Ajay and his wife Kiran spent their childhood in New Delhi learning the ins and outs of Indian cooking and hospitality. Their experiences shine through at Taj Palace Indian Restaurant & Bar, where the aromas of tamarind, mango, mint, and curry tangle complexly in the air. In the kitchen, chefs heap charcoal on the glowing embers in tandoor ovens, skewer cuts of lamb steeped in herbs, and make sure each grain of basmati rice is pointing in the same direction. Wait staff dressed in crisp white shirts and bow ties carry away the piquantly spiced dishes, which earned the eatery a Best Indian Food in Austin award from Citysearchers in 2009. In the rose-hued dining room, soft sitar music meanders beneath framed paintings and golden arches. Colorful hand-painted lanterns dangle from the ceiling above tables laden with flavorful curries and rice dishes.
Vir Singh drew on more than three decades of experience in the Texas restaurant business when devising the menu of Northern-Indian cuisine and all-you-can-eat buffet at Star of India. In the kitchen, a clay oven roasts tandoori chicken and naan as staffers douse succulent beef, lamb and seafood in tangy vindaloo or creamy almond shahi korma sauce. Rather than sprinkling cumin into their flasks of astroturf, vegetarians can dine on herbivorous fare such as mutter paneer—Indian-style cheese and peas—or vegetable biryani that mixes 9 vegetables and basmati rice with fruits, nuts, and 31 spices. The restaurant's seating arrangements can accommodate banquets or Monopoly tournaments of up to 100 participants.
A marigold façade with window cutouts that mirror the Taj Mahal's distinguished silhouette welcomes guests to Indian Palace, whose interior is equally lavish and vibrant. Golden elephant statuettes, paintings of traditional Indian scenes, and deep red tapestries enliven the decor, and aromas of sweet curries and meats roasting in the clay oven add excitement to the air. Inside the kitchen, chefs channel the culture of northern India into traditional meals, then deliver the cuisine à la carte to tables or arrange it at the self-serve buffet. The sweeping buffet enables diners to hop from dish to dish like garden gnomes playing hopscotch on lily pads. A cornucopia of naan breads cushions plates against flying forks and provides a pillowy field for the spicy notes of such dishes as lamb biryani and chicken tikka masala to caper across. The spread always contains an extensive selection of vegetarian options, such as saag aloo, which dispatches a duo of cheese and potato to thwart dastardly hunger pangs.
Nothing can beat mom's cooking, but Naanfull Indian Grill stands a chance of matching it. That's because the restaurant was founded by an ambitious group of three—you guessed it—moms, who immediately make their guests feel at home with fresh batches of naan baked in-house. Over the course of a meal, that fluffy flatbread becomes a vehicle for wraps stuffed with lamb, chicken, or fresh vegetables. It also serves as the basis for the kid-friendly naanizza, the restaurant's Indian-inspired twist on pizza. Other traditional Indian dishes range from handi chicken biryani with basmati rice to the popular gulab jamun, which combines morsels of fried dough and sweet saffron syrup.
Chefs Rakesh Menhdiratta and Prem Singh Jayara together have more than six decades of experience cooking Indian fare. While Rakesh was working at a state banquet to honor Bill Clinton in New Delhi, Prem was publishing his own Indian cookbook and teaching at culinary schools throughout New York City. Now, the two Indian-borne chefs have united to bring their culinary skills to the menu at Bombay Bistro.
In the eatery, stained-glass lights dangle over booths, casting a pastel blush on exposed-brick walls. The bar is lit from behind with neon orange, hinting at the smoldering flames of the bistro's clay oven. As the kitchen doors open, dark hardwood tables fill with shrimp, lamb, and goan fish curry, accented by tamarind and sweet coconut milk. Warm baked naan sops up sauce from tandoori shrimp and salmon steeped in garlic, ginger, and lemon juice. While perusing the bistro's cocktail menu, guests can question servers about the lunch buffet or the best novel they’ve ever found written on a napkin.
The mouthwatering aromas of Indian spices and freshly baked bread waft throughout Indian Spicy Kitchen—especially during lunch hours, when chefs stock the all-you-can-eat buffet with a smorgasbord of traditional dishes. In addition to more than a dozen vegetarian entrées, they whip up tender chicken, lamb, and seafood curries, which pool onto plates and get sopped up by warm breads from the tandoor oven.
In the dining room, leather chairs flank tables topped with white-and-red-checkered tablecloths, delicately folded linen napkins, and solitary flowers. Indian Spicy Kitchen also occasionally hosts live music in the form of Bollywood crooners, regional artists, and robots pre-programmed to sing public-domain tunes.