Last week’s column recounting a libation-filled evening at the new La Bodega 47 was only half the story. The other half was finally being able to try another new Harlem eatery after.
Perhaps the order should have been reversed so I had a little something in my stomach, but soaking the booze up with a good, spicy curry made me feel like I was a Londoner on the way home from the pub. Cheers!
As soon as the rum tasting ended, I beelined over to Red Chilli (108 W. 116th St., 646-964-5916, www.redchillinyc.com), where Food For Life used to be, across the street from Amy Ruth’s. I’ve noticed the festive curtain of lights in the window a couple of times, reminding me of Little India on East Sixth Street. I had to try it.
Now, I am very particular about my Indian food. I have my favorite dishes and my favorite places to eat these dishes. Ironically, the best Indian food I have ever had was in Oslo, Norway. I can still taste it like it was yesterday … but my palate remains available to fill the void.
I sauntered into the halal (no pork) establishment expecting to take out, but the brick cold weather made me think differently about enjoying my first bite of Red Chilli. By the time I would get home, it would be cold, so I unpeeled and allowed the hospitality to warm me up.
I took a minute to peruse the menu while occasionally glancing at the flat-screen showing epic Bollywood music videos. I looked for my favorite dish, but perhaps due to my inebriated state, I took a shot on something new. It would be chicken madras (diced chicken sautéed with mustard seeds, dried chilies and ginger and cooked in coconut sauce flavored with curry leaves).
As I waited patiently for my food to arrive, a basket of papadam (crispy wafers) and small plate of vegetable pakoras (fritters) befell me as a “welcome” from the kitchen. I love both of these little bites. The papadam is great by itself or as a vehicle to get those delicious sweet tamarind and herbaceous cilantro condiments to your mouth. The pakoras, like an Indian latke, is a crispy (sometimes greasy) way to get the food party going.
When my chicken madras arrived with some complimentary garlic naan, I was happy that I stayed. The smells were so appetizing, and the naan was hot and fluffy; I had to dig in immediately. Chicken madras is now my new favorite with its rich, complex and spicy flavor!
While they wrapped up my doggie bag—I do have some self-restraint—Red Chilli’s generosity continued with spicy black tea and a small bowl of kheer (basmati rice pudding with coconut, raisins, cinnamon, bay leaf, milk and honey syrup). I loved the texture and the tempered sweetness of the dessert. I would definitely order that.
Victory! The first meal at Red Chilli was a success. I look forward to the next meal, whether at the restaurant alone (again), with a group of people or just ordering in.
Thank you, Red Chilli, for making me feel right at home—and in my own neighborhood, too. Welcome to Harlem!
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.