Padma Lakshmi, ‘Top Chef’ host, reveals favorite NYC restaurants for a spicy food fix

When the new season of “Top Chef” premieres Thursday night, viewers will watch jealously as its host Padma Lakshmi gets to taste and judge myriad dishes. Over a cocktail of her own creation —a ginger turmeric margarita made with Patron tequila — at Middle Branch in Manhattan, Lakshmi said it doesn’t get old, but it does get filling.

“I don’t get tired of trying foods,” she said. “I get tired of eating a lot of food at one time.”

Eating 7,000 to 8,000 calories in a sitting can lead to a little weight gain. Lakshmi told us that her style secret is to own dresses in three sizes.

“Most people, they try to squeeze into that same size,” she said. “But nobody’s looking at the back of your tag.”

While you’ve almost certainly never noticed Lakshmi looking anything other than elegant and slim, you probably have noticed a preference she has for food: lots of spice.

“This is the reputation,” she said, “but I don’t like things that are out of balance. I do like spicy food, but if the food is really spicy, as in chili spicy, then it should have some sour notes and some sweeter notes to balance it. I don’t just like obliterate your mouth with spice.”

So what does Lakshmi — who just released her fourth book, “The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs” — like to eat for a spice fix when she’s home in New York City? Here’s a look at a few places she named as her favorites.


The venerable French-Vietnamese restaurant was the first place Lakshmi listed when asked for her favorite spots in town. (430 Lafayette St., Manhattan, indochinenyc.com)

Uncle Boons

Thai food is always good for some well-balanced spice, and for Lakshmi this Thai rotisserie is no exception. (7 Spring St., Manhattan, uncleboons.com)


“I love the autumn vegetable red curry at Red Farm,” Lakshmi said of the modern Chinese restaurant, which has two locations. (529 Hudson St. and 2170 Broadway, Manhattan, redfarmnyc.com)


Lakshmi was able to offer up the exact address of this South Indian restaurant, where she said she loves to eat vegetarian food, off the top of her head. “You don’t understand — I grew up on that street,” she said. “You can ask me anything.” (110 Lexington Ave., Manhattan, pongalnyc.com)

Ganesh Temple Canteen

Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious, and Lakshmi loves the meals served in the basement of this Hindu temple. “You can eat your heart out for less than $5,” she said. “The lentils are spicy, the coconut chutney is pretty spicy. It’s all vegetarian and all delicious.” (45-57 Bowne St., Queens, nyganeshtemplecanteen.com)

Mission Chinese and Mission Cantina

Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese is known for spice — its chicken wings are legendary — so naturally, Lakshmi is a fan of it and its Mexican-inspired sibling, Mission Cantina. (Mission Chinese, 171 E. Broadway, Manhattan, mcfny.com; Mission Cantina, 172 Orchard St., Manhattan, missioncantinany.com)