The bar’s hanging lights glow like down-turned tulips against cobalt walls. A plush corner nook invites lingering with low-slung tables and vibrant throw pillows. Peeking through the lattice of Guru Palace’s decorative blue dividers, patrons can catch an eyeful of the restaurant’s centerpiece, a sprawling wall mural of the Taj Mahal.
Surrounded by decor that the Phoenix New Times called “a deliberate antidote to the sameness that sometimes pervades local retail complexes,” patrons tuck into a menu of traditional Indian dishes. The paper also named Guru Palace Best Indian Restaurant of 2010, lauding foods baked in a traditional tandoori oven and a wide range of vegetarian options. The chefs at the eatery specialize in Mughlai cooking, and the dining room’s burgundy tablecloths crowd daily with fish and lamb entrees infused with ginger, cumin, and red chili. Warm], baked naan breads and samosas sop up sauce, and bottles of wine can raise spirits after the realization that a vehicle’s owner’s manual says nothing about driving underwater.
India's Grill treats masticators to spicy Indian curries and traditional tandoori dishes in an open, cheerful dining room. Select a curry culled from an expansive menu of meat and seafood or vegetarian options, including chicken tikka masala, a tapestry of tender chicken drifting in a sea of spicy gravy and diced tomatoes ($11.95), and matter paneer, a mélange of vegetables, green peas, and fresh cheese in a creamy curry sauce ($9.95). The restaurant also tickles tongues with tastes from the tandoori, an ancient clay oven used during the filming of stop-motion movies. Sop every last drop with freshly baked naan ($1.95) while gazing around the vibrant yellow dining room, cataloguing the establishment's collection of Indian scarves and decorative textiles, or enjoying the undulating entertainment of India's Grill Belly Dancing Nights.
Upon arriving to the United States from Pakistan, Muhammed Samdani could only focus on one thing: how mediocre the local Pakistani cuisine tasted. Though the engineer had started to retrain in the American school system to get his American engineering degree, he was so appalled by the food that he completely had a change of heart and decided to become a chef.
He knew he could bring the authentic flavors of his Indian heritage and Pakistani homeland to the states, so he flew back overseas to India to study under three separate chefs. He eventually mastered their recipes—including a few secret family recipes given to him by the chefs—and came back to the States.
Now at Kabob N Kurry, his dishes embody the culinary traditions of Hyderabad and Delhi, with both well-known favorites, such as chicken tikka masala, and the less familiar, such as beef do pizza—clay-oven-baked bread stuffed with chicken and spices. Some of his dishes are so complex they need to be ordered 24 hours in advance of dining times, giving the kebabs time to soak up the flavors of the clay oven or to full absorb the sweet flavors of steamed saffron.
All of the meats used are prepared in the zabiha halal method. Those abstaining from meat can indulge in a variety of vegetarian dishes or delight their inner child and eat nothing but dessert.
The people behind the Bay Leaf Cafe know how to take care of guests. The founder spent 24 years operating day spas before turning to pampering palates with Indian food. The chef, too, knows something about luxury, having cooked for the ultra-upscale Taj Group of Hotels and learned to make naan soft enough to use as a pillow. This training results not in a formal dining environment, but in a welcoming spot that gives diners lots of options. A special Grab & Go menu lets them dash in for rice bowls, chapati wraps, salads, and classic Indian snacks. Those who dine in pore over an extensive selection of mesquite-baked tandoori meats, stuffed naan, vegetarian dishes, and even traditional goat and fish curries.
Inside Jewel of the Crown, turret-shaped wall alcoves form the shape of a honeycomb, filled with backlit statues of Indian deities. Wood accordion partitions are carved with vines and budding flowers. Since 1986, these decorative touches and the restaurant's traditional Indian dishes have attracted celebrity diners such as Kim Basinger and The Rolling Stones. In the light of large glowing chandeliers, thick curries and yogurt-marinated kormas gleam on tables next to tandoori dishes of lamb, fish, and chicken. After sopping up the last of a vegetarian chana masala, guests can head out to the outdoor patio for a glass of wine, or peruse Jewel of the Crown's hanging tapestries, which display classical scenes of embroidered farmers playing paintball in the fields.
At each of Tandoori Times Indian Bistro’s three locations—including one nestled inside a Holiday Inn—crimson and cream walls surround tables weighed down with indian curry, rice, and tandoori dishes. While morsels of lamb, seafood, and chicken prepare for supper by bathing in aromatic indian spices, soft naan bread keeps diners entertained by diving into appetizers of mango chutney.
Patrons can let the wind sweep through their eyelashes on one of the outdoor patios or form their own sweet breezes by puffing out fruity plumes of a hookah smoke on the weekends. Belly dancers weave their way across dining rooms on select nights, which contributes to each location's traditional atmosphere and each diner's desire to enroll in belly-dancing lessons.