BWW Preview: IMLI Urban Indian Cuisine Opens on the UES
Imli is a new urban Indian restaurant in NYC by owners Mervyn Winston, Ram Reddy, and Albin Vincent, who seek to offer a different Indian culinary experience with unique preparations of dishes-some rarely seen on an Indian menu-and shareable small plates like those found at the bustling all-day cafés of Mumbai.
To craft the food menu the team has tapped Executive Chef Manuel Butler, a veteran Indian chef who consulted for the opening of Sahib, the recent recipient of a two-star New York Times review. He also opened Dhaba and Awad, and served as executive chef of Chote Nawab. At Imli, he has created a menu offering a range of experiences anchored by colonial Indian cuisine, with influences straddling modern and traditional representing various regions of India.
The large u-shaped space is cosmopolitan chic, with black concrete tables, a lacquered, rust-colored floor, silver studded cerulean fabric chairs, and wood walls adorned with a light, elegant pattern. Past the open kitchen in the back lies an enclosed, sky lit outdoor patio, perfect for groups and private events to enjoy views of the outdoors in any weather. Wooden tables, wicker-backed chairs and tasteful design elements like a wall of perennial plants fill the space.
Each meal at Imli begins with an amuse bouche to stimulate the palate. Guests may then choose from an extensive menu of small plates, best paired with a flight of signature housemade dipping sauces-divided into mild, medium or hot categories-from the list of 20 selections including pear-apple, peanut chutney with mustard seeds, and spicy tomato. There isArgentinian Shrimp with turmeric, mustard seeds, curry leaves and green apple, options that break from tradition such as Kerala Beef, fork-tender chunks marinated with yogurt, onions, black pepper, cardamom and curry leaves, and a European-influenced Scotch Egg, a traditional soft-boiled egg encased in an Indian-spiced lamb meatball. Vegetarian small plates includeAchari Mushrooms made with white button mushrooms, garam masala and Achari spice blend.
Entrées are divided into Meat, Seafood and Vegetarian sections, with unique specialties like theImli Burger, a blend of beef, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies, served with masala-spiced fries, and the Tandoori Pizza topped with paneer cheese, tandoor-cooked toppings and Indian spices. Other standouts are the Chicken Rezala, tender chicken pieces in a light coating of flavorful, creAmy White gravy made with yogurt, cashew nut and poppy seed paste, and Pan-Seared Duck, served with garam masala-spiced cauliflower and potato mash. For vegetarian entrées, consider the Brussels Sprouts Medley, with turmeric, tomato and garam masala curry, and Vegetarian Tandoori Platter with mixed vegetables, pineapple and paneer cheese. Side dishes include a variety of rice from lemon to coconut, to mixed vegetable and paneer pulao, as well as breads like mushroom and truffle naan, and parathas like whole wheat andpeshawari with dried nuts and fruit.
A prix fixe lunch is served weekdays from Noon to 2:30PM with a vegetarian starter, a meat starter, choice of main entrée, lentils and rice or bread, and choice of dessert.
Brunch is a specialty at Imli, inspired by the Parsi population, who fled from Iran in the 8th and 10th centuries to established successful communities in India and developed a distinct type of cuisine. The Karachi Bun is akin to an Indian breakfast sandwich, with melt-in-your-mouth minced beef kabab, a fried egg and red onion on a toasted brioche bun, and the Indian Shakshuka features baked tomatoes, spinach, paneer cheese and peppers topped with two runny or boiled eggs, served with toasted pau buns. A separate brunch section of Imli Roomali Rolls is also available. Literally translating to "handkerchief bread," because of their airiness, roomali rolls are light, made-to-order Indian rolls with a special signature sauce and choice of stuffing such as house made sausage or chicken kebab. Refreshing brunch beverages include aWatermelon Mimosa and Passionfruit Mojito, or non-alcoholic "Neembu," an Indian lemonade.
The creative cocktails are from Managing Partner Vincent Albin, a veteran of Tulsi and Café Spice. He infuses his drinks with Indian spices in unexpected ways, evident in creations like thePassion (Ketel One vodka, mint, jaljeera Indian spice blend, passion fruit, green chilis and club soda) and the Imli-Rita, built with tamarind, Avion Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime and cane syrup. The menu also includes Indian beers like Taj Mahal and Kingfisher, as well as selections like Heineken and Corona, in addition to a global wine list.
Imli is located at 1136 1st Avenue (between 62nd & 63rd Streets), New York, NY, 10065. Visit www.ImliRestaurantNY.com or call (212) 256-0073. Available for delivery and takeout. Hours of operation are Mon-Sun noon-11 p.m. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from noon-4 p.m. Cocktail hour is Monday-Friday 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Imli