At Sona, a Feast From All Around India

One method you understand New York City isn’t “dead forever,” amongst different fatuous prophecies of doom that wafted about within the depths of the lockdown, is that individuals who wish to promote themselves and their concepts are nonetheless utilizing the town as a billboard.

Look, for instance, at Sona, the brand new Indian restaurant on the identical block of East 20th Street as Rezdora and Gramercy Tavern. The chef, Hari Nayak, has been sending out mint parathas and roasted-cumin raita since late March, when eating rooms nonetheless needed to be stored to half-capacity. Long earlier than then, although, the individuals behind the restaurant have been giving interviews on no less than two continents about Sona’s potential to alter the world’s view of Indian delicacies.

Maneesh Ok. Goyal, an entrepreneur and the principal proprietor, has stated he dreamed that Sona may do “what Nobu did for Japanese food, make it a destination for great cuisine, and of the moment.” Having Robert De Niro as a associate helped gasoline Nobu’s early enlargement; Sona has the actor and singer Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a artistic advisor who has no possession stake within the restaurant however will get a lot of the media protection.

“I consider her Sona’s muse,” Mr. Goyal has stated. “Priyanka helps elevate and identify all the different ways we can be a global Indian place because she’s a true global Indian.”

A window bench serves a number of the spherical tables within the entrance eating room.Credit…Colin Clark for The New York Times

This sort of ambition nonetheless requires a New York tackle, it appears. This is sweet information for the town. And the arrival of Sona is sweet information, too, though it’s in all probability particularly excellent news in the event you arrive within the entourage of a profitable multicontinental actor. Show up incognito and you could be ushered to a window bench within the entrance eating room, the place the servers will spend the subsequent hour or so arranging and rearranging glasses and plates on a spherical cocktail desk that’s too small for a good recreation of War, not to mention a several-course meal.

You’ll face no such obstacles in case you are escorted previous the metallic gold columns and admitted to the true eating room within the again. The tables are huge sufficient to sprawl throughout, the eggplant-pleather banquettes deep sufficient to lose young children in and the whole lot is brushed with a magic-hour mild that appears to return from nowhere and in all places. Melissa Bowers, who designed the restaurant, stated she needed to evoke the Art Deco interval in Mumbai — contemporary terrain for Indian eating in New York, and an clever technique to keep away from clichés. (The web site’s welcome web page isn’t as deft, with its travel-brochure copy about “timeless India.”)

The menu is concerning the measurement of a newspaper and carries nearly as a lot info, with a glossary on the reverse facet that runs from appam to yakhni. It’s simpler to take all of it in in the event you’ve already secured a cocktail, particularly one of many gin-and-tonics, served in stemless snifters and given fragrant emphasis by issues like coriander seeds and lime leaves.

The rear eating room options mirrors impressed by Mumbai’s Art Deco interval.Credit…Colin Clark for The New York TimesThe menu is nearly the scale of a newspaper; on the reverse facet is a glossary.Credit…Colin Clark for The New York Times

Mr. Nayak has divided the dishes that could possibly be eaten as primary programs amongst 4 classes: signature, traditional, grilled and rice. The final one is the place you’ll discover pulaos and biryanis, however not the straightforward $5 bowl of steamed basmati. (That goes underneath “accompaniments.”)

If I’d provide you with the kofta korma, I’d name them a signature dish, too. The tall fritters of sheep’s milk ricotta set in a pool of cilantro-cashew sauce exhibit what Mr. Nayak’s kitchen does finest. The inspiration is obvious and handled with respect, even when kofta don’t normally arise like visitors cones. Contrasts are used to good impact, because the kofta’s crisp, sesame- and cashew-coated shell provides technique to the fragile curds inside.

Served alongside the kofta korma, maybe as a result of three slender cheese fritters will not be filling on their very own, is a darkly blistered, exceptionally tender cheese-stuffed naan, brushed with butter and floor chiles. (You may make a complete evening of exploring Sona’s breads, the assorted kulchas, rotis and parathas, that are comforting and thrilling without delay.)

It’s unclear who would need their identify on one other so-called signature dish, the spongy, unusually inert brief ribs, and if I have been going to cook dinner halibut inside a banana leaf, I’d be certain it stayed moister than the one I used to be served.

Don’t blame the banana leaf. There’s additionally one wrapped across the Malabar-style hen biryani, and this time the impact is magnificent, a tapestry of spices woven via short-grain kaima rice after which sweetened by golden raisins and a spoonful of pineapple raita.

There’s an admirable resourcefulness in the best way Mr. Nayak lays a skinny, see-through cross-section of roasted onion on prime of the onion jam unfold over the Calcutta mutton cutlet, lending some pure class to what would in any other case be a brown fried puck of minced lamb. It’s certainly one of a number of excessive factors on the appetizer menu, together with a pink-snapper ceviche in a tart coconut broth that will get its rosy coloration, its tartness and its hard-to-place plumlike taste from kokum.

Hari Nayak, the chef, treats conventional dishes with respect whereas enhancing their dramatic potential.Credit…Colin Clark for The New York Times

Fermented red-chile chutney is an surprising, and wonderful, condiment for samosas stuffed with spinach and goat cheese. The kitchen wraps these in phyllo, so that they’re lighter than the standard samosa.

I thought of that lightness after I confronted down Sona’s tackle popcorn shrimp. The mango-pickle “aioli” squirted over this appetizer might transform a lasting contribution to the sweet-and-sour canon, however the shrimp deserve a thinner, airier shell of batter.

The pastry chef Grayson Claes, who involves Sona from Eleven Madison Park, has a eager sense of the way to complicate a dessert with out dropping the pleasure precept. His kheer, or rice pudding, is cooked with coconut milk, after which land-mined with shiny bits of pickled strawberry. One facet is veiled underneath a sesame wafer, the opposite underneath shards of Darjeeling tea granita. It would possibly sound like an excessive amount of, however it’s not.

Can all of this be Nobu-fied, reproduced in dozens of cities with out compromising the finely turned craft that marks this kitchen? I ponder about Sona, the prototype of a celebrity-linked world model with worldwide aspirations. For now, we’ve obtained Sona, the bodily restaurant on East 20th Street, and a fairly good place to eat.

What the Stars Mean Because of the pandemic, eating places should not being given star rankings.

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