Murray Hill is a destination for the diverse flavors of India, but until now it has lacked a youthful, vibrant hangout for something different in the neighborhood. Prolific young restaurateur Abishek Sharma has filled this gap with Tapa, a colorful cocktail and hookah lounge serving globally inspired Indian tapas and creative cocktails. It’s a place for young professionals and locals alike to unwind with friends in a relaxed, fun atmosphere and catch the latest games. His partners in Tapa are Maneet Dhillon and Marjit Singh, long-time friends with a passion for the restaurant industry.
Sharma has a history of giving NYC distinct Indian culinary experiences. His other restaurants include Swagat, a neighborhood bastion of Indian comfort food, Surya, the lauded West Village staple, and Badshah, his progressive hotspot in Hell’s Kitchen.
The vibe inside is relaxed and welcoming. A cocktail bar in front leads to the back den where a low ceiling, exposed brick walls, wraparound mirror and colorful lighting create a laid-back, cool atmosphere. A large graffiti mural on the inside wall depicts a man enjoying a hookah, and flat screen TVs play all the major games.
The food menu was created by Sharma, and is split into two sections: Tapas, and a “Bread Bar.” From the Tapas section, Badass Chicken Tikka is marinated in a house-blend of spices, yogurt and jalapenos for 24 hours before arriving moist and flavorful in a bite-sized lineup on the plate. Agni “Fire” Wings prepared hot, ‘want to cry?’ or butter chicken-style make for the perfect game day snack, ideally paired with an ice cold beer, and Masala Calamari, tossed with tangy Indian masala, is a welcomed riff on a staple. And because Tapa is a Sharma restaurant, guests will of course find Lala Ji’s Lamb Chops, a dish made famous by Abishek’s father Lala Sharma at the original Surya, composed of fork tender lamb chops lightly massaged with cardamom and clove masala.
Naan is a crowd-pleaser, and Tapa delivers with its extensive “Bread Bar,” complete with eight different varieties ranging from traditional to genre-bending. The Prime Time is an elevated example, topped with sliced prime cut rib-eye steak, cheddar, Monterey jack and mozzarella, served with smoky chipotle dipping sauce. Chicken Bacon Ranch naan is a mashup you won’t easily find elsewhere. For vegetarians, the Eat Your Veggies is a delicious option, layered with mushrooms, olives and truffle oil, topped with marinara or mint sauce.
The cocktails were created by Warren Bayani, a veteran of NYC institutions including Summit Bar, and Beverage Director at Sharma’s Hell’s Kitchen hotspot Badshah. His signature creativity is again on display in creations like the Sari Not Sari (tequila, lime, cucumber, mint, salted rim), the Sassy Lassi (housemade mango lassi, rum), and the Flight to Mumbai (gin, lime juice, cardamom). A rotating list of beer includes Taj Mahal, Kingfisher and Delirium, in addition to Doc’s Draft Hard Cider. Happy hour runs seven days from 5pm-8pm, and features $5 beers, $6 wine, $7 cocktails and $15 house hookah.
Hookah was originated in ancient India as a leisure activity for the wealthy, but it’s an option for everyone at Tapa. Guests may choose from over 40 flavors divided into three sections on the menu: House Hookah, Exotic Hookah and Exclusive Hookah.