MURRAY HILL — A national restaurant chain serving South Indian cuisine recently opened its first Manhattan outpost in Curry Hill.
Paradise Biryani Pointe, which launched five years ago and has 30 locations in the United States, hopes to stand out from the Curry Hill competition with family recipes prepared at the speed of fast food.
“We are usually a fast-casual restaurant, but we wanted to take care of the Manhattan crowd in a different way, so this location is a little more formal," said owner Raj Gowlikar.
The 77 Lexington Ave. restaurant's signature is biryani, $13 to $18, a centuries-old dish made of slow-cooked meat and rice.
Gowlikar, 38, a New Jersey resident, wanted to find a way of speeding the cooking process of biryani, which usually takes four hours to make at home, without losing the taste and texture.
“We’ve taken one of the hardest dishes and made it simplified,” Gowlikar said. "This is my mother's recipe, but my wife, Shala, has worked on it for about five years.
"The tough part was [the] consistency," he added. "That's the reason people love my biryani."
Another highlight is the restaurant's variety of chilled desserts for the summer, Gowlikar said. The most popular is called khubani ka meetha, $6, which is made of apricots that are soaked overnight then cooked with sugar and served with crème or ice cream, he said.
Another sweet favorite is the gil-e-firdaus, $5, which is made from chilled grated squash, fried in butter and served with syrup milk and nuts.
Paradise Biryani Pointe has outposts in 15 states, including Texas, California and New Jersey, and it has one other New York City location in Jackson Heights.
The Murray Hill restaurant, which opened on July 20, has just 70 seats, fewer than the chain's other locations, and it is the first to offer sit-down service, Gowlikar said.
The menu also features dishes such as kati rolls, masala wings, chicken or shrimp tikka and samosas.
The new store does not have a liquor license, but customers are welcome to bring their own wine or beer, Gowlikar said.
“We do food as it’s traditionally done in India, but we Americanized and simplified the process," he said, "and enhanced the flavor and taste."