Basera: Indian Food, Belly Dancing & Drag Brunch

I recently ventured back to Basera in Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of midtown Manhattan. I’ve dined in this establishment many times and was invited to check in and discover their latest offerings. Raj Kumar greeted me warmly as the new generation, under the leadership of his family’s establishment — a restaurant that has been in business for well over a decade. He is implementing very creative but also unconventional ideas for today’s diners. It makes sense, while maintaining the traditions of Northern Indian cuisine.

Here is what I discovered:

Basera in Hindi means “shelter” or “large home for everyone” as Raj explained to me while setting up a dartboard. Yes, a dartboard in an Indian Restaurant. Like I said, he is making some changes to the business. I understood this explanation of Basera to mean all-inclusive and joining together locals, visitors from everywhere and gathering together for an authentic dining experience and a mountain of Indian spice. While the interior décor is subtle and less colorful than days in the past, the food on my plate was vibrant and flavorful. Let’s follow his lead.

For carnivores, the Mixed Grill is a good start. The succulent meat is tender, fresh and comes with a variety of combinations including chicken, veal, etc. If you would prefer grilled vegetables, that dish includes a selection of tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, onions and cauliflower. Everything was fresh, tasty and satisfying. GF? Yes!

For many years, Basera has been known for their Chicken Chettinad (above) cooked in black pepper, curry leaf and red chili sauce. It can also be prepared with your choice of lamb, fish, shrimp or vegetables. (I will return for this dish.) The menu also includes traditional items like Tandoori Chicken, Korman — a mild Kashmir special prepared in garlic and onion curry with a hint of almond sauce or Saag — made
with yogurt, spices and herbs cooked in fresh spinach puree. You select your protein. They also offer an extensive menu for vegetarians and vegans.

Spices and aromatics are at the very heart of Indian cooking. They have been used since ancient times for health, healing and taste. Some like it hot and some like it mild. I prefer the heat and that’s why the red condiment happens to be my favorite. Just ask your server and they will explain the difference. From asafoetida to cardamom, cinnamon and curry, my dinner was accented with robust flavor. The health benefits are another story.

When it comes to hospitality and being greeted, you will more than likely meet Bjorn (above). He will show you to your table or take care of you at dinner, during their Sunday Brunch Party or Belly Dancing Nights. I did mention that Raj has made some major changes to Basera — this is part of what makes the place lively and most specifically on the weekends.

On Sundays, the restaurant is host to a “Neighborhood Knock Down” brunch from NJ, PA and CT with drag queens, dancers, singers, performers, etc. — Basera Brunch Party features various artists and performers that only New York City attracts. You can drink adult beverages and dine on a mix of Indian cuisine or a traditional brunch menu including eggs, waffles, pancakes. Go for the show but stay for the cuisine; both are vividly colorful and delicious.

They also have belly dancing performances on several evenings with professional dancers who perform in between courses.

As I mentioned before, Raj is making major changes to Basera. He will greet you warmly, the service is good and the cuisine is authentic, furthermore, I doubt that he will turn down a game of darts if you challenge him.

Don’t be shy!

Check out their website for more information:

745 9th Avenue
New York NY

Tel: 212.757.9787