Color, Light and Indian Food at Milon (aka “The Upper Left”)

Mark and I stood, last week, facing the building you see in the blurry picture below:

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We were on 1st Ave. and Mark sang the praises of a meal he’d consumed in this very building a few weeks earlier. “I just can’t remember which restaurant it was,” he said. “The upper left or the lower right?”

Just as he said that a man emerged from the lower right. [Note: You can’t tell by the picture, but there are two restaurants below the restaurants you can see.] The man said “Hello” but it wasn’t clear he was talking to us. Then he did something I’ll never forget. He took a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at Mark. “Come to my restaurant,” he said. “It’s very good.”

In my history of dining I’ve seen many tactics used to lure diners inside: all you can eat shrimp, topless dancers, free hot fudge sundaes. But paper throwing?

“Let’s go to the upper left,” I said and Mark concurred.

Once inside the upper left (restaurant Milon, if we’re going to be proper about it) I began to wonder if on that piece of crumpled paper was airborne LSD: was I tripping or did the room really look like this?

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Picture yourself on a boat on a river with tangerine trees and Indian food…

“Adam? Adam are you ok?”

Mark pulled me out of my trance. A waiter led us to our table and I stared transfixed at the ceiling.

“It’s like a magical electrical Indian wonderland,” I said.

“Isn’t it great?” said Mark.

I snapped another photo:

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And then a waiter asked us if we wanted anything to drink.

“I’ll have a gingerale,” said Mark.

“What the hell,” I said. “I’m not driving–I’ll have one too.”

We studied our menus and the prices astounded me.

“These prices astound me!” I said. “It’s so cheap.”

“I know,” said Mark. “That’s why I love this place.”

We agreed to share coconut samosas because where else can you get coconut samosas? Here they are, once delivered:

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What did they taste like? Well to be honest they tasted like fried dough with shredded coconut shoved inside. But is that bad? Of course that’s not bad. What could be bad with all that color and light?

“These are trippy,” I said.

As for our food, I couldn’t believe how much they gave us for so little money.

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Nan, rice, two chicken dishes (mine had almonds in it, but I can’t remember much else) and then a bowl with weird stuff in it.

“What’s in that?” I asked Mark.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’d avoid it.”

The food was decent–I’m not writing home about it (ok, I lied, I just wrote an e-mail: “Dear Mom, I ate Indian food last week and someone threw a piece of paper at my friend”)–but the environment and decor (have I mentioned the decor?) made up for it. And then, as if there could possibly be any more stimulation, the lights started flashing. It was someone’s birthday. Thank goodness I’d discovered the video feature on my camera!

And then, just to gild the lily, they brought us free mango ice cream:

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Eating at a restaurant is about stimulation. Most of us go to stimulate our tastebuds, but few of us go to stimulate our eyes. Restaurant Milon affords you that opportunity, but just be wary of the competing restauranteurs nearby. As Mark and I left, the proprietor of Upper Right literally GLARED at us through the glass door of his restaurant.

“That man hates us,” said Mark.

“I know,” I said.

We scurried down the stairs and leapt past the flying paper from Lower Right. Visual stimulation at dinner has its price.

20 comments

  1. I ate at Upper Right — many years ago. It was my first Indian food experience, I believe. It was decent back then. That is all I have to contribute.

  2. Talk about an assault on the senses! Coconut samosas??? Did it actually have the potato mixture with added coconut or was it just 100% coconut? Sounds more like a dessert if it’s the latter……I’ve never seen such a thing.

    Nice video work;)

    A

  3. My stupid ex-boyfriend and I had our first date at Upper Right. It was cheap, delicious and also had trippy lights and mango ice cream.

  4. Loved eating over there when I lived in NY. Looks like you ordered Chicken Tikka Masala. I would also reccomend the garlic Naan, Daal (which is just stewed lentils), Aloo Gobi (which is really just potatoes and peas) and my favorite Palak Paneer (spinach with tofu-like cheese pieces)

  5. For some reason your pictures never show up when I check your blog from work, but even so I know exactly what restaurants you are referring to! A friend of mine and I used to go there all the time and we’d split the assorted apps, each get an entree, and then of course the free dessert and leave paying only $10 each–including tax and tip! And she once surprised me by telling them it was my birthday–wow, that was a shock…

  6. I’m a fan of lower-left, myself, in spite of paper throwing. I live just around the block from there, if you ever want to try again =)

  7. Hey, I’ve been to lower right, and I wouldnt be surprised if all these places shared a kitchen. Lower right has a normal front dining room and a huge tent in the garden out back that’s tripped out like upper left. Food was also crazy cheap and very good. No one threw paper (in fact they were absolutely fawning over us), but they did bring us boatloads of food and a couple of desserts. Try it some time.

  8. Hi Adam, this is Mark K. from Emory. Long time reader, first time poster. I was inspired to comment because I used to go to that place all the time when I lived in New York. But I haven’t been there in years. Do upper left and upper right still have guys who stand outside when it’s busy and compete for patrons by offering them free food while they wait for a table? And does upper left still bring out the birthday mango ice cream to the tune of a techno remix of the macarena with Hindi lyrics? I really do need to go back there some time.

  9. I walked into Upper Left once and it freaked me out kind of a lot, so (like every other nyu/cooper union/new school kid) I went to Yummy House instead. mmmm. Yummy House. But anyways. That chicken looks good. I may have to brave those lights for it.

  10. I went to the upper left a few weeks ago! Another great thing about it is that’s it BYOB, although mixing extremely cheap vodka with extremely cheap Indian food is something that generally should be avoided…

  11. Did this place used to be Panna 2? The pictures are giving me fond memories. I live in upstate NY, but every trip to NYC (haven’t been there for 7-8 years) I always had to make a trip to Panna2. The lights!

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