by Raad Rahman
Ferns and artfully arranged birds of paradise greet the visitor to Inday, the new Indian fast-casual restaurant in Midtown South. Inday was already receiving hype when the WSJ placed the restaurant in a list of one of the most anticipated fast-casual dining experiences of the year, inspired by Bengali overtones in Midtown south. It seems to have already lived up to its hype. In its first week, Inday managed to sell out during lunch every day.
By noon, Inday was already packed with lines barely contained in the restaurant, feeding a steady stream of the shoppers and office-goers below Herald Square. Tucked on quiet(er) 25th street, between Broadway and Fifth avenue, the restaurant is a stone’s throw from Madison Square Park and the Flatiron building. If coming in from Park Ave South, you’re likely to run into the Museum of Sex on your way there.
For those who wish to stay seated with their shopping bags, two high top tables hold air plants in bowls, and the store-like space has a side of wooden benches offer lower seating options on the right hand corner. Fusion meets practicality, and the paper containers of food turn soggy within moments of leaving the building, indicating that the food must be eaten right away.
Most New Yorkers regularly navigate cafeteria style meals in their lunch hour rush between assignments. Potted bamboo plants are strategically placed to shield the handful sitting diners behind the glass façade. The menu is stacked out between the floral arrangements and plastered behind the glass counter where servers greet you with questions about whether you’d like to use rice or salad to build your meals. Be wary of your own confusion with the profusion of choices, particularly if you’re the type who does sit down and like being served- the style is that of a salad bar, after all.
Favorites included the lightly sautéed cauliflower served over a bed of wild rice and basmati, with cumin and chili encrusted salmon, and creamy raita, doused liberally with fresh plum tomatoes and with a small dollop of mint chutney that sizzles the tongue (while being thankfully devoid of the disdainful and ominous green additive you have seen in other Indian restaurants within the same price range).
The owner, Basu Ratnam, introduced himself before the arrival of a steady stream of other diners. It’s his first time running a restaurant, and he explained that the idea is taken from experiencing India every day at home in a very different manner than what is considered acceptable as the standard of Indian cuisine- biryanis or north Indian barbecue. Ratnam is an entrepreneur with a finance background, who has paired up with renowned restaurateur Phil Suarez to bring Inday to Manhattan.
As a Bengali, one is of course able to rattle off dozens of varieties of fish names, so it was interesting to note the concept of bhortas being pared with salmon a way which would be normal and familiar in the privacy of a US-Bengali home. Salmon, after all, is much more familiar than either pomfret or snapper. But perhaps these are forthcoming, as Inday promises a seasonal menu.
The exposed wiring in the overhead lights, and the overall industrial chic boasted by the décor leave the impression that Inday is best enjoyed slowly, and yet, the delivery insists that this is anything but- a departure from the fast casual Italian, say, of Chelsea Market variety. But with a philosophy of farm-to-table, the appeal is not lost to carbon foot-print conscious Manhattanites who love eating local.
In doing this, the restaurant is a necessary and bold corrective to the widespread (mis)concept and realities that Indian food is greasy. Good homemade Indian food can and does deliver all the various elements of a balanced and nutritious diet. Seeing the every day India being reflected in a cuisine, without causing heartburn to its diners, is exciting. I will definitely be returning the next time I need a quick option for good food in the area.