New York City is home to all sorts of crazy culinary combinations – Japanese crepes, bacon bakeries, savory ice creams, and gluten-free vegan sushi. But Murray Hill newcomer Chal Chilli brings a new type of fusion to Curry Hill: Indian-Thai Cuisine.
Ayesha Kiani and her mother Alia, who emigrated from Pakistan a decade ago, always dreamed of opening a restaurant. And when the timing was right, the two went into business together, working with chef Fatima Ali to combine cooking techniques from their homeland and create one of their favorite cuisines: Thai food.
A quick scan of Chal Chilli’s menu highlights your typical New York Thai dishes: Papaya salad, pad se-ew, drunken noodles, and red curry, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice that many of these items feature an Indian twist: ingredients and spices not native to Thai cuisine. Pomegranate, cilantro, and Indian curry pair well with gangal and citric thai basil, truly fusing the flavors together in new renditions on classic dishes.
To start, try the Pad Tao Hoo ($6), a dish that took the restaurant to New York's Food and Wine festival before the restaurant even celebrated its half birthday. Fried tofu, crisp on the outside, delightfully soft on the inside, is tossed in a chili-peanut sauce and heavily topped with sesame seeds for another layer of crunch and nuttiness.
If you're ready for potential addiction, go for the Thai Basil Skirt Steak ($16), a juicy cut of meat cooked medium rare and doused in a creamy homemade steak sauce made from peanuts, chilis, and perhaps something not quite legal, it's that good. While the restaurant gains neighborhood popularity, they're not giving out the recipe, but rumors of cookbooks and recipe sharing are in the works.
And for carb-loving diners (guilty!) you can order a side of freshly baked roti or paratha to accompany your Pad Thai or Massaman Curry. Now that's a fusion meal.
Chal Chilli serves Halal food, and therefore no alcohol, so feel free to BYOB (or enjoy a mango lassi with spicy basil fried rice, because there's nowhere else in the city you can do that!)