Restaurant Review: "Bay Leaf" an Oasis in a Wasteland of Indian Food

June 28, 2012 3:54 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
indian food
Delicious "Bay Leaf" on N5th and Bedford. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Fun Fact: It's not just Egg. There are two other wonderful restaurants on the bustling corner of Bedford Avenue and North Fifth St. One of them, Juliette, appears to be doing reasonably well: its charming interior and good bistro fare attracting both a loyal fan base and, on weekends, people who are in the mood for brunch but don't want to wait hours to be seated next door. It's a genius business model; offering people a choice between the Mecca they came for and the chance to be seated immediately, comparatively.

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Unfortunately for the taste buds of most, such results can't be replicated by Bay Leaf, the newcomer Indian restaurant one door west of Egg. My sincere hope is that this article will, in no small part, help amend that. While it's true that you've probably made the journey from other areas of the city to either get to Egg, have brunch, or both-- find it in yourself to adjust your appetite for some of the best darn Indian food in New York City.

What do I mean by best: I mean that it's incredibly flavorful, and cheap as all heck-- with all the trappings of one of those "authentic-hole-in-the-walls" that everyone wants to be the first to know about. An undesigned interior that is kept clean by the very friendly, very attentive staff there allows Bay Leaf to focus on what's really important: the food. This isn't just about satisfying a craving for Indian food, where you're in the mood for vindaloo so any approximation of that taste will do. This is the kind of food that'll make you go, "Oh, wait, whoa. Whoa. How?"

And like I said, the food is plentiful and cheap. The star of the menu is a large portion of their Sag Ponir (more commonly transliterated as Saag Paneer) which comes to your table sizzling hot, bursting with flavor coming from fresh spinach, cooked down and perfectly spiced, and loaded with homemade fresh paneer cheese. It comes with a reasonably sized and very good order of basmati rice. A couple dollars more will get you two samosas filled with aloo gobi-- tender potatoes and peas finished with garam masala. The samosas are flavorful as well, if not just a little oily.

For twelve bucks and change, you get a dinner you can't finish-- and one that keeps very well into the next evening. For those of you out there who are meat eaters, their tikka masalas and tandooris solve the problem of every other version of the dish out there: all the meats they use are tender (admittedly, much of that tenderness comes from butter) and the marinades are busting with flavors that play well off of one another.

The restaurant satisfies exactly what we want when we think of Indian food, when we think of Indian food. Williamsburg, which has long been a wasteland for good Indian food. As such, it makes no sense to give it the anemic, meaningless honor of being the best in the neighborhood. It's just a gosh darn good restaurant, Indian or otherwise, and should be thought of as the first answer to the question, "What's good around here and cheap?"

The great food and friendly folks at Bay Leaf, who don't enjoy long lines and wait lists, are truly worth the visit. Egg will be still be there waiting for you, next time.

Grade: A-

Bay Leaf

135b North 5th Street

Brooklyn, NY 11211


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