My best friend Jessica Bartolini and I used to enjoy the $4.95 lunch menus at the Indian restaurant row on 6th St. and 2nd Ave on Manhattan’s Lower East Side whenever we had a half day in high school. During my five-year vegetarian phase (quite the shocker), we both made a habit of ordering the vegetable korma for its creamy coconut and cardamom goodness. I later moved onto the chicken korma, half wishing that the Indian chefs would just go ahead and desecrate the cow and serve up some beef korma.
Unsurprisingly, my first order at Bangalore Pub & Curry House during my second week in Argentina was the beef madras, which was annotated with three chili peppers on the menu. Catering to the mild Argentine palate, the dish would’ve needed some more chili peppers to merit 3 peppers on the menus in New York. Thankfully, Bangalore offers a house hot sauce-a bottle of spicy and flavorful red chili oil.
Jessica and I reunited here in Buenos Aires for a week in February, and, as habit dies hard, we went to two of the four most popular Indian restaurants here: Bangalore and Katmandú. The menus were in Spanish, and the general offering of dishes differed a bit, offering an exciting variation to our old routine.
Sitting by the bar at the Brit-style Bangalore, we chatted and dined as in old times. She ordered the pumpkin curry, as I had predicted. Like the Argentines, she possesses a penchant for pumpkin, and gleefully reveled in its popularity here, enjoying plates of pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin tart. Her pumpkin curry was indeed excellent! I, on the other hand, ordered my favorite Indian dish in Buenos Aires, the murgh saag. The thick consistency of the curry sauce, the tenderness of the chicken, the ratio of spinach-to-meat, the size of the portion, and, most importantly, the combination of spices all come to a perfect culmination at Bangalore. We left a couple hours later happy and full. Furthermore, both dishes, priced at about $35AR, were served with rice and/or naan.
A couple days later at Katmandú, which is known for being more authentic, we shelled out a bit more dough, which included a separate order of basmati rice at $12AR. But the portions were bigger, and that always makes me happy. I ordered the chicken do piaz, which consisted of chicken pieces cooked in a curry sauce of onion, tomato, cardamom and chili peppers. Served in the customary copper-toned steel bowl that was brimming with a steaming hot and vibrant red sauce with swirls of white yogurt, it looked better than it tasted, to be honest. Jessica had the aloo dum chutney walla, or potatoes stuffed with home-made cheese and cooked in a mint and coriander sauce. I preferred hers to mine, but I think I need to taste a few more dishes there. I can, however, conclusively say that Katmandú’s capacity for spiciness is authentically Indian.
Jessica returned to NY a few days later to leave me to trolley through Buenos Aires’ realm of Indian cuisine alone. I have tried the vegetarian spot, Krishna, which offers a cheaper, cozier and meatless alternatives, and the more high-end eatery befitting its Barrio Norte address, Tandoor, where, like Katmandú, you need to order basmati rice separately for $9AR, but unlike Katmandú, the portions are small.
Making just a couple more call-outs to Bangalore, I also recommend the green chicken korma which boasts a milder flavoring of green chili, cilantro and mint, lime peel and yogurt. On the other hand, I learned to avoid the misnamed butter chicken, which was not buttery at all, instead consisting of chicken pieces in a slop of what tasted like canned tomato sauce. That same night, I ordered a second entrée of the green chicken korma to ensure satisfaction of my tongue and stomach.
I have yet to try Katmandú’s sister restaurant, Mumbai, which is in the midst of moving to Palermo Hollywood, and opening its doors to the eager public in two weeks. It marks yet another culinary adventure for me. In the meantime, I know I can count on Bangalore’s murgh saag to satisfy my craving for rice mixed with tender chicken and hot savory brown curry. And I look forward to continuing on a painstaking process of trial-and-error at Katmandú before discovering a few more curries that make me go kookoo.
Avenida Córdoba 3547
Bangalore (cash only)
Krishna (cash only)
Opening on Honduras 5684