“Is that it?”
“No, that’s another Indian place.”
“What about there?”
“Nope, a different one.”
When we finally arrive at Surya, it’s clear that there is some stiff competition in the area. The recently re-opened restaurant is positioned across the street from the Bitter End, a few blocks from its original location, which was also on Bleecker Street (three years ago, damage from Hurricane Sandy, coupled with rising rent costs in the neighborhood, forced them to shut down).
On this menu, chef and owner Lala Sharma brings back favorites from the original Surya, and also offers new colonial street “chaats,” or snacks.
The spinach Palak Moong chaat, designed to be eaten out of hand, is comprised of crisp crackers made from batter-dipped flash-fried spinach, layered with sprouted lentils, lemon, onion, and tomatoes. The Bombay Bhel Puri, popular on the beaches in what is now Mumbai, is made from rice crisps, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and tamarind.
The smoky tomato soup, along with British-influenced mains Malabar Pappas (shrimp in spicy coconut sauce with curry leaf and tamarind), and Calicut Pepper Chicken (with green chilies, ginger and curry leaves), all have a very earthy property that works well. While all of the dishes we tried were tasty (including the incredibly tender lamp chop appetizer), the tomato soup was my favorite — almost like tikka masala without the chicken, perfect for cold winter days. To accompany the soup, order the Punjabi Kulcha, which is almost like a pizza naan, made with sundried tomato, onion, and cheese.