day and a dessert. On the weekends, there is a buffet for $13.95, so you can pay one price and eat whatever you want. And if you are in college, there is a student discount for you, so check out the coupon at the end of the post and save yourself some money.

With affordable prices and authentic dishes, stopping by “Indus Valley” should not hurt even the tightest student savings plan, so check it out and see if this will be your “must-go” spot on the Upper West Side, worth a train ride even from Downtown Manhattan.

Ekaterina Lalo

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