Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to a new Indian spot in the Union Square/Gramercy area.
Jimmy Rizvi, the owner of this contemporary Indian restaurant on the border of Gramercy and Union Square, clearly put a ton of care, energy, and money into making Gupshup something of a spectacle. There's the gleaming tiffin box installation that runs up the entire two-story wall near the entrance. There's the pair of specially commissioned murals—the tiger upstairs is particularly hungry for attention. And the clutter of vintage telephones, typewriters, radios, incense burners, and all manner of knickknacks shipped in from the home country. Multiple chandeliers, two backlit bars, lounge areas, photos from old Bollywood, and an imported, 1.5-ton door round out the overwhelming decor.
It's only been a open a week, but currently the service at Gupshup can be a bit of disaster. At least in my experiences, the food arrived sporadically or all at once, depending on the night. Forgotten and incorrect orders were common in my area—most seriously, a dish with booze was delivered to a guest who specifically said he can't have any alcohol—and we all received our lavish chutney platter as a kind of grand finale, after most of the other food was already eaten, forcing an additional round of naan or rice just to have something to sop up the sauces.
Like the restaurant's decor, the Gupshup menu is a bit extra, with things like guacamole, ramen, and Pulled Jackfruit Tacos making their appearance in the Small Plates section. I tried the latter at the suggestion of my server and it was mostly just mushy, though the spicy vinaigrette on the leaves of kale had a nice kick. Fortunately, chef Gurpreet Singh, formerly of Indian Accent and Punjab Grill, is talented and attentive enough to send out plenty of other winners from his kitchen.
By far the best things I ate at Gupshup were the classics, which also happen to be among the cheapest items on the menu. The Chicken Tikka, for example, is superb, a stack of beautifully-cooked bird with enough fire to make you appreciate your side order of also-quite-good Basmati Rice. Singh's Black Dal—"simmered dawn to dark" to a lovely thickness and depth of flavor—is possibly the best bowl of soup you'll have all winter. The Saag Panner is equally bold and comforting. And the House Chutney, when it finally arrives, is great, with enough excitement and genuine variety to warrant an order of four.
The two most expensive items on our table disappointed, the Lamb Shank mostly for its meager portion size (though the meat itself was tender and well seasoned). The saucer of Wild Himalayan Morels looked pretty, but the asparagus was woody, the scant mushrooms lost in the sauce, the whole thing undeserving of its price tag. The salty, one-note Shrimp and Sago was another higher-end dish that we regretted. And the regular butter and garlic Naan is the much better move than overly complicated mango and fennel Kulcha.
Is Gupshup trying to be a well-regarded destination restaurant, or a gimmicky after-work party scene? Feels like they're gunning for both both right now, and I'm not sure they can pull it off. That said, if you're craving Indian food in this part of town, and want to sit somewhere new and lively while eating it, you can have a great meal here, for not too much money, if you stick to the basics.
Gupshup is located at 115 East 18th Street between Park Avenue South and Irving Place, and is open Sunday to Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Thursday to Saturday until midnight (212-518-7313; gupshupnyc.com)