Punjabi Tadka — Not All Natives Have High Food Standards

10 Nov

After dabbling in Bombay Talkie’s take on “Indian street food,” I felt it was time to get back to authentic Indian cuisine. Most people are aware that if you want good Indian food in New York City, trekking out to Queens is your best bet. However, trekking out to Queens means you have to trek out to Queens. Not exactly an ideal situation–especially if it’s lunch and you work for a living.

Then Punjabi Tadka presented itself. Certainly not a flashy exterior or interior, but more importantly, I’ve often seen a lot of Indian cabbies parked outside the joint. “Finally, an authentic Indian spot,” I happily thought to myself. The rule of thumb to ethnic eating is usually: “if they’re a lot of natives eating there, then it must be good.” However, that was not the case at Punjabi Tadka.

As I looked down the menu list, the cashier suggested I partake in the lunch buffet. For $7, it entitles you to a plate of rice, saag paneer, chicken tikki masala, cauliflower vindaloo, and chicken drumsticks in a mild spice rub. I loaded up my plate (minus the saag paneer), and purchased a mango lassi to make it an even $10 (the minimum for credit cards). I asked the cashier for naan, but alas, they were fresh out (damn cabbies!).

When I opened my plate full of Indian food, that recognizable smell wafted through my nostrils (and probably the nostrils of my co-workers too). I started to dig in, but was instantly disappointed. The chicken was anti-thesis of moist, and just crumbled apart when I picked at it. The cauliflower was significantly overcooked, and the vindaloo would have made my grandmother turn in her grave (not that she was Indian and I’m pretty sure she didn’t like Indian food). The chicken drumsticks were bland and fatty. And lastly, the rice, like the cauliflower, was overcooked–but to the point of mere mush. The only saving grace was the mango lassi–it was a perfect, thick mixture of mango and yogurt.

The lesson in my experience at Punjabi Tadka is that you can’t always rely on who’s sitting in the restaurant. It’s often easy to resort to stereotypical foodie tips, but in most cases, the food will speak for itself.

688 10th Ave (between 48th St & 49th St)
(212) 956-0185


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