Taste of India in New Dorp has been offering borough residents authentic Indian cuisine for more than 25 years
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos BY Amessé Photography
When Raman Kumar and Baldev Malhotra opened Taste of India on New Dorp Lane in 1990, Indian food was an unfamiliar cuisine for most Island residents.
“At that time there were no other Indian restaurants on Staten Island,” Kumar said. “Customers may have tasted it before—sampled it somewhere else—but they were likely unsure about the spices, the dishes, or simply just what to order.”
But Malhotra, an Island resident who has owned an Indian restaurant on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street since 1976, knew that this type of international fare would flourish in the borough if given a chance.
So, the restaurateurs started by offering tasting dinners and sampling platters for beginners. And they focused on one of the culture’s food staples: flavorful grilled breads.
“We created an experience,” Kumar said. “Customers wanted to dine here because they were able to sample a range of foods and experiment with different tastes.”
Like Mulligatawny, for instance, a delicately spiced fresh vegetable soup made with lentil puree, and Chicken Tandoori, which is marinated in yogurt and mild spices before being roasted in a clay oven.
“The Tandoor grill is what gives all of our food its flavor,” Kumar explained. “The bread sticks to the wall of this clay oven, and the meat for the kebabs is cooked on squares. It’s a very healthy process of cooking that adds a lot of flavor to all of our dishes.”
That healthful approach to cooking has been a big selling point for Taste of India. “Indian food is built around grilled meats and vegetables, so as healthy food became popular over the past decade, so did this cuisine,” Kumar said. “Our most popular dishes include French-cut lamb chops marinated with garlic, ginger, and garam masala, as well as a Tandoori mix grill, which features an assortment of grilled meats and fish kebab.”
Taste of India features 15 different vegetarian dishes as well as several vegan choices, and the majority of the meats are lean— cooked without fat or skin. The restaurant’s 11 different varieties of grilled bread include Alu Paratha, which is stuffed with mashed potatoes, green peas, and herbs. The Poori is deep-fried and lightly puffed, and the Paratha, prepared with butter, is multi-layered and flaky.
“Grilled breads are a big focus in Indian cuisine,” Kumar said.
Several varieties of Sri Lankan beer are served along with Lassi (mango, banana, or strawberry), a sweet Northern Indian yogurt drink made with honey and rose water. Traditional Indian desserts, including Kulfi, which is ice cream served with saffron and nuts; Rasmalai, cheese patties in milk syrup with nuts; Gulab Jamun, cheese balls in rose syrup; and Kheer, an Indian rice pudding, are perfect ways to cap a Taste of India dinner.
“We also have several specialty ice creams topped with Godiva chocolate liqueur,” Kumar said. “It’s a nice way to end a meal.”
Although the restaurant has remained in the same location since its 1990 opening, there have been several renovations during that time. After originally designing the space in a traditional Indian décor, with a range of authentic artifacts and antiques, the owners changed the landscape a bit in 2012, when they expanded to encompass a second storefront.
“The restaurant originally had a small dining space, but as our popularity grew, we required more seating,” Kumar said. “We added a full bar five years ago, and created a more modern décor with contemporary lighting and seating and an overall current look.”
In 2016, Taste of India acquired another storefront, which it will use for private parties.
“Twenty-five years ago, Indian food did not have a big demand on Staten Island,” Kumar concluded. “But that has changed—and that’s why we keep expanding. The residents here are no longer afraid to try new flavors; in fact, they are not only dining in, they are asking us to cater special events and requesting to host parties here, too. In our new space, we will be able to accommodate private parties for 80 people and share our food with many new customers. It’s truly amazing how much we have grown and changed during the past two decades.”
Taste of India
287 New Dorp Lane
718.987.4700 / tasteofindia2.com