Brick Lane Opens, Sizzles in Montclair

In the midst of the hottest week in recent memory on the eastern seaboard, residents gave Brick Lane, Montclair’s new and most eagerly awaited Indian restaurant, a fervent welcome.

For locals frustrated with inconsistent meals at Baristaville’s other Indian restaurant, it’s been a long wait for this offshoot of two successful New York-based restaurants which take their inspiration from East London’s Brick Lane, a landing area in decades past for Irish, Jewish and Bengali immigrants, on which many curry houses are now located.

From an expected opening in March, the months had dragged on, followed by a worrying interim period more recently when the letters spelling out the restaurant’s name disappeared off its planned Valley Road location.

Happily, Brick Lane opened its doors to local residents on July 15, and I went along with the family on Friday, heatwave notwithstanding.

It was a mark of our eagerness that despite a half-hour wait for a table reserved in advance, our patience didn’t wilt, although our hair and clothes did on that sweltering 100F evening. The smart, walnut-floored, wood-furnitured restaurant was filled to capacity, with three other parties waiting, by 7:00pm.

For entertainment, I conducted impromptu exit interviews with patrons who had eaten, and found a recurring, encouraging theme – the food and service were pronounced fabulous (several were already repeat visitors within that first week; it was one woman’s third visit), but they added gently that the waiting time could be improved.

Once we were seated, it didn’t take long before the food started arriving, and our exhausted servers, attempting to cope and placate customers as power cuts disrupted the brand-new air-conditioning system on that hot day, were most polite and attentive.

The kids were intent on naan and chapati, two Indian breads which were the perfect vehicle with which to mop up dhal makhani (a sweet and spicy black lentil dish). Well-versed in Indian restaurant dining, they also ordered a mango lassi each, before checking if it even was on the menu. That traditional Indian yoghurt drink comes sweet, salty, savory (with added ginger and chillies) or blended with fruit such as mango, the final option being the perfect, sweet riposte to fiery curries.

We also had Chicken Khurma, a creamy, mildly spiced, slightly sweet curry, and Chicken Dhansak, a bit heatier and thickened with lentils. Lamb kofta patties (which resembled grilled burgers) were beautifully spiced, flecked with mint and served on a bed of caramelized onions. Every dish was tasty and freshly made, and the breads warm and perfect accompaniments.

Needless to say, there were plenty of leftovers to take home, which, as with many spiced dishes, tasted even better the next day.

Verdict:  Excellent. Definitely worth visiting.

Other dishes to try: For starters, try the lassuni gobi, a cauliflower dish in a tomato and garlic sauce; tandoori snapper is a whole snapper baked in the tandoor, great for two people. Boti rolls are like a wrap, with fillings of tofu, chicken, lamb or prawns, which may be shared between three people. Stuffed calamari has been described as “to die for,” octopus stuffed with seafood such as scallops, clams and oyster, and cooked in a tandoor. Other breads to sample would be the garlic naan, the bharatha (a flaky bread), and Peshwari naan (a sweet version with raisins and coconut), another great partner of spicy curries.

Here’s Baristanet’s interview conducted this Monday with Ritesh Patel, Brick Lane’s Montclair-based communications guru.

Why did it take Brick Lane so long to open?
When we took it on, we underestimated the amount of work we’d have to do, and there was rather a lot of it. The bathroom was right in front and needed to be moved; the kitchen needed complete reconfiguration; the floor, which was messy and uneven, had to be dug down to the foundations and redone. There was a standard we had to keep and we wanted everything perfect.

Was that wait a financial drain?
Business always loses money when there are delays, but that was what it took to set up here. It’s faster to do things in New York.

Who’s running the restaurant?
The owners, Satinder Sharma, who is chef/owner of all three Brick Lanes; Karthik Kumar is chef/owner at the local Brick Lane, and Raghu Murthi is manager.

Are the owners from the UK?
The partners are all from the UK. Sati went to culinary school in India and worked in New Delhi in high-end restaurants, later joining Carnival Cruise Lines, where he honed his skills for catering to lots of people.

How did Brick Lane land in Montclair?
The town itself isn’t far from NY, and there are lots of New Yorkers, and a lack of really good Indian food. The ones on Bloomfield were hit or miss, pretty much like the one next to Charlie Brown’s, the former Royal India, which has made way for a sushi place.

I chanced upon Brick Lane’s current location three years ago, while out walking with my then-5-year-old son. I saw the empty ex-Peking House space, sent a picture to Sati and told him this was his new location.

How has Brick Lane been doing so far?
Since opening on the 15th, the restaurant has been doing very, very well. Word has spread pretty quickly. There have been a few hiccups – one night, the AC wasn’t working for a few hours, the ice machine as well. But overall, we have been fortunate to have been well received and it’s been packed every evening.

Is there room for expansion?
We’re potentially considering outdoor seating, depending on the weather, on the front and side of the restaurant. We’ll need a permit for this, hence the “potentially.”

What’s coming up in the next months?
As winter approaches, we’re figuring out a delivery schedule for locals. We’re also negotiating with local businesses to enhance parking options for our customers.

Have there been any issues since opening?
I’ve opened about 20 restaurants and the first month or so is always … interesting. We’re now trying to get the timings right, in terms of seating people and keeping the wait times down. We hope Montclair bears with us as we work out the opening kinks.

Check out Brick Lane’s Facebook page here.

(Photos show, from top, lighting fixture at Brick Lane, mango lassi, naan bread, chicken dhansak, lamb patties, and Karthik Kumar, Brick Lane Montclair’s chef-owner.)

Brick Lane
540 Valley Road
Montclair, NJ 07042
Sun-Thurs 12 noon to 11:00pm,
Fri-Sat, 12 noon to 1:00am

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  1. I was so happy to find out that this Brick Lane is just as delicious as the ones in the city! It was worth sweating for. I just wish it wasn’t so small. Let’s keep eating there so they can afford a bigger space.

  2. Curries with meat or fish $18-$21, Vegetarian curries $15-$16. Yikes.

    I will probably give it a try but not often.

  3. OMG, Bernadette, the dishes you described sound out of this world. I’m SO into good Indian food, can’t wait to try this place!!!

  4. (The pix is the most UNappetizing thing I could imagine. Ugh!!! On a hot July day, this is EXACTLY what I don’t want to see. The food may be great, but this pix is awful.)

  5. RoC,

    Your average large pizza is in the $18 to $20 range these days, with anything on it. Seems the price of fuel is fueling the price of everything else. And the food does look good. I live with an Indian food fanatic, so I am sure we will be trying it soon.

  6. I think the prices are reasonable compared to other Montclair restaurants that use fresh quality ingredients.

    In general, having just moved from Berkeley (where living isn’t cheap) I find menu prices here very expensive. I think restaurants have to charge higher prices to make up for the money they are losing by not having a liquor license. However, I seem to be spending about the same here (if not less) than in the bay area, due to most of restaurants here being BYOB.

  7. Been to Brick Lane twice since they opened. Excellent both times!! From the food, to the friendly helpful service,this restaurant has all the ingredients for success in Montclair.

  8. Surprised you didn’t mention their Phaal Curry Challenge ( I have the (somewhat dubious) distinction of being the first person to take the challenge in Montclair (did so previously at their 6th street restaurant). Have eaten in Montclair a couple times since they opened, and although the phaal, as good as it is, is more about heat than flavor, all their other dishes are outstanding.

  9. My husband and I ate there tonight. The food was delicious. We had the potato samosas (they also have lamb) which was delicate and flavorful. I’m used to samosas being served with chutney or coriander sauces, and when these came plain, I was concerned they might bland. I was wrong! I had aloo gobi, which is my usual when we go out for Indian…perfect. Nice portions too…I finished my dish, because it was just that good. My husband had a spicy tofu vindaloo, which he really enjoyed. Yes, it was a little more than we usually spend on Indian, but it’s the best local option for Indian. We used to love Aroma, and ate there at least once a week, before the quality started going downhill. Also, my husband loves spicy food, and found Aroma’s food to be inconsistent. Before Brick Lane opened, we would have to drive to Parsippany. One thing I would suggestshoe Brick Lane is more beverage options. They had lassi, but other than that it was Snapple and Soke. Some juices or different fresh brewed teas might be a nice addition.

  10. We ate there last night. The manager, Raghu, was a delightful host and made us feel very welcome!

    We really loved our meal, starting with the savory cauliflower app – saucy and crispy! I’d never had that dish before. My daughter ordered a delicious chicken tikka masala in a creamy tomato sauce without any heat; we ordered Lamb Bhuna and the tandoori stuffed calamari.
    Lamb Bhuna was the favorite of the evening with big tender chunks of lamb! I would order that again and again. Portions were good, lots of sauce to mop up with the stuffed naan bread that we ordered.

    Everything tasted fresh, was prepared perfectly and nicely presented.

    The decor is minimalist and contemporary, but it gets REALLY loud, and is difficuly to have a conversation at the table when the restaurant is busy. I spoke with management about it, and they are working on a solution.

    We’ll be back, really happy that an Indian restaurant of this caliber has come to Baristaville. We are eager to try the lunch special!

  11. It’s really good. If you drink beer or wine, the total check is actually a bargain since it’s BYOB.

  12. “is actually a bargain since it’s BYOB.”

    Interestingly the one in NYC has the same prices AND a full bar.

  13. $16 for dinner. Yikes.

    What should dinner cost, a dollar? Wings were $9 at the Ground Round in Albany twenty years ago.

    I worked in a burger joint in high school in the mid 80s and people ran up $10 bills for lunch.

    Maybe they should make a go of it with $3 plates. Some of you people need to get out a little more often. And turn the pages on your calendar. Nixon’s not in office anymore.

  14. ROC, the bill came to $70 for three of us, plus tip.
    We also had two orders of bread – stuffed naan and parathi, plus a mango lassi drink. The app was on the house. And they serve complimentary lentil wafers with mint sauce and tamarind chutney. It was worth it! Plenty to eat.

  15. So with the app and tip, $92. That’s a lot for 2 adults and a child. (in my book anyway)

  16. YEA!!! Nixon’s not President!! Get out more!! Turn the page on your calendar (?)!!! Burgers were expensive in the 80’s too!! Ground Round!! Albany!!!

    IF the prices:quality ratio is off, it will close. If not, it will thrive.

    I won’t be there because Indian ain’t my thang. Neither will RoC (unless someone takes him…. Okay, I’ll offer! I’ll try for the umpteenth time to make it work for me…)

    Will this be the great Baristanet Summer meet up? Who’s comin’???

    Annette has to be there so we all can get free apps!!

  17. I’ll take ROC and the Nixon guy (he cracked me up) and of course Walleroo. Annette and Bernadette can order.

  18. Scene: Xanadu on the hill overlooking the people of Montclair, the vast interior space dark except for a few 40 watt bulbs (incandescent, of course) hanging from the ceiling, no carpets save a few deer skins sewn together from roadkill, no furniture except a few hard benches from IKEA, an old Sony Trinitron circa 1984 in the corner of the room tuned to CNBC. ROC is hunched over a KayPro, circa 1984, that’s been adapted and hooked up to a hard drive powered by gerbils in a wheel…

    “Honey, George Soros left you a voicemail.”

    “What the hell does he want?”

    “He says you have to withdraw the $750 million he’s managing for you. Something about a change in disclosure law…”

    “Oh rats. You know what this means, don’t you? No more 20 percent returns. We’re going to have to cut back.”

    “But we were planning to go out to that new Indian restaurant. The kids will be so disappointed. And it will only cost $92.”

    “No! We need that money to pay our property taxes.”

    “Can we order Tinga?”

    “Are you kidding? 50 bucks for beans and rice?! No, honey, we have to hunker down. See if the kids can rustle up some garden snakes out back we can throw in the pot. Or perhaps a few squirrels, or a marsupial…”

  19. I’ll take ROC and the Nixon guy (he cracked me up) and of course Walleroo. Annette and Bernadette can order.

    Heart attack! I’m having a heart attack!

  20. ROC may be relieved to know that, if he is willing to bring his (long-suffering) family to Brick Lane to dine early, he can enjoy the Early Bird Special before 3:30PM for half-priced naan and rock-bottom tikki. He’ll have to make do with no utensils and the only beverage will be (warm) tap water, but the prices cannot be topped and after all THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS!!!!!

  21. Hey guys,…I can’t tell you how happy I am that the Brick lane finally opened. It has been a long 3 year journey.

    Perhaps I can offer some insights that may help…first around the cost…a huge investment was made in opening the place, we ONLY USE fresh ingredients and I can assure you that the price/value ratio will continue for a long time to come. If it does drop in any way, I hope the vocal folks on here will tell us. As you all know in your personal lives, the cost of some staple food is getting quite expensive. For us things like Rice and Flour are going through the roof. That said, we are offering a $10 lunch special, quite a decent value, and we plan to also introduce an option for the high school.

    To those who have visited us on numerous occasions already, thank you. To those who have experienced the food for the first time, welcome and we hope you visit often. To Richard N, we need you picture sir, as you were our first Phaal Hall of Fame member in Montclair. The support of the community, with us doing our part by providing fresh, delicious and amazing Indian Food will enable us to thrive and survive.

    We are very aware of the noise level and will do something about it soon.

    Its been great reading this thread and hearing about peoples experience. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

    Thanks for your support.


  22. Time to pipe in again, after yet another fabulous meal at BLC. As an ex-hotelier, I am very familiar with the challenges of opening and running a food service operation. It’s stunning that people can complain about a $16 entree, especially given that Montclair restaurants cannot offset the food margins with better margins on beverage.
    Furthermore, unlike some other restaurants – anyone remember Market? – nothing feels cheap at BLC, from the serving pieces to the decor to the food itself. And portion sizes are generous, unlike some other recent entries into the local market. With fish running $15-20/lb at Whole Foods, as well as the diversity of the BLC menu, it’s hard to imagine how they can keep their food costs in the desirable 30% range. Add to that rent, utilities, salaries, maintenance and more.
    I want BLC to thrive, yet it will only do so with local support. Opening a restaurant anywhere, Montclair included, is a high risk venture. Unlike many risks, however, what follows the initial success is not untold riches, but rather the opportunity to work very long hours for relatively little money. They will have my support.

  23. Ate here for 3rd time this week. The food is simply fantastic. People from all over NJ will be flocking to the place. After Labor Day you won’t be able to get in the door. Service has been a little slow at times, as they seemed a tad short handed with table help. But everyone is extraordinarily friendly, the food is wonderfully prepared, and the whole experience is top top notch. Treat yourself to one of their $16 entrees. And be thankful that ROC isn’t at the table behind you bloviating.

  24. @Richard N, a quick note to thank you for your continued support of the Brick Lane in Montclair and empathy with our venture. Your insight is spot on. We will of course do our part and continue to stay true to the high standards w have established.

    @yougottalovehim, we are getting busy already, a good sign of support from this great community. Thank you for your continued support.

  25. We dined at Brick Lane a few nights ago. Much was good, but I have to dissent from the general consensus on one point.

    First, the good stuff. The onion bhaji appetizer was very good. Mulligitawny soup was fragrant & soothing.

    The breads were exceptional; a naan with ginger & another with nuts were truly among the best we’ve ever had.

    My wife’s tandoori chicken was very good. My chicken bhuna, however, was a flop. The sauce, sweet & spicy with a hint of cinnamon, was excellent. However, the chicken, all breast meat, had been overcooked to the point of near inedibility; dry, stringy and tough, it was really terrible. I could tell that it had started out as a very fresh piece of chicken, but the cooking had destroyed it.

    Many Indian restaurants seem to have the notion that they need to serve white meat to Americans or they won’t like it; this is not the first time I’ve encountered overcooked chicken breast in a curry. This is where a restaurant like Dhaba in Manhattan gets it right by offering leg & thigh meat in various curries; what a difference that makes.

    The general quality of the food at Brick Lane was high enough that I’ll definitely give them another try & hope that I simply encountered an aberration on a very busy night. I crave another taste of those naans; yes, they were that good. It’s nice to have a new option for Indian food in the area, that’s for sure.

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