An Indian Jewel in the Heart of LIC
Long Island City has a wide choice of Italian, French, Latin and Asian (S.E. and Chinese) restaurants to balance the range of burger joints, diners, and delis that populate its various neighborhoods. Other cuisines are less well represented, so it was with some delight that a friend told me about a recently opened Indian restaurant close to Court Square.
Aanchal sits on 23rd Street, just behind the Court Square Diner. Its decor has that authentic mix of Indian simplicity (plain wood tables) and faux luxury (moquette and wooden panels); together with unobtrusive TV screens showing Bollywood music videos, with the sound turned down to a level that allowed conversation. We arrived around 8:30pm and there was a lively Indian family celebration at one end of the restaurant. Although the waiter was apologetic we took this as a good sign. We were greeted well and served immediately with complimentary papadoms and sauces. There is no drinks menu, though, as the restaurant is not licensed.
Aanchal has a very varied menu which offers much more than the traditional western favourites of Tikka masalas, Kormas, Tandooris and the ubiquitous butter chicken. We chose a Tandoori Murgh Ke Tikke ($11.95) fenugreek flavored marinated chicken, and Lamb Roganjosh ($14.95). The waiter kindly let us know that the chicken is a “dry” dish, but we were prepared for that and would share our dishes, also ordering a bowl of raita ($2 –a cooling mix of yogurt, cucumber and herbs) and a garlic naan bread ($3.95). We were told to expect a 10-15 minute wait; always a good sign that the meal will be freshly prepared (not that this is a major issue with curries, but it’s good to have fresh herbs and spices, when appropriate), and were offered another round of papads by the observant waiter, noticing our swift demolition of the first round.
The dishes arrived together (as they should) and we enjoyed the range of tastes offered, complemented by the naan, rice and raita. The naan was especially good, clearly freshly cooked, moist and with a flavorsome mix of garlic, herbs and spices. Whilst we had asked for the lamb to be “spicy”, I suspect that they toned down Indian spicy to what they considered Western tastes, so if you want it “hot” make it clear. The chicken was moist and subtly flavoured, the red of the Tandoori spice contrasted with the green garnish (fenugreek leaves, no, more likely to be parsley?) and offered a dish that pleased the eyes as well as the palate. We finished off the lamb but there was enough chicken and rice left to be packed up for a trip home, to be enjoyed the next day (which it was!).
We will definitely return to Aanchal. If you like Indian food this place is as authentic as you’ll get this side of Curry Hill, and easier to get to for Queens residents; those on Manhattan who live close to the E, M and 7 lines and our neighbours in Brooklyn who are near to the G.
Aamchal also deliver and offer what looks like a tempting “All You Can Eat” lunch buffet for $9.99.