Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to LIC for some spectacular Indian food.
It's not the most obvious location for one of the season's most exciting new restaurants. Adda, a contemporary "Indian Canteen," sits on a highway-like stretch of Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, on the other side of the tracks from all the new luxury residential towers on Jackson Avenue. Adda's only neighbors for blocks are a 7-Eleven, a Kung-Fu school, and a National Guard Career Center. Across the six-lane street looms the backside of LaGuardia Community College. There's really no pleasant way to get here.
Once you're inside though, Adda is welcoming, comfortable, and, on two visits over the weekend, borderline hopping. Per the website, Adda means "a place where people hang out," and the kitchen's deliberate pacing and staff's divided attention clearly encourage a relaxed, leisurely meal. It's not slow, exactly, but you'll never feel rushed, or like anyone's priority is turning tables. And owner Roni Mazumdar is chatty and patient if you need help navigating the menu. All of which is good news, because the prices are low enough that you can try a lot of different dishes during one meal.
The restaurant seats about 40, at a raised communal six-top near the window, a row of tables down one side of the long room, a "chef's counter" type of situation in the back, and a little nook behind the host's stand. One wall is completely plastered with newspapers from India, and a shelving system with plants does a nice job of obscuring Thomson Avenue, but otherwise there's not much going on here, design-wise. Which is totally fine, because the real reason you've come is Chef Chintan Pandya's exceptional cooking.
Chef Pandya has some fancy Michelin star experience in his background, at Junoon in the Flatiron, and he's already partnered with Mazumdar at the popular Rahi in the West Village. But Adda, with its "unapologetically authentic Indian food," feels like a true passion project, and we get to reap the fruits of all that love. Take the Tandoori Poussin, which is the best chicken I've eaten all year. This is a clay-oven grilled whole bird (when I almost balked at ordering an entire chicken as one of the five dishes I was planning on eating by myself, Mazumdar scoffed and assured me that "it's a small one"), the juicy meat is smothered in an outrageously flavorful and fiery bird chili and vinegar sauce—a total messy joy to consume.
The Tandoori Gobi, which has a Buffalo wing vibe, but with cauliflower and amul cheese, is even more unapologetic in its heat and intensity. It's also crazy delicious. Rounding out my Thoda Bhari selections over two meals was the Lamb Seekh Kebab, two tubes of heavily seasoned ground leg meat with a lively green chili dipping sauce. Over in the Halka Phulka section of the menu, don't miss the Dilli Pakodi Chaat, a plate of four hollow lentil fritters with a few chickpeas and a lot of chutney lurking inside. Use your hands and pop these beautiful things into your mouth whole. Also under snacks was the only disappointment of the weekend, the thickly-battered Kale Pakoda, which tasted mostly like "fried."
There are eight entree-sized Curries and Biryani at Adda, none of which cost more than $17. I can vouch for the extreme worthiness of two: the Junglee Maas, a goat curry with impossibly tender, wonderfully funky meat and plenty of heat; and the Seasonal Saag Panner, a pile of creamy greens packed with hunks of the soft, tangy cheese. Both of the above come with a heap of chewy Basmati Rice, but you should also get an order of the crisp, flaky Butter Naan to help sop up every bit. There's no beer license at Adda yet (go to the 7-Eleven for that), but the Mango Lassi is thick and refreshing and serves well as an occasional palate cleanser as you gleefully plow through your feast.
A thrilling meal awaits you at Adda if you're willing to trek out to industrial LIC. And remember, they pass along their dreary-block-cheap-rent savings right to the customer. Reservations accepted and recommended. See you there, I'm going back as soon as I can.
Adda is located at 31-31 Thomson Avenue between 31st and Van Dam Streets, and is open for lunch and dinner from noon to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. (718-433-3888; addanyc.com)