Vibrant murals—swirling with reds, blues, and yellows—blanket the walls and ceiling, plush banquettes flank glass coffee tables in an upscale bar area, and alternating mocha- and tan-hued wood panels cover the floor. The overt beauty of the upscale dining area is showcased on a smaller scale in golden cubes of housemade cheese that bob amid a pool of creamy tomato sauce in Tandoori Nights’ paneer makhani dish. Fresh out of a clay oven, a whole red snapper pops against the backdrop of its white plate. These Zagat-rated dishes (very good to excellent), along with chicken curries and rice speckled with dry fruits, flaunt bright hues worthy of the ubiquitous vivacity of the restaurant's decor and a peacock strutting down a catwalk.
Zaika (formerly Tandoori Nights) is part of the Indaze Group, which owns a few area restaurants. Anil Miglani started the group to spread goodwill through culinary adventures, and he calls upon his family's extensive background in the New Delhi restaurant scene to achieve that vision. However, Miglani's toolkit boasts more than just culinary utensils. He earned a master's degree in architecture in Oklahoma and cultivated a career in design before entering the cuisine business. It wouldn't be a stretch to call Tandoori Nights the exquisite fruition of Miglani's two passions.
The Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese chefs at the newly relocated Sangam Restaurant build authentic, region-specific dishes with fresh ingredients and bold spices. Diners peruse the menu to choose starters including the aloo tikki, potato patties seasoned with cumin and herbs ($4.50) to form a more intricate flavor than a 1,000-piece filet mignon puzzle. Chefs make mouths water and flames dance with dramatic tableside presentations of entrees such as the Sangam sizzling feast of tandoori chicken and prawns served alongside boti and seekh kebabs ($20.95). Vegetarians and rebellious T. rex teenagers opt for the malai kofta curry's croquettes of cheese in a creamy tomato sauce ($9.95) or the Sangam daal with black or yellow lentils sautéed with ginger and garlic ($9.95).
As customers might guess from looking at the wooden sitars and paintings of musicians hanging on the walls, raaga means "sweet melody." In the kitchen, chefs blend spices to create their own complex harmonies of northern Indian flavors. Clay ovens roast tandoori chicken along with shrimp and salmon fillets marinated in spices. Sixteen vegetarian specialties, including croquettes stuffed with raisins, cashews, and housemade cottage cheese, wait to be sopped up with nine different Indian breads and a selection of napkins. For dessert, servers deliver dishes of the signature mango kulfi, an ice cream flavored with mango and cardamom.
Chefs at Aroma Indian Restaurant know that patience pays off—they let their tandoori lamb marinate in bold spices overnight before cooking it in traditional clay ovens. This is one of the many ways Aroma demonstrates a commitment to serving authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine at three locations throughout the DC area. The chef's feast for two overflows with samplings of saag paneer, tandoori chicken, and lamb kababs, presenting a welcome spread for couples, friends, or Doppelgangers that just met by a twist of fate. Those who don't eat meat can dig into one of the restaurant's many vegetarian dishes, which include vegan-friendly sauteed okra, and ginger-spiced chana masala.
Behind an entryway guarded by brass and ceramic figurines, Rasoi—which means kitchen in Hindi—serves up traditional Indian fare bursting with aromas of cumin, garlic, and ginger. Black, lacquered tables populate with salmon and lamb dishes roasted in a clay tandoori oven. A full menu page of vegan and vegetarian dishes mingles fresh chickpeas and eggplant with dry mango powder and green cardamom. And, after sopping up the last of a three-course Thali feast, guests can sip on a sweet mango lassi or rub the mint-green walls to test whether they’re scratch-and-sniff.
Taj Mahal's menu is stocked with classic Indian fare at unbeatable prices, such as Tandoori chicken ($14.95), chicken tikka masala ($14.95), and the vegetarian chana masala (chickpeas blended with herbs and spices, $12.95). If you're unfamiliar with Indian food, the appetizer platter ($10.95) will introduce you to the world of vegetable samosas, crisp pappars, and chicken fried in chickpea batter. Seafarers, on the other hand, will find that the shrimp vindaloo ($16.95) pairs well with a side of kashmiri pulao (basmati rice, saffron, nuts, and dried fruit, $6.50) or mango chutney ($2.50). Bookend your meal with some fresh naan bread ($2.95) and a dessert of gulab-jamun ($5.95). Many dishes at Taj Mahal are vegetarian, in accordance with India's uneasy treaty with its herds of man-eating livestock.