Indian Buffet Takes Over Old East Ocean Space


The space that used to be occupied by the cheap Chinese food place East Ocean (on 55th btw. Lex+3rd) has finally been filled by Apna Taj, an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. I’m willing to go up to $11 for an all you can eat buffet, so this one (for $10.50) just makes it under the cap. It’s kind of ballsy to open up another Indian buffet 2 doors down from the upscale Darbar Grill (which is only 45 cents more expensive), and a ML reader has already sent me an email crying out for a head-to-head.


“Both hover just below $11, so they’re within your price-range. The newest buffet, Apna Taj, deserves a look just to see if it merits taking up the space of a Chinese restaurant you reviewed so highly. Their neighbor, Darbar Grill, goes the upscale route with a buffet that [the other day] featured 4 different types of salad, sweet potato croquettes, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, goat curry, Goan fish curry, palak paneer, a yogurty version of baingan bhartha, channa masala, daal, a made-to-order dosa station and 3 different desserts ranging from gulab jamun to crème caramel. And surprisingly for Midtown East, I wasn’t the only Desi mixing chutneys over his sweet potatoes to make chaat. It seems like they’ve gotten themselves quite the following. Best regards, Omar”

I peeked into both on Friday, and even without trying them I think it’s kind of hard to not declare Darbar Grill the automatic winner. They have 3 times as many options as the newly opened Apna Taj, and the made to order dosa station kind of seals the deal. Clearly I need to try both, but sometimes looks do tell the story. And from the looks of this, Apna Taj is going to have to charge a lot less than $10.50 to lure people away from Darbar Grill.

Apna Taj, 159 East 55 St (btw. Lex+3rd), 212-223-0010

Darbar Grill, 157 E 55th St (btw. Lex+3rd), 212-751-4600


  • Been to Apna Taj–good, but not a standout. I think the $0.45 discount vs. Darbar Grill is what got me in the door.

    The curries are pretty good, and the nan is actually superb. Variety is somewhat limited. Service is very attentive and pleasant.

    Oh–also, they have a “little-person” barker outside Apna. I was too bewildered and guilty not to go in after seeing that.

  • Made to order dosas? I’m there.

  • I’ve had the weekend lunch buffet at Darbar – it’s quite good, but doesn’t have the spread of the weekday lunch (at least it didn’t when i went).

    They also have a good weekday take out lunch box – two curries and rice and bread for under 10 bux.

    I’m glad they’re busier – place was empty when I went on the weekend.

    I live in the ‘hood – it’s nice having a tasty option that’s open on the weekend.

  • Have ordered from Apna Taj for delivery. Nothing great. If you want an underrated Indian place with very good food (for me, even better than the upscale 58th street places), try Nirvana on Lexington between 39th and 40th street.

  • Dosas do sound awesome. And to think I used to work right by there. Gotta go back now.

  • KA- The guys who own Nirvana are the same guys who own Darbar Grill, as well as Darbar on 46th and Indian Taj downtown. Nirvana is great- they have a happy hour with 2 for 1 beers and free appetizers.

  • What kind of camera did you use to take that picture?? The sharpness and contrast are amazing!!!

  • Vishal,
    Which Nirvana has the happy hour , google shows there’s one on Lexington and another one on Central Park South. Which do you go to?

  • I had a stomach upset the one time i ate there, but i do have a weak stomach lining so i would not blame the restaurant.

    The paneer makhani was tasty, and the papdi chaat (i think) was really good

    Owner was kind to give us some free sheera (sweet dish) at the end

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