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Monday, April 13, 2015

Downtown Dishes at Manhattan's Northernmost Tip: Indian Road Café

SINCE moving to Inwood, circa the start of President Obama's first term, Indian Road Café has been on my shortlist of local must-try places. It wasn't until this year that I'd finally sat down for a proper dining experience.

EXPECTING an outer-borough guest on a recent Monday evening, I'd thought that I should take him somewhere special, considering his journey. I'd already taken him to The Park View on a previous visit and as I was racking my brain for an alternative, the ever-helpful Inwood Community Group pointed me toward Indian Road Café. Spotting my post in the online group requesting "recos," IRC co-owner, Jason Minter reached out to me with a personal invite. I nearly never turn down an invite. 

 Indian Road Café's springy friseé and guanciale salad

At 8 o'clock on a Monday night, Indian Road Café was as busy as a pre-weekend rush. I was glad that we'd had a reservation and the pleasant hostess-server offered us a few different seating options. I ultimately opted for an unassuming deuce tucked neatly alongside the main dining area. 

Impressed with the wine list, I decided to start with a glass of Finger Lakes blaufränkisch--for, both, its locality and its obscurity (a varietal most uncommon among conventional wine lists). After agreeing upon a shared "degustation," my date and I began with an assortment of salumi sourced from nearby Arthur Avenue before continuing with a mid course salad of friseé and guanciale. Spying the "small plate" whilst examining IRC's menu earlier that afternoon, I'd known I would want a taste of the pork-infused (lardons and "pork bread croutons") creation!

Piercing into the salad's poached organic egg with the tines of my fork, I'd released the runny yolk and folded it into the salad, creating a decadent dressing. And served with generous shavings of parmesan, procuring a "loaded" forkful presented no problem for my friend nor for myself. It is certain that I was pleased with the dish; the only dismay was regarding the lardons which were much too thin for myself to consider them lardons and the pork bread croutons which simply seemed to be croutons. However, I still cannot forget the taste of the house-cured guanciale!

For our final savory course, our palates agreed upon lobster macaroni and cheese. Now, I am one to order a pasta dish as often as I am one to order pancakes (near to never). But when it comes to lobster, the deliberation is more likened to me acquiescing to an invitation. Furthermore, our server was quick to bolster our decision with a reassuring It's what we're known for! 

When the heartily-portioned entrée was placed before us, I peered into its shallow bowl filled with (what appeared to be) gemelli pasta, lusciously slathered with a creamy, but light coating of asiago, pecorino romano and parmigiano-reggiano cheeses along with a lobster cream and truffle oil. Now, I'm somewhat of the school of thought that turns its nose up at the use of truffle oil (give me a freshly-shaved truffle, or nothing at all!); but in this case, its prudent usage only added to the dish and did nothing to distract from the simple (yet stellar) ingredients. As for the lobster meat in the dish: we'd only wished that there was more of it (and facetiously remarked that there was only ⅛ of a tail). Yet, this is not to say that I was disillusioned with the dish; I already have plans on enjoying it again.

For our final--sweet--course, my dining companion and I decided against sharing, which brought me "full circle" with my selection of an Arthur Avenue (house-filled) cannolo. The cannolo could not have been more perfect and with a glass of brut cava, my meal ended just as well. 

At the risk of sounding cliché: All's well that ends well. (Wait--that's two, isn't it?)

Indian Road Café, 600 W. 218 Street, Inwood (212) 942-7451
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