At the behest of, well, just about everyone, S and I finally made a trip to Jackson Heights to see what all the fuss was about. Verdict? Not much.
Sure, Patel Brothers is great. We got lots of spices and made aloo mattar last night, which we mopped up with some precooked aloo parathas, since I am categorically unable to get the hang of traditional breads. And there are lots of stores glistening with ostentatious jewels of all kinds, and there are curry-a-minute shacks a grotty as those found in the back lanes of Old Delhi, but for some reason, some how, it just doesn't ring true.
In Chicago, when I went to Devon, it felt like I was stepping back into the insane traffic of the subconty; it felt like an outpost of civilization in a otherwise upturned world. In New York? I spent hours gazing at the RED palak paneer (red? since when is spinach RED?!) waiting for the buffet-hungry consumer in its ubiquitous chafing plate, feeling outside, outside, always outside. I know that yes, I'm technically not Indian, and yes, maybe I should feel like an outsider, but ... I can't put my finger on it; something just felt wrong to me there.
Any suggestions? Places to go for a delicious, authentic slice of South Asia? Or am I just being fussy, projecting my suspicions that Little Italy is really a tourist's playground, onto other supposedly "ethnic" (a term I don't particularly want to employ here, but so be it) neighborhoods?