Tagmo in New York is unique for its mouth-watering Indian cuisine and its staff of women of color

Nestled on New York’s historic Front Street, just below the South Street Seaport, Tagmo seems perfectly situated, as it is here that Clippers and 19th century tall ships, carrying spices from around the world, are docked, and Tagmo’s menu is an explosion of those spices in every dish.

Tagmo (which in Bhutanese means tigress, the symbol of feminine strength throughout South Asia, a design you’ll see on the wall) is both Chef Surbhi Sahni’s labor of love and a commitment to employing women of color. The menu, she says, is based on “home-cooked regional dishes and sweet delicacies from across India that tell our stories of migration, cultural exchange and self-determination in the diaspora.” In other words, it’s another wonderful Manhattan story.

Sahni was previously a creative force behind Devi, Tulsi and Saar Bistro in Midtown, as well as Creative Director and Events Director at Hemant Mathur Catering. Tagmo’s premises seem to fit its style and intentions like a glove.

In the front are her beautifully wrapped sweets and pastries; Up some red brick steps is a well-lit, brightly colored dining room with a watercolor-stained velvet banquette, black and white Persian tile floor, navy blue glass light fixtures with gold tassels and a Patagonian stone bar with golden highlights. The walls are in half-slatted wood, matching the color of the polished tables, and the wall painted with foliage and birds. The table is set with rustic china and ceramics and folded yellow napkins.

The bar serves a range of exotic spiced cocktails and the sake, beer and wine lists are created to match the intensity of the seasonings. The brunch menu offers paoIndian street sandwiches with chili ketchup and masala fries.

At Tagmo, everything is meant to be shared, which is a good part of the fun, with no dishes over $27, and there’s a helpful diet key: “gf=gluten-free v=vegan veg=vegetarian; low spice levels = no heat · mild = little heat · medium = medium heat · spicy = very hot. When it comes to Indian cuisine, heat is not so much a determining factor as balance, some of which is based on religious tradition, all based on health. The menu is plant-based, but not entirely, so you can start with vegetable plates like khatta meetha chat ($15), which is a salad of peas, mangoes, cucumbers, crispy potatoes and the aptly named “devil’s chutney” Delhi-style. The plate of rolls ($15) is not just a basket of bread, but fried rolls stuffed with paneer cottage cheese, green chiles, onions, cilantro and tomato chili sauce, this which is wonderful as a starter, especially because it is quite sweet but full of spices. sabudana vada ($17) is a Maharashtrian dish of tapioca cakes with potatoes, roasted peanuts, curry leaves, green chillies, mint and a rich peanut yogurt chutney, which really shows off the delicacy of the seasonings intertwined where none dominates the others.

At Mamiji’s gobi matar ($15) is another Delhi item featuring sautéed cauliflower, peas, cumin seeds and green chilies, while Baingan Paratha ($17) is a lush dish of Bihari smoked eggplant with caramelized sweet onions, green chilies, and a splash of mustard oil, served with yeast paratha bread. There is always a daily dal ($17) slow-cooked lentils, also served with paratha.

Non-vegetarians, like myself, will happily enjoy these dishes, but meats and seafood are not overlooked at Tagmo, so die-hard carnivores have delicious options like haleem on Toast ($21), a succulent dish of slow-cooked goat meat with cracked wheat for texture, lentils, caramelized onions, cilantro, and a blend of 32 spices that pair so well you can’t not count them all; it is served on a toasted baguette. Gushtaba is a Kashmiri dish of minced lamb meatballs simmered in cream sauce, lamb broth and ground Kashmiri red chillies served with rice ($27). Oddly enough, while Indian rice is very aromatic, the rice served at Tagmo has little flavor on its own, so the sauces come in handy. Murg khatta pyaz($25) is a traditional dish that is first roasted in the tandoori oven and cooked with tomatoes, cashew cream, ghee butter, pickled onions, ginger, garlic and cilantro, served with paratha. It’s a perfect study in the balance of richness, smoke and seasoning.

I too often find Indian seafood dishes overcooked, especially those made in tandoori, but the Tamil style of Tagmo meen varuval ($25) was an impeccably juicy seared fish of the day, infused with plenty of flavor from whole red chilies, ginger and garlic, served with coconut chutney to cool things down and a medley of spicy potatoes and of bell peppers, a shiny dish and one that’s milder than you might expect from these peppers.

Eral Chukka ($27) are prawns sautéed in ghee with Kashmiri chilies, peppercorns, cumin seeds, tamarind and yogurt served with bengali kitchi rice and lentils. That these spices do not mask the essential flavor of the shrimp is proof of the skill of the kitchen.

For dessert, there’s a palate-calming rice pudding with macerated berries and rose syrup ($11) and a selection of six Indian sweets ($15).

I for one have never eaten any of these dishes at any other Indian restaurant in New York, where by and large the menus lean towards the rich cuisine of Mughal and Punjabi cuisines. Tagmo are more subtle and never lopsided, and the care and service that Sahni and her staff show at each table makes a guest feel like part of an extended Indian family rather than being satisfied by the same dozen renditions. of tikkas, vindaloos and rogan josh.

TAGMO Indian food and sweets

226 Front Street

New York, NY 10038

212-285-2253

Tagmo is open every evening for dinner and on Saturdays. & Sun. for brunch.

About Francis Harris

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