Queens’s fine dining scene has remained under the radar for years. Now it's ready for a breakthrough moment—and the new Indian canteenAdda is leading the borough's culinary game.
Photo courtesy of Adda
Located on an unassuming stretch of Long Island City (just a few doors down from a gas station and a 7-Eleven), Adda makes for a warm and bright refuge. Executive chef Chintan Pandya previously earned raves at upscale Indian establishments like Rahi and the Michelin-starred Junoon, but he's striving to win over locals instead of food critics this time around. Why else should you take the 7 train to the city’s most unapologetic Indian restaurant? Well, for starters…
Classic Indian dishes get a modern makeover.
Kale pakoda takes the form of a trendy bar snack, battered in ground chickpea flour and topped off with funky chaat masala and a drizzle of chutneys. Tandoori dishes are cooked off in Adda’s fired-up clay oven to perfection, particularly the buffalo-style cauliflower gobi blanketed in melted cheese, and grilled young chicken doused in plenty of chili and vinegar. It’ll also be hard to think of saag paneer the same way once you get a spoonful of Adda's soulful seasonal take that doesn’t subdue the prominent flavors in cream, instead letting the slow-cooked mustard greens and spinach, vibrant spices, and tangy cheese cubes speak for themselves.
Kale pakoda. / Photo courtesy of Adda
You’ll fall in love with its brains.
Please, order the bheja fry if you’re not too squeamish. The dish is literal brain food that’ll make you wonder why you waited so long to savor it. Stewed goat offal acts as an edible sponge for the robust ginger-chili broth it swims in, making for one of the top five bites I’ve had all year. As an added bonus, buttery Parker House rolls are served on the side to sop up the rest of the addictive plate.
The diverse Queens community already considers Adda their go-to hangout.
This fact isn’t surprising, considering that the word adda translates to “a place where people hang out.” I didn’t imagine how true this sentiment would be, even during a surprising November snowstorm. The dining room was packed that fateful night, with tables of LaGuardia students celebrating the end of midterms; a lone taxi driver on break from his long night on the icy roads; a table of eight coworkers unwinding after a day of meetings; gal pals catching up over bottles of Shiraz and Riesling; and plenty of couples, young and old, who had the same idea of warming up over piping-hot bowls of curry and lingering for as long as they could. You know a restaurant is great when New Yorkers are willing to venture out of their cozy apartments into treacherous weather for food.