An Indian Feast Under the Tracks of the 7 Train
Adda in Long Island City Shifts the Narrative About Indian Cuisine
Adda Indian Canteen is pushing Indian food beyond take-out menus and all-you-can-eat buffets and capturing the attention of foodies across New York City.
At first glance the Queens restaurant is unassuming, with its small dining room across from Laguardia Community College and the rumble of the subway heard overhead. However, chef Chintan Pandya’s cooking has captured the hearts of food enthusiasts all over the city.
“They offer a modern twist on Indian cuisine, and I haven’t really seen that before,” says Adda regular Arvind Sindhwani, “It feels really authentic but with their own style.”
Sindhwani is certainly not the only fan of Adda: in the six months since it opened, publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, and Eater have raved about the restaurant, calling it “an oasis in a concrete jungle” and “the kind of Indian food the city has been hungry for.”
Adda’s success is somewhat unusual. While European cuisine is recognized for its high-brow cuisine, Indian food has long been ignored by connoisseurs of fine dining.
According to the New York City Department of Health, there are over 400 restaurants serving South Asian cuisine in the city. But while Indian restaurants outnumber French ones by almost 25 percent, French restaurants are featured almost five times more in New York Magazine’s Top 1000 Restaurants.
Adda owner Roni Mazumdar is well aware of the lack of good Indian food in the city.
“We were stuck to our buffets and steam tables with few and far-between restaurants serving ‘high end’ Indian food in really expensive places,” Mazumdar said.
In the 13 years since Michelin has reviewed restaurants in New York City, only one Indian restaurant, Junoon in Midtown Manhattan, has been awarded a Michelin Star. Pandya used to work at that restaurant before ultimately settling in Long Island City.
Diverting from the high brow cuisine they cooked at previous restauratns, Pandya and Mazumdar established Adda to serve “unapologetic down-home cooking.”
Sindhwani says the flavorful food at Adda is refreshing, since too many other Indian restaurants in the city are “kind of bland.”
“They have spices and stuff, but it’s not as strong as the Indian food I grew up eating,” he said.
At Adda, authenticity is one of their central philosophies. Rather than modify the food for American palettes, they stick to their roots.
“For far too long, Indian cuisine has been one dimensional to the West,” Mazumdar said, “For the last few decades, we have been seeing somewhat of a bastardized version of our food. We wanted to create a different narrative.”
In just six months, Adda has become one of the city’s hottest restaurants and shows no signs of stopping. Its widespread acclaim from locals and critics alike points to Indian representation among traditionally revered culinary giants. However, they say they cook for their community, not for the accolades.
“Contrary to even our own expectation, there is a massive hunger in New Yorkers for authentic flavors,” Mazumdar said, “More than the media coverage, we are excited to see Indian food becoming a part of the conversation.”