The Upper East Side’s Papadam restaurant is located within one of the few NYC neighborhoods I would imagine having very good traditional Indian food at a very reasonable price. Luckily, we made the journey to East 75th street and First Avenue and had the pleasure of dining at Papadam on a recent Saturday night.
Admittedly, I’m a novice to the vast realm of Indian cuisine, but I am fascinated by the subtle complexity of flavors and spices used in Indian food. I think Papadam restaurant is a good stepping stone for my Indian cuisine adventures. This narrow, charming restaurant has an exposed brick wall with a long leather banquette that looks pleasant and relaxing to be in.
Once seated, we’re presented with their namesake papadam, a thin, crispy cracker accompanied by a trio of dips–a pungent and herbaceous coriander chutney, a dark, savory-yet-sweet tamarind chutney, and a unique red tomato chutney accented with dates.
The two signature cocktails that arrived shortly thereafter were a fruity, vodka-based mango smooch that was dangerously delicious courtesy the Alphonso mango puree and a tamarind martini, which was a stiffer drink that I preferred in terms of sweetness. I just liked the subtle tartness the tamarind imparts to this inspired drink.
Appetizers: Mango scallops and Tawa shrimp
Our appetizers of mango scallops and Tawa shrimp were very good and recommended. The scallops were large, sweet, and perfectly cooked while the cubes of mango delivered a tropical counterpoint that awakened our palates. The fresh shrimp were stir-fried with fresh tomatoes, coriander, garlic, spring onion, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Indian-style feast with the main courses of a trio of chicken kebabs and Nizami rogan josh
For our next course, we decided to order what amounted to a mostly North Indian feast of sorts. My dining companion ordered the juicy trio of kebabs served with lemon and mint rice. These tasty kebabs were comprised of large pieces of moist, spiced white meat chicken flavorfully enhanced with plenty of the chef’s sapid expertise. The malai (ginger garlic paste), hariyali (coriander, mint, green chili), and gharwali (yogurt, red chili) kebabs surprised our tongues with how sumptuous spiced Indian chicken kebabs can be. (My favorite was the ghawali kebab.)
I had the Nizami rogan josh as entree. This richly spiced lamb stew was perfectly cooked in a rich tomato-based curry enlivened with aromatic clove and fennel. Papadam graciously granted my request for a more reduced rogan josh sauce since I prefer this dish’s sauce thicker and “less wet” so my rice stays dryer; it’s just a preference–thank you Papadam. The lamb was served with a lovely heap of mustard potato and a side of lemon rice.
We also had sides of their fragrant basmati rice, saag paneer (spinach with paneer cheese), and mind-blowing naan (garlic and onion). Seriously, for quite some time, I haven’t enjoyed most bread served in restaurants, but Papadam’s incredibly light naan opened my eyes to the possibilities of great baking, and I didn’t care if my entire meal consisted of their beautiful naan. It was that good!
Before we called it a night at Papadam, we realized that we must do so by having dessert. Papadam’s mango mousse was very delicious, as again, the chef utilized the undeniably great Alphonso mango pulp puree. This lovely mousse is gently heated when prepared to firm up the mango puree and gelatin before it’s finally served chilled, so it both creamy and mousse-like, albeit closer to a “flan” in its consistency–recommended.
To cap off our Papadam feast, we had cups of piping hot black Masala chai, which balanced our indulgent yet very much enjoyed dinner.
If you’re in the neighborhood and want something affordable and truly interesting beyond the American or bar food that’s prevalent in the area, I would recommend Papadam restaurant.