Dining at Haveli restaurant in Forest Hills is a truly exotic experience, with Indian cuisine that isn’t typically found at other restaurants, whether authentically subcontinental or American-influenced.
The menu reflects a wide range of niche dishes from across India, while the average Indian restaurant only offers entrees from the popular coastal regions.
From the rustic tandoori kababs of the North-West Frontier Province to the aromatic mughlai cooking of Lucknow and Hyderabad and the delicate seafood cooking of coastal cities are simultaneously celebrated at Haveli.
Among the restaurant’s offerings is a broad selection of vegetarian cuisine, from traditional dishes for the everyday diner to complex preparations appealing to the culinary adventurer.
Guests are first greeted with the traditional papad — a light and crisp lentil cracker served with three separate dipping sauces. Your waiter stands by, ready and willing to answer any questions about the unique menu options.
As you wait for your dish to arrive, it’s easy to become distracted by the grandiose decor of the space, from the crystal chandeliers to the beautiful oil paintings that evoke the mystery of the subcontinent.
A haveli is a traditional Indian mansion that usually has some sort of historical or architectural significance — exactly what the restaurant’s dining room evokes.
The food is exquisite. Lamb predominates the menu, whether it’s appetizers like the seekh kebab, a minced kebab seasoned to give just the right kick, or the gosht pasanda, a lamb filet stuffed with apricots and roasted in its own juices.
Other choices include lamb vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, methi tilapia and balti gosht, a tender goat dish. Basmati rice complements the entrees.
The lentil dishes, which come in generous portions and can be ordered either as a meal or as a side dish to share, provide a unique dining option.
All meals are served on copper plates that look like they’re straight from the intricately decorated homes that give Haveli its name, and come with matching spoons that just add to the grandeur.
From the decor to the china, the velvety sauces to the tender meats, everything at Haveli is a delight — but one has not lived until the paan is tried.
Paan is a traditional vanilla ice cream made with the leaf of the betel plant and areca nuts to create a palate-cleansing dessert with a hint of licorice and crunchy and smooth textures that surprise. It’s a treat that alone would be worth a trip to this little slice of India in Forest Hills, but so is every part of your meal at Haveli.
Where: 116-33 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills
Open: Monday-Thursday, noon-10:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon-11:30 p.m.