Indian food is not just about tikka masala," says Gaurav Anand. "There's so much more to it." And unfortunately, while New York City has hundreds of Indian restaurants, it doesn't see much variety in the regional cuisines offered. So Anand, a native of northern India and owner of Moti Mahal Deluxe and Bhatti Grill, just debuted Awadh (2588 Broadway, 646-861-3604), an Indian restaurant rooted in the cuisine of northern city Lucknow, in an effort to expose diners to another part of the country.
The fare, says Anand, revolves around dum pukht, a cooking technique that involves slow cooking food in a sealed dish over a low flame. "It's a lot of kebabs and biryanis," he says. "That's the main focus." He's been learning the nuances of the cuisine from a chef from London who specializes in Awadhi food, and together, they've created a board that includes rice and chicken biryani, a succulent leg of lamb, and "kebabs that melt in your mouth," he says.
A sizable portion of the menu is vegetarian, and it includes dishes like slow-cooked broccoli in saffron sauce, chana masala made with chickpeas and tomatoes, and black lentil dal. "Even in India, this food is very unique," says Anand. "There are specific restaurants that do this food there -- you can't get it just anywhere."
Anand brought on sommelier John Slover, who's worked at Charlie Bird and Daniel, to do the wine list, and he's still working on pairings, culled from all over the globe to match the unique flavors of the food. Awadh also features a tea program, design by Anamika Singh, a second generation tea producer who owns Anandini Himalaya Tea. All teas on the list come from India.
Anand built Awadh into a bi-level space on the Upper West Side, choosing that neighborhood, he says, because there's a dearth of interesting Indian options in the area. "I love that neighborhood, and there seems to be a lack of authentic cuisine there," he says. "Someone has to start that. I picked that neighborhood for that reason." His team installed a sleek dining room with dark wood paneling, plush banquettes, pendant lights, and a bubble chandelier.
Awadh opened for dinner last night, and it will soon start serving lunch, including, promises Anand, a number of midday special.