As pioneers in the Boulder culinary scene, Royal Clay Oven's chefs have been creating traditional Indian cuisine since 1982. They still cling to those traditions today, preparing dishes from different regions that best exemplify the flavors found in refined Indian home cooking. The chefs embrace classic techniques by forging rich curries and roasting skewered meats and seafood inside a clay tandoor oven, but they also put a modern spin on their cooking by using local ingredients whenever possible. Their menu also features a large number of vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian-friendly options, including dishes made with homemade cheese or lentils simmered with exotic spices.
Inside India Tavern, a large bay window casts a natural glow on grape and lime-green walls and plates of homestyle Indian fare. Named 5280 Magazine's Editors' Choice of their Top of the Town feature, diners can cozy up to a table beside the stone fireplace as they partake of clay-oven tandoori dishes made with chicken, lamb, or goa fish. After sopping up a ginger or saffron curry entree with fresh-baked naan bread, they can also question a knowledgeable server on the difference between mild, medium, and hot spice or why humans drive on parkways and park on driveways.
A sleek, black elephant statue overlooks the dining room, its trunk raised in a silent trumpet of approval, or perhaps to catch whiffs of the fragrant Indian, Tibetan, and Indo-Nepalese foods filing out from the kitchen. Inside, surrounded by traditional tandoori clay ovens and simmering pots of lentils, a chef backed by 20 years of experience imbues each dish with a blend of traditional spices. He stuffs flaky, savory pastries known as chaat with beans, yogurt, and chutneys, and sprinkles pinches of curry powder into pans of lamb and vegetables. During lunchtime, waiters ferry massive trays of the chef's eats to the buffet, where diners can load plates with enough vegetable masala to make a perfect sauce-angel.
Though the interior of the Sherpa House Restaurant is fragrant with the smells of naan bread and spiced curries, this tantalizing cuisine is only part of the eatery's allure. The space itself functions something like a museum, except that visitors can actually take a seat and speak above a whisper. Built as a reproduction of a traditional Sherpa house in Nepal, the restaurant seats diners in a family room with a kitchen, in a buffet room beneath a thatched roof, or on a patio perched beneath waving flags. A shrine room, photo gallery, and museum room with traditional artifacts afford more in-depth peeks at the rich culture and history of the Sherpa people, who are widely known for their mountaineering skills.
Behind the scenes, chefs work carefully to make sure that their entrees accurately capture the seasonings and healthfulness that Nepal's cuisine is known for. Cumin, garlic, tomatoes, and ginger spice up pieces of beef, lamb, whitefish, and yak. Naan bread, which they bake in a clay oven and cool on a windowsill atop Mount Everest, soaks up savory pools of curry, stew, and daal bhat. Desserts include kheer, a Nepali rice pudding, and sweet lassi, a drink blended with yogurt, rose water, and sugar.
Aromatic herbs weasel their way into almost every dish at Real Thai, where chefs add a liberal sprinkling of chilies, basil, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaf to create their signature dishes. These can take the form of entrees such as green curry that's infused with coconut milk or drunken noodles that are free of inhibition. However, not every dish is built upon a foundation of noodles or rice. They also whip up specialties such as eggplant stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp and drizzled in eel sauce.
Everest Restaurant's menu melds both Nepali and Indian cuisine, highlighting dishes that can be enjoyed à la carte or sampled in combinations from the lunchtime buffet. There are a few tandoori entrees, including a rack of lamb that marinates overnight while the restaurant is sleeping, and a variety of curries enhanced with traditional spices and chilies. There's also a substantial menu of vegetarian and vegan options such as the chana masala with chickpeas, tomato, and onion and the kaju matar paneer, which features homemade cheese steeped in cashew sauce.