I’m the kind of Bitch who will try any kind of food once. Most cuisines I like, but a few of them I’m not wild about. Indian food used to fall into the latter category. It’s not that I disliked it–I just had to be in the mood for it. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has always been a huge fan. He eats it so frequently that he slowly but surely converted me, and I’m now obsessed with Indian cooking.
A few weekends ago, I rolled out of bed after having indulged in one too many beverages at Cocktail Magic the night before. I was seriously struggling, and needed something that would make me feel human again. Indian food always makes me feel better, but I also needed some hair of the dog. But where was I going to find a bottomless brunch, with an Indian twist?
Enter The Royal Munkey. Nestled on a corner of 2nd Ave. and E 25th St. in Kips Bay, the place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the interior is reminiscent of an old colonial study or library. Think dim lighting, plush seating, shelves lined with antiques, and detailed wallpaper.
One thing I noticed immediately is that monkeys are incorporated into much of the decor. They’re featured in the wallpaper and in the sconces on the wall. The namesake “royal” monkey is situated on the mirror behind the bar, complete with a crown on his head. I liked the whimsical decor.
For brunch, The Royal Munkey offers a special deal: $17 for an entree and one complimentary glass of coconut punch. You can pay $7 extra for bottomless coconut punch. We immediately placed our orders for the unlimited coconut punch, as well as a few food items so that we could try a little bit of everything from the menu.
Not only was the coconut punch absolutely delightful, it’s one of the more unique brunch cocktails I’ve had in the city. It had your typical juice base, but it tasted like some other kind of fruit juice rather than OJ. There was a hint of coconut, as well as cardamom, and it was topped off with a splash of fizzy soda.
When I asked our server what exactly was in this delicious concoction, she explained that the bartenders have free reign and tend to change up the recipe every few days. It usually consists of two to three spirits, mixed with anywhere from three to seven fresh fruit juices, a blend of spices like star anise or cardamom, all topped off with Sprite or ginger ale.
Once our coconut punches had brought us back to life a bit, we were ready to move on to the food portion of our brunch. We started off with sampling a few things from the street food section of the menu.
The Paani-Puri arrived to the table first. Our server recommended these, but warned us that they were probably a little different from any Indian food we’d had before. She mentioned Paani-Puri is a very popular street food dish overseas. Served in what looked like an escargot plate, these chick pea puffs were filled with cold tamarind mint water.
Our server was right–these were unlike anything I’d ever tried. They were a bit overwhelming at first, as you had to eat the puffs in one bite, and the cold tamarind mint water immediately filled your mouth. But it was such an incredible burst of flavor, and I have to admit that I ate the majority of this appetizer.
Next, we tried the Pao Bhaji sliders, which looked like mini sweet potato burgers. In reality, these patties consisted of spiced pea and potato mash and were served atop buttery pao-buns. Chopped red onions, apple butter chutney, and mint chutney were served on the side.
The patties were served cold, which I wasn’t expecting, and had a bit of a mushy texture. But once I got over this initial hurdle, oh man, were they good! They were so full of flavor, and the chopped red onions provided a nice crunch, while the mint chutney added the perfect amount of spiciness to the dish.
At the insistence of the owner, we also ordered the Bombay Bhel Puri. Made up of puffed rice, mint and tamarind chutney, cilantro, and lime and served with crisps, this is apparently one of the most popular street dishes in Bombay, India.
This reminded me of a spin on chips and salsa. The crisps served as the chips, and the Bhel Puri had a texture similar to salsa, but with Indian spices and flavors. This dish was so simple, and yet ended up being one of our favorite ones of the day. We couldn’t stop snacking on it throughout the rest of our meal!
For our entrees, we split the the Bombay Keema Dosa and the London Curried Chicken Dosa. The first dish consisted of spiced ground lamb, fresh green peas, ginger, and garlic, all served underneath a traditional paper-thin pancake. While the lamb was perfectly cooked and had great flavor, it was kind of hard to eat with the incredibly thin pancake.
The London Curried Chicken Dosa included coconut chicken, curry leaf, and mustard seed, also served underneath the same kind of paper-thin pancake. The appearance, texture, and taste of the chicken were all a bit off-putting. It didn’t taste fresh, and ended up being my least favorite part of our brunch.
Last but not least, I knew we had to try something that had paneer in it. Paneer is a type of curd cheese, commonly used in Indian cooking, and it’s absolutely divine. We decided to share the Paneer Tikka Classic Kathi Roll, which was served wrapped in a pita, along with a fried egg, laccha onions, mint chutney, and raita, which is a yogurt-based sauce.
This was by far my favorite entree. I’m a bit biased, as I love paneer in anything, but the cheese really paired nicely with the seasoned onions and the mint chutney. I also really enjoyed the side of dried okra, which remind me of guiltless chips.
We ended the meal on a sweet note with a mango Lassi, a traditional yogurt-based drink blended with mangoes and spices. It had the texture of an extra thick smoothie, and the tartness of the yogurt really helped to balance out the sweetness of the mango.
While The Royal Munkey invited us in for this meal, I definitely plan on going back for brunch again. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of that amazing coconut punch and Bombay Bhel Puri!
The Bitches say: B+. The Royal Munkey offers an authentic Indian brunch, with something on the menu for both lovers of the cuisine, as well as newbies. We highly recommend trying the inventive coconut punch!
The Royal Munkey
438 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10010
The Royal Munkey serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.