Indian, Theater Style

Indian, Theater Style

The dining room at Utsav

Although I love the spices, textures and aromas of Indian food—the smell of a delicate curry, the refreshing dip into a raita yogurt sauce, the scent of saffron—I don't often dine in Indian restaurants, mostly because my tolerance for super-spicy foods has abated over the years. But last week, before catching Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” at the Palace Theatre, my friend and I decided to try Utsav, a mere block from the venue, which was preceded by its reputation for fine Indian food, attentive service and gracious surroundings.

It seemed that what we had heard about the restaurant was true. You enter through a walkway on W. 46th btw Sixth & Seventh aves., through a small bar, where a smiling bartender points toward the carpeted stairs. Upstairs is the dining room, a large space with a long hallway and floor-to-ceiling windows: Contemporary decor, done in shades of apricot and gold, offer a cheery presence. Next for me was the sitting test: How comfortable a chair is in a restaurant is one of those things my radar is on for, and this wide, well-cushioned seat was just what a diner likes to sink into. Now, on to the menu. We alerted the waiter that we had a 7 pm curtain to make (always important to do so if you are dining pre-theater), to which he nodded his head reassuringly. When we told him our preference for dishes on the milder side, he pointed us to the chicken tikka masala, the malai kofta (mixed vegetables), and, on the side, raita, saffron rice and poori bread. While the chicken tikka, cooked in a creamy tomato sauce, did have a kick, it was a subtle one, and when eaten with a piece of the puffy, super-light poori bread drizzled with raita, it all goes down easily and deliciously. The malai kofta could have been a meal on its own, hearty fried dumplings of mixed vegetables and cheese, in a rich cashew-onion sauce. Two bottles of sparkling water rounded out the meal perfectly, and we got to the theater in plenty of time for our curtain. Utsav is Hindi for "celebration,“ and after all this time avoiding Indian food, it was a celebratory meal, indeed.

» Utsav, 1185 Ave. of the Americas, 212.575.2525