When I was young and foolish, I thought I didn’t like Indian food, because I hadn’t eaten the majority of sweet and diverse dishes that dominate most American Indian restaurants, and I thought it would only be spicy. But from spectacular marinated bites of chicken and fish, to vegetable dumplings, to fluffy Naan bread, to creamy yogurt drinks, Indian food is often sweet, and it’s a great dinner or lunch option when you’re tired of the same old staples. Two of Hoboken’s family-owned Indian restaurants offer lunch and dinner buffets in addition to a large menu.
Mehernosh Daroowalla and his wife Tina are the co-owners of India on the Hudson, which opened at Twelfth and Washington streets in 1994. The restaurant proved popular, so they opened the Karma Kafe later at Fifth and Washington streets.
We stopped into India on the Hudson recently to try their menu as well as the lunch buffet. The restaurant specializes in Northern Indian cuisine, which is less spicy than Southern Indian and has more creamy and sweet options.
The restaurant was renovated two years ago. It has two tasteful rooms with wood floors, both of which are open for dining unless one is being used by a customer for a private party. The décor is tasteful but casual, with Indian music playing. Tina mentioned that it might be a good place to take a date for Valentine’s Day, as the uptown location is a bit quieter than the restaurants closer to the PATH station downtown.
The family has owned restaurants in India, but now they have brought the flavors to Hoboken. The food is cooked to order rather than pre-made. Daroowalla said that sometimes it takes a few extra minutes for delivery, but it’s because everything is fresh and healthy.
The restaurant has received positive reviews from the New York Times, the Star Ledger, and Zagat’s guides.
The menu and buffets
The menu has more than 35 main courses made with seafood, chicken, lamb, and vegetables. Prices range from $10 to $19. Appetizers, including popcorn crawfish, garlic shrimp, and breads with various dips, range from $3.50 to $9.
For those with big appetites, the lunch buffet – served every day, even on weekends – offers nine courses plus some extras for only $9.95. In a town where a sandwich from the local deli can cost you almost the same price, it’s a great option. It runs from noon to 3 p.m.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, India on the Hudson offers a dinner buffet for slightly more, $12.95, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
We asked the waiter for the most popular menu dishes, and while waiting, got up to sample the lunch buffet, which is located along the restaurant’s windows and allows you to watch upper Washington Street as you choose your food.
Tina said that besides the traditional dishes, they like to try out some new stuff at the buffet. Thus, we were pleased to sample the small chilli chicken poppers, a new creation. They were spicy and tasty.
I decided I loved the vegetable dumplings the most. They were in an outstanding cashew nut sauce, and they were shaped like falafel, but the texture was softer. They were filled with grated potatoes, carrots, green beans, paneer (a cheese with a perfect texture), and baked.
Other items at the hot buffet were Naan bread, various dipping sauces, Tandoori chicken and wings, chicken tikka masala, jeera gobi aloo (potato and cauliflower sautéed in cumin seeds), saag paneer (delicious cheese cubes with spiced creamy spinach) peas puleo, basmati rice, salads, carrot pudding, and a few other items.
The most popular dishes on the menu, Mehernosh said, are the kebab sampler (a mix of shrimp, lamb, chicken, and vegetables cooked on a skewer for $19), the chicken tikka masala (chicken in a tomato and garlic sauce, $12), vegetable samosas (huge stuffed crispy triangle pastries with potatos and peas, $5), Goa curry (a spicy coconut dish with seafood or chicken), and tandoori shrimp (shrimp cooked in a clay oven with a marinade).
Also popular is the big bread basket, consisting of various types of puffy, warm breads, some stuffed with ingredients like cheese, chicken, or tomato. We tried it, and it was much bigger than I anticipated. It was very satisfying for $12.
The menu has many other appetizers, soups, salads, breads, wraps, rice dishes, and options involving seafood, lamb, goat, chicken, and vegetables.
Appetizers, including popcorn crawfish and yogurt-marinated Tandoori chicken wings, run from $5 to $9. Soups and salads are $5 and breads run from $3.50 to $5.
The meat and fish dishes are delicious and give you more than two dozen to choose from. Some are Tandoori, marinated in yogurt and spices and baked in a special oven. Others are Basmati Biryanis, slowly cooked with rice. There’s something for everyone, including those who don’t want anything spicy. Main courses run from $10 to $17.
Drinks and dessert
The restaurant has a menu of alcoholic beverages and special cocktails such as a Kama Sutra Appletini and a mango colada. But they also serve the traditional Indian non-alcoholic beverages like cool, sweet lassis made with yogurt.
I loved my smooth, sweet mango lassi and encourage all to try it.
What really wowed me was one of the desserts – the gulab jamun. It was described as “warm milk and flour dumplings in a warm cardamom flavored syrup.” When it arrived, it looked like three gelatinous dumplings in a thin syrup. The honey taste and delightful texture warmed me up on a cold day. It was incredibly sweet and a perfect treat for winter.
Other deserts include puddings and ice cream. They are all $4.
The restaurant offers lunch boxes for $6 to $9, and you can add naan for $1.50 more, and also has a catering menu and party trays to go.
India on the Hudson is located at 1210 Washington St. For more information, call (201) 222-0101, or check out indiaonthehudson.com.
Caren Matzner can be reached at email@example.com