By Meredith Mani
The first thing our family does when we move to a new city is to search for good Indian restaurants. Whether in New York, Washington, D.C., Bangalore or Amsterdam, good Indian food is what has bonded and sustained us over the years. When I married an Indian man 20 years ago, I knew I'd better learn to make the food of his homeland.
Knowing how to cook Indian food makes me a pretty harsh critic of restaurant food. Four restaurants in Amsterdam have become favorites. Three are sit-down restaurants that are perfect for a date night or a meal with friends. The fourth is street food served in a vibrant, casual environment.
Van Woustraat 212, 1073 NA Amsterdam
Tulsi has great service that starts with red ropes outside the door and continues to the tables with attentive waiters. They have vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings and even a children's menu with butter chicken (which is what all kids want at an Indian restaurant). Pani Puri is a family favorite dish, and Tulsi’s version does not disappoint. It is a crispy shell stuffed with potatoes and mild spices that you dip in flavored water. My description doesn't do it justice. It's addictive. Tulsi has super tandoori offerings and executes them well. The portions aren't huge but you'll leave satisfied if you share a dish or two with your table mates. For something different, try Bharta, Tulsi's smokey, slightly spicy roasted eggplant dish.
Van Woustraat 240, 1073 NC Amsterdam
Tulsi and Pind Punjabi are just steps from each other on van Woustraat. Both restaurants are delicious but offer different takes on familiar dishes.
Pind Punjabi has several dishes that will be familiar, but it sets itself apart by offering a few extra items that will surprise you. They have a dazzling array of lamb and fish entrees. Where most restaurants offer one or two biryanis, Pind Punjabi has four. The Persian Biryani is especially memorable. While Butter Chicken is their signature dish, they offer a few chicken entrees that are hard to find. Chicken Kashmiri is slightly sweet with an undercurrent of aromatic spices. Paired with hot and spicy Chicken Madras, the combination plays nicely off each other.
Leidsedsedwarsstraat 203, 1017 RB Amsterdam
I love the vibe of Mayur with its tiny matchbox Hindu gods decorating the walls. Fun fact: you can buy one if you really like them. This place is always busy and for good reason — the food and service are consistently good. Mayur's highlight is the fun tasting menu. You can try small servings of several dishes and has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The food comes on one big plate with small bowls of each item placed around the rim. The classic curries here are all wildly rich and hearty. Grab a few friends and treat yourself to a meal at Mayur if you haven't been.
Indian Street Food & Co.
Karel Doormanweg 12, 1181 WE Amstelveen
Indian Street Food is a fairly well-guarded secret in the Indian community. Since opening last year, Indians from all over The Netherlands pack the restaurant on weekends to eat this truly authentic homey food. Plan to grab a bench in this brightly colored cafe and eat your way through the menu. It's that good and unique. They offer four types of food: Roadside curries, Bombay Brasserie, Desi Chinese and Street drinks. Indian Street Food serves some of the best Pani Puri. I could eat three plates. Try the Railway Bhel Puri for an authentic snack rarely found outside of India. Gobhi Manchurian, a dish on the Desi Chinese menu, is cauliflower fried in chickpea batter and tossed in a mildly spicy sauce. You could argue that it's good for you. Indian Street Food is so busy they don't take reservations or orders over the phone. That's okay though because experiencing the chaos there makes it feel a lot like being in India without the expense of flying.