From a photo on the wall, the Dalai Lama smiles beneficently over the New Chilli & Curry restaurant. In these cozy environs, I encounter some of Long Island's most exciting ethnic food - Indian, Hakka Chinese and Thai. Owner Kumar Chhetri and chefs Pambar Sherpa and Phithu Lama hail from the culinarily diverse land of Nepal, so they know whereof they cook. Order something made spicy and you'll be asked, "Indian [or Thai] spicy or American spicy?" No dumbing down here.
My fire-eating companion revels in a spicy Malaysian coriander soup. One sip sears my mouth, yet I appreciate its nuances. I'm happier with a medium-hot intriguingly complex Thai tom kha chicken-coconut soup. Another time, I savor an extraordinary wonton soup, al dente dumplings filled with chicken floating in a peppery broth.
The vegetable version of seekh kebab (ground vegetables instead of ground beef and lamb) proves a winning appetizer. So, too, does paneer tika, tandoor-barbecued slablets of cheese. I relish the Tibetan dumplings called mo mo, filled with chopped vegetables and paired with a mint sauce.
It's hard to imagine more tender goat than the meat in the mellow goat pasanda, an Indian dish. I lose myself in the complex flavors of the "Chili & Curry special" biryani, a rice dish rife with lamb, chicken and shrimp. What I can't fathom is how the incendiary chili-garlic noodles can be so comforting and yet send me rushing for the water pitcher.
To mellow out, we order a breadbasket with a well-blistered naan and hearty aloo paratha (flaky potato bread) and onion kulcha - addictive stuff.
The meal ends with the cryptically titled "FBI": fried banana with ice cream. It's good, but better yet is the fragrant rice pudding.
Tandoori chicken is a bit dry, the sauce on the otherwise-perfect goat pasanda is somewhat gloppy, and I'd prefer it if the shrimp in the Thai red curry were naked rather than batter-fried.
This is a place run by knowledgeable people who want to feed and care for all, from the truly adventurous to the most timid of palate. I leave feeling I've been a guest in the home of solicitous relatives from a faraway land.