I never pass up a chance to venture into my old stomping grounds and discover which of my favorite restaurants are still thriving and what new gems have arised. To my surprise Drunken Munkey was located just a few doors down from my old UES apartment. Before being seated the hostess hung up our coats and parked us at lovely corner table for two. The decor was magnificent dazzling with elephant coat hooks, intricate cricket-ball doorknobs and chandeliers decorated with eccentric hand-carved monkeys. Everywhere you looked tiny monkeys hung over your head swinging on the gorgeous light fixtures. A true feel of old Bombay takes over as you set foot into the warm and intimate space. Bartenders dressed in Nehru jackets and female servers in traditional, colorful Bollywood dresses.
What was unique about this eatery was the full-craft bar. Bartenders tended to guests concocting traditional Indian beverages. On the cocktail menu drinks ranged from Paanch, a 5-ingredient Indian punch to frothy beverages like the Gymkahana Swizzle (rum, port, fresh mint, freshly squeezed lime juice). You couldn't go wrong with any of the cocktail options. Drunken Munkey also offers a wide range of wine options, which was my drink of choice. As we sipped our drinks we started to browse over the menu. With tons of small plate options, traditional classics and Anglo-Indian specialties, many of the options are replicas of owner, Arun's mother's own original recipes. First off the menu we ordered the Paani Puri (crispy flour puffs, aloo and chick pea chaat, tamarind mint water, $6). These tiny, flaky puffs came out in a porcelain escargot plate and were served up so pretty. Filled with a sweet minty water, each bite burst in your mouth. The warmth of the puff paired nicely with the cold flavors inside. Next up was the Mutton Seekh Kababs (skewered hand-ground spiced mutton, mint chutney, $11). I've had this dish in other Indian eateries and these were by far the best. Grilled to perfection with a charred taste that paired just right with the fresh mint chutney.
As we finished devouring our small plates we decided to try two entrees to share. My guest ordered the Butter Chicken Tikka Masala (tandoori cubed chicken tikka, creamed tomato sauce served with naan, rice, lemon daal, raita and drunken spring onions, $17). A sweet yet savory dish, the chicken was extremely tender and the masala was creamy and buttery, just how we liked it. We couldn't help by dip our naan to sop up all of the delicious flavors. Being a lover of pork and heat (I am one for ordering my dishes extra spicy), I decided on the Anglo-Indian Specialty Goan Pork Vindalu (cubed pork shoulder, spicy chili-vinegar tomato sauce, $17). The distinguished flavors and taste between the two dishes showed how much the technique of cooking and ingredients vary from region to region. This dish was delectable and filled with tender pork, spicy chili flakes and a tangy sauce perfect for dipping our warm naan, if there was any leftover! Every dish had its own flavors and truly left a mark on every guest. The table over raved about their plates of Biryani while the couple to the right of us dished on Sindhi Fish Curry (monk fish, fenugreek sauce, $18). A simple dish that taste like no other curry. The aromas from across the way lingered through our noses. We couldn't get enough.
As we wrapped up the evening delicious, home-made chocolate rum balls danced across our table. It didn't end there. We also spooned into the Gajar Halwa (carrot pudding flavored with cardamom, rosewater and pistachio, $6). Unexpectedly delicious. We couldn't stop scooping the sweetness into our mouths. It was the perfect indulgence to end our evening.
Drunken Munkey is currently opened for brunch and dinner. Stop by until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m on weekends for some late night eats and drinks.
Drunken Munkey: 338 E 92nd Street, New York, New York 10128. Tel: 646.998.4600.