Classic Tables: Amma Indian Restaurant in Midtown East

Indian, done right

Long before modern Indian food peppered the city, Amma was cooking down-home cuisine. Now, even after a decade, it still has not bowed to fusion's force.

The menu carries many Indian-restaurant classics, but it's the homey dishes starring vegetables that demand a trek to the restaurant wasteland of the East 50s.

Pick and choose any preparation that features a vegetable, or, better still, opt for the $50 tasting option, a menu that should be on every vegetarian and vegetable-lover's radar.

We advise ordering a tableful of appetizers, including the crispy spinach chaat ($6) and Bombay bhel puri ($6), a beautiful mess of stacked chickpea noodles and rice puffs mixed with tomatoes, red onion and potatoes and a veil of tamarind and cilantro chutneys.

Okra makes a roaring case for itself with kararee bhindi ($14). Sliced on the bias, the okra is coated with chickpea flour, fried and tossed with a spice cabinet's worth of flavor. It's a dish that will have you swearing to never talk down to this vegetable again. If you need additional convincing, try a side of raita ($5), which is also crowned with crunchy okra bits.

Big-name chefs such as Suvir Saran of Devi and Hemant Mathur of Tulsi once used this narrow ochre-walled space to launch flashier careers, but we'll take Mom's food any day.

Amma, 246 E. 51st St.; 212-644-8330 or ammanyc.com