Following the success of Dhamaka (also on this list), the all-star duo of chef/partner Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar continue their mission of highlighting Indian cuisine from underrepresented regions of the country with Semma, a new spot dedicated to the flavors of Southern India. Inside a vibrant space with design elements honoring the Deccan peninsula, executive chef Vijay Kumar takes inspiration from his upbringing in the state of Tamil Nadu and offers signature items like the Nathai Pirattal, a snail dish with tamarind and kai dosa. Additional standouts include the tender Kudal Varuval made with goat intestines; Goanese Oxtail; and Kanyakumari Nandu Masala for two with dungeness crab, parotta, coconut rice. Drinks include custom cocktails like the Thalaivaa (bourbon, spiced jaggery syrup, coconut ice), beer, and non-alcoholic refreshers.
Bringing the grand legacy of Southern Indian food to the forefront, Semma—a Tamil word for unrestrained enthusiasm (phenomenal! superb! awesome!)—is the latest offering from the team behind Unapologetic Foods. Opened last month, its kitchen is stewarded by chef Vijay Kumar, a Tamil Nadu native who spent a decade plus at the award-winning Rasa in California. The menu, which also spotlights the cuisine of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Goa has excited the palates of many, especially South Indian New Yorkers. Elements like oxtail, venison, and snails are given prominent placement, a nod to Kumar’s farming and hunting roots; other dishes include Kanyakumari nandu masala, a dish of crab, parotta and coconut rice; and Uzhavar Santhai poriyal, a fried vegetable dish of mustard green, red beets, and butternut squash. Cocktails utilize Indian ingredients such as jaggery syrup, curry leaf infused gin, cardamom, and tamarind; and the interiors play off the restaurant’s tropical roots, from renderings of verdant plants to basket lamps.