For those who think of Indian food as being very greasy and heavy, think again. Chef Lala Sharma’s Savoury NYC, which he opened in April 2014 on NYC’s Upper West Side with his son, Abishek Sharma, takes classic Indian dishes and cooking styles from both the North and South and gives them a modern twist.
“At Savoury, we try to eliminate the oily food, by using very little oil or ghee (Indian butter),” explains Chef Sharma. “Our menu has many dishes that are baked in the Tandoor, which is very healthy. We want our clients to feel good about what they are eating. At Savoury we are focused on more health conscious food.”
Savoury resides on a block littered with busy restaurants. Amidst the buzz, you just might miss Savoury and its small sign on the corner. If you’re lucky enough to know it’s there, you’ll step into a quiet minimalist space, with Indian music playing in the background.
The name “Savoury” itself makes your mouth water, synonymous with “tasty.” Chef Sharma’s father, who was also named Chef Lala Sharma, felt all food should be tasty.
In order to truly understand Savoury, one must look to Chef Sharma. Born in New Delhi, India, Sharma grew up watching his parents cook. His father worked in high-end Indian restaurants since the age of 18, while cooking was his mother’s passion. Having his family connect like this made Chef Sharma visualize food as something that brought people together, regardless of race, sex or color.
Sharma got his start cooking at the world-renowned Bukhara, known for its tandoori-grilled meats and delicious dahl. From there, he moved to New York and opened a few different ventures, including Surya and Swagat, and, most recently Savoury.
When it’s time to delve into the food menu, which is surprisingly affordable — especially for NYC — with appetizers starting at $6 and entrees ranging from $13 to $19. One should understand there’s a distinct difference between Northern and Southern Indian cuisine. While the South tends to focus on uber spicy, with a lot of rice and soupier-textured dishes the grains can soak up, Northern India’s main staple is wheat. This means you’ll typically find heavier foods that can be scooped up by thick naan and roti breads.
At Savoury the focus is a fusion of both of these cuisines done in a modern style with everything made fresh in house. Instead of heavy and greasy meals, guests can expect light and healthy, from dalcha machchi, tender bites of salmon with lentils, turmeric, bay leaf, mustard seed and curry leaves, to Chicken Saag, chunks of browned chicken served in a spinach puree with fresh ginger.
While you can order from an array of meat and vegetable sections — with vindaloos, curries, kormas and beyond — a major menu highlight is the tandoori section, with meats cooked in a clay oven reaching temperatures of 480 °C (900 °F). And not just tandoori chicken, but tandoori salmon (Ajwaini Machchi Tikka), tandoori lamb chops (Masaledar Chaaps) and tandoori prawns (Tandoori Prawns), all marinated in their own yogurt spice blend.
You’ll also find some French influence. Says Chef Sharma, “A lot of French dish presentations are remarkable. There is a saying that all staff members are taught, ‘Customers first eat with their eyes.’ The presentation of our food is from French influences.”
The name doesn’t lie. NYC’s Savoury is an experience to be appreciated — guilt free!
This post was originally published on Drive the District