By Scott Etkin
“We’re the first Indian restaurant in America that won’t deliver,” said chef Gaurav Anand, the owner of Baazi, the new Indian restaurant on Broadway between 97th and 98th Streets. “If you gave me a million dollars, I still wouldn’t deliver,” he insists as he leans across the table.
Hyperbole aside, many Upper West Siders consider Indian to be a go-to option for take-out. But Mr. Anand is attempting to shift this perception by separating the dine-in from the delivery experience in his two UWS ventures, Baazi and Awadh.
On the one hand, Baazi offers elements of Northern, Southern and Coastal Indian cuisine with a modern twist in a lively setting. On the other hand, Awadh operates as a ghost kitchen and does delivery only. The 3,000-square-foot kitchen at Baazi leaves enough room for the two operations to work in the same space but independently.
In 2014, Mr. Anand opened Awadh in the location where Baazi now resides. It had a strong following but the business was upended by the pandemic and the ensuing shift to delivery. “Delivery services took all our customers,” he said.
Feeling dejected, Mr. Anand was on the verge of closing Awadh. It was his landlord who insisted he give it another shot by trying something new. This was the genesis of Baazi – which means to “bet” in Hindi.
Mr. Anand’s vision for Baazi centered on quality. Whereas many downtown restaurants regularly serve 200 dinners a night, Baazi does only 90. Every day, Baazi receives portions of fish and shrimp that it will only use that day. “That’s how every restaurant in India cooks,” he said. Conversely, when doing delivery, quality control is harder to ensure, he said. Awadh’s menu has generally lower prices than Baazi’s.
The other piece of his vision was to make dining at the restaurant into an experience. Mr. Anand said he feels like he has to go downtown if he wants to go out for a drink. So he asked the question: “how do we get people to love their neighborhood restaurant?”
At Baazi, the music is bumping. The bright blue walls are decorated with a twisting pattern that continues onto the ceiling. When Awadh was still serving diners, the average meal would take around 45 minutes. “It was like a factory,” he said. At Baazi, by contrast, some diners stay for two hours or more.
Mr. Anand said that Baazi has been doing well since he opened the business in January – he mentioned that Instagram, where he has more than 53,000 followers, has been a source of growth. He also said that he has gotten more support from outside the UWS than from locals, and he encouraged Upper West Siders to give Baazi a try. “I want the Upper West Side to be the trendsetter,” he said.
Big fan of Awadh and can’t wait to try Baazi! Love the concept and his efforts to get UWSiders to go OUT.
“At Baazi, the music is bumping.”
The concept of the restaurant sounds amazing, but I don’t want my backgroung music, if any, to be “bumping”
I wish the owners well but I wonder if they are actually trying to create an upscale experience for locals as well as for his IG followers .
I agree. “Bumping’ music doesn’t sound relaxing or soothing, not what you want in a restaurant.
Yes, can’t talk over loud. Suicide.
I had precisely the same thought. The music is “bumping”? Thanks, but no thanks — especially if I would have to sit through it for “two hours or more” to have a meal.
If that’s what you’re offering, I’d much prefer to have delivery in the peace and quiet of my own home. Given this gentleman’s inclination, I’m happy to take that business elsewhere.
I was a big fan of Awadh, and was happy to try Baazi when it opened up. I was told on the phone that the new menu was similar to the Awadh menu. Not so. The Baazi menu is very small and lacks virtually all of the traditional Indian dishes that most folks go to an Indian restaurant for. Additionally, the music was uncomfortably loud. My dining companions and I left without ordering and walked a few blocks up Broadway to Manhattan Valley, where we had a lovely meal. It feels to me like the management of Baazi are trying to create a “buzz”, but I think they’re just shooting themselves in the foot. They’ve created a place that I believe very few people will go to more than once.
Oh, and those blue barstools with the really low backs? They’re really uncomfortable.
I like how his landlord talked him into opening during the pandemic, at a time when he never would have found another tenant to rent to.
No delivery? No take-out? Two hours for dinner? Bumping music? Not for this Upper West Sider. I appreciate trying to create an “experience” but realistically this is not how most of us want to dine and how many of us have hours to spend eating anything but a “once in awhile/special occasion” meal?
Is the no delivery got to do with ensuring the quality of the food? If so, how is it that so many other “high end” establishments still offer delivery or take-out?
Foods really good . There is delivery grubhud uber eats post mate.
We went last week & the food was outstanding but noise was deafening. Also it was spicy which we enjoy but our friends couldn’t eat some items & there was no warning on menu or from waiter. Waiter actually denied it was spicy!
This looks wonderful! And, when the transmission numbers get a little lower, I will be there.
Honestly, what is wrong with everyone? A new restaurant opens that’s meant to offer a nice dine-in experience and everyone whines and moans that it doesn’t deliver and that the food isn’t exactly like every other Indian restaurant they’ve ever been to or that, God forbid, there might be music.
Maybe, you know, TRY IT before attacking? The way I see it, an innovative menu is a GOOD thing. There are loads of Indian places on the UWS to choose from if you want more of the same, and they all deliver, so why complain about one that’s trying something different.
A little less negativity would be nice. I’m looking forward to trying Baazi and hope they make it.
Did try it. Food is quite good and a nice change from the endless tikka masala joints. However, it is insanely noisy and various gratuitous touches (table-side flambe? come on) and the decor are clearly purposed for instagramming.
Thank you UWS-er! This piling on to this poor business that, like all others, is struggling to survive right now, is disturbing, and does not feel like the UWS I’ve known for years.
Never mind that we should be grateful to HAVE these experiences, as people in the Ukraine surely don’t any longer.
I agree — booming music is a big turnoff
Don’t understand all the negative comments. The food is amazing and the music is lively but not so loud that it interferes with conversation (and I’m old). It may be the best restaurant in the neighborhood.
We went to Baazi and are HUGE fans of Awadh. Baazi food was really good. Its just too spicy for kids and the chefs cant make the items less spicy
I’m not quite sure even what “bumping” music is, however, when I dine out which is usually once or twice a week, I enjoy music that enhances the experience, not fights it.
I enjoy hearing Italian music, softly in the background while I’m enjoying my pasta dish or show tunes or pop singers while I’m at Sardi’s.
“Bumping” music belongs in an aerobics or spin class, not in a place where my husband and I are spending $100 plus for an evening out.
The restaurant you described is Scarlatto! They had the low volume Italian music etc. You should go there…Oh wait 😬 they closed!
“Be curious. Not judgmental.” – Ted Lasso
The lack of delivery for the Baazi menu doesn’t concern me at all. While some fine dining places have done delivery over Covid, it’s not ideal. I love the idea of a more upscale leisurely option that features elevated Indian food in person in a great atmosphere. But it doesn’t have to also be loud and supertrendy. The upscale places like Dagon with an atmosphere that appeals to locals seems to be doing really well,even without “bumping” music.
First of all they are still delivering the Awadh menu. Being from India, I have always admired the food at Awadh. It’s the opposite of generic Indian food in the US. Indian food is way more than a few heavy cream based dishes and naan and Awadh definitely delivered outside of those bounds.Happy to see them creating an experience for some of the food that should never be boxed.
Love Indian food.
Interesting concept to only offer dine-in service.
Sometimes it just takes one small miscalculation of your customer base to predict the fate of any business.
Sounds like a rough road ahead with such limited service.
I love Indian cuisine. I am willing to give this new version a chance if:
1. The indifferent, uncaring, occasionally hostile service of Awadh has improved; and
2. The music is, in fact, not “bumping”.
I was thinking the exact same thing. Awadah had the inattentive, unprofessional service that is a hallmark of most UWS restaurants.
Just returned home from Baazi and OH MY GOD I feel like have been waiting for an Indian restaurant like this my whole life. This place is sensational. The aroma, vibe, sights, and taste brought me back to New Delhi. The Butter Kalan Mushroom dish (seen above) was a standout. Their Old Monk Daiquiri cocktail was another winner. Chicken Tikka.. Paneer Tikka… Every dish we tried was a 10/10! I can’t wait to go back but I’ll be sure to make reservations ahead of time – I got lucky with a opening at 5:45. Not my ideal time to eat dinner but that was the only option left. Even though the restaurant was filled with diners, they didn’t rush us. What a gem of a place!! Can’t wait to return.
Baazi, like Awadh before it, does not post its sanitary grade.
All the other local restaurants comply with this code, but apparently this owner doesn’t think he needs to.
I’ll walk up the street to Manhattan Valley, thanks.