Like most Indians, there are two things we’re passionate about – Bollywood and food (no, cricket is not that hot on our list).
In a long life, we’ve watched several hundred Bollywood movies (Hindi and Tamil) and dined at scores of Indian restaurants in Asia, Europe and North America.
North Indian or South Indian, Gujarati or Indian Chinese, Chettinad or Andhra style, the smell and sight of Indian food in any of its myriad flavors sends us into raptures.
So it was no surprise that during our last visit to New York City, we headed to Curry Hill, the area of Manhattan famous for its concentration of Indian restaurants.
This time, we decided to make Chinese Mirch on Lexington Avenue (corner of Lexington & 28th St) our port of call.
As its name suggests, Chinese Mirch is the place for noodles, chop suey, fried prawns, Gobi Manchurian, Szechuan Fried Rice and a host of other exotic Indian Chinese items.
Its neighbors include Curry in a Hurry, Copper Chimney, Pongal, Indo Munch, Chennai Garden, Tamil Nadu Bhavan, Banana Leaf and Diwali.
No sooner had we stepped into Chinese Mirch than we were quickly ushered into the upstairs seating area. The place was almost empty as it’d just opened for lunch.
Famished as we were, we quickly ordered a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items from an extensive menu.
Our waiter Johnny from Bangladesh repeated our order to ensure that he got it right. We were pleased by his careful attitude since sloppy service is a hallmark of most Indian restaurants in New York City
We started with vegetable Manchow soup ($4.50).
Our waiter was solicitous enough to ask if we intended to share it. When the soup arrived, it came in two small bowls. The soup had cabbage, cilantro, crisp noodles and green chilli. The temperature was just right and we could get started immediately. It was simply delicious and whetted our appetite.
As we were finishing our Manchow soup, our eternal favorite appetizer Gobi Manchurian (of the dry kind, $8.50) arrived. Although a teeny-weeny bit short of salt, it was yummy when combined with red chilli sauce or the green chilli in vinegar on the table. Not the greasy, oily mess Gobi Manchurian usually is at a lot of other Indian restaurants that we’ve had the misfortune of having this item.
For the main course, we went on for Chilli Chicken of the gravy variety ($12.00) as well as Chinese Mirch Potatoes ($9.00).
What would an Indian Chinese meal be without some noodles, right?
So, we asked for Vegetable Chilli Garlic Noodles ($10.00) and Szechuan Egg Fried Rice ($11.00).
Chilly Chicken was beyond reproach as was the Vegetable Chilli Garlic Noodles.
Set in a slightly thick gravy, with good chunks of tender chicken, our plate of Chilli Chicken with Vegetable Chilli Garlic Noodles seemed like the shortest path to Nirvana.
Szechuan Egg Fried Rice gave no room for complaint either. Tasty and hot, it was just the right combination for either the Chilly Chicken or the Vegetable Chilli Garlic Noodles.
Although our taste buds preferred the Chilli Chicken to the Chinese Mirch Potatoes, that’s more a matter of individual preference.
Clearly, Chinese Mirch has a capable kitchen that knows what it’s sending out. Not the clueless bozos in the kitchen of most Indian restaurants in New York City.
Unlike a lot of other Indian restaurants where the food comes in a haphazard manner, the folks at Chinese Mirch ensured that our main course arrived as our plate of Gobi Manchurian appetizers was getting empty.
We also ordered some Red Wine to go with our food. Our choice was a glass of Tempranillo Bodegas Gormanz 2006 Ribero del Duero, from Spain ($7.00).
Our one complaint was that as the restaurant became crowded our table was not cleaned after we finished our main course. As a result when our dessert Walnut Date Pancake with Green Tea Ice Cream came, the waiter had to quickly clean up the table to make room for the dessert.
But that was a minor blemish in an otherwise fine meal.
The Green Tea Ice Cream that came with Walnut Date Pancake was not as sweet as we’d like our Ice Creams to be but it was a novelty for us since we’d never had Green Tea Ice Cream before.
The serving sizes at Chinese Mirch are fairly large. Given the decent quality, service and portion-sizes, the prices charged at Chinese Mirch seemed reasonable and good value for money.
In Manhattan, where a visit to an Indian restaurant can quickly turn hope into despair, Chinese Mirch is that rare oasis of good food and mostly good service.
Chinese Mirch is one of the few Indian-Chinese restaurants in New York City that we’d consider returning to.