This story begins back in December when I made it over to Avenue B to the Indian place I had been hearing so much about. Spoiler alert: it was closed for a holiday party. Womp womp.
But last week I finally got to eat at Babu Ji and it was a revelation. It’s like they took classic Indian food and made it trendy, without making you hate yourself for being there. They specialize in Indian street food and mainstay curries made 2016 chic.
Confused? Let me elaborate.
The place. There are giant framed photos of cool-looking Indian dudes and a Bollywood movie playing on the wall. Enough said.
It’s a pretty small place and they don’t take reservations except for their $65 tasting menu (which looked amazing) so you will probably have to wait for a table. BUT they give you a coupon for $2 off drinks at Maiden Lane, the bar across the street. This is a weird place where you can buy a tin of razor clams for like 60 bucks but they have a bone-dry rosé so I can’t complain.
The food. It’s what you expect…and then it’s not.
I like how Indian food is made for sharesies, and they emphasize that at Babu Ji by setting the table with empty metal plates that you quickly fill with delicious things that come in copper pots. We started with gol gappa, which according to the menu is a popular Indian street food consisting of a yogurt-filled shell that honestly I can’t describe because I do not understand.
When it arrived, my friend and I were caught up in conversation about important things like Beyoncé and didn’t start eating until our waiter ran over and quietly told us that gol gappa should be eaten right away. “Just pop it into your mouth and eat the whole thing in one bite,” he said. His concern for our culinary experience was adorable.
So we did. They were deliciously surprising, like a cool, sweet soup dumpling in a crunchy shell.
From the appetizers we also got the General Tso’s cauliflower which is vegan and sounded like my favorite thing from Dhaba in Curry Hill. It was pretty close. It’s battered cauliflower in a sweet chili sauce that is weird at first and then addictive, just like Chinese food. It comes sprinkled with sesame seeds like an everything bagel. We all win.
For our main we shared the duck curry with rice and garlic naan. The naan, while traditional, was buttery and delicious. And the sauce for the curry was amaaaaazing, creamy and rich and perfection. As for the duck, I’m kind of a baby about meat on the bone. It was good but I ate with caution and couldn’t finish.
Also we were suuuuuuuuuper full. Two apps and entree and rice and naan was more than enough for two people.
The drinks. They have a decent selection of wine (only one rosé, can you tell I have a one track mind these days?) but their main thing is the fridge full of craft beer that you help yourself too. Not my thing but definitely a cool feature.
See? Trendy, but you don’t have to hate yourself for going. It’s all clear now, right?