Three sister restaurants—Taste of India, Jewel of India, and India Gate—fill the air in Amherst and Buffalo with the scent of aromatic spices. Lauded for centuries for their purported healing properties, these spices, such as curry, garlic, and ginger, add zest and depth to dishes such as chicken vindaloo and okra bhaji. Sides of basmati rice and more than a dozen flatbreads, such as spinach naan and onion kulcha, accompany each dish, helping diners scoop up every splash of sauce. The chefs in each kitchen customize the heat of every curry, yogurt, and cream sauce to suit diners’ personal tastes and boiling points.
Inside Taj Grill, the air is thick with the tantalizing aromas of curry, ginger, and garlic, which drift languorously in from a bustling kitchen, where a single chef churns out northern and southern Indian cuisine steeped in centuries of tradition. The chef skillfully concocts more than 30 vegetarian dishes and aromatic curries spiced to taste. Marinated lamb, chicken, and seafood sizzle inside a charcoal-fired clay oven alongside rounds of unleavened naan, which the chef stuffs with seasoned potatoes, coconut and dried fruits, or mailing circulars.
The aromas of North Indian cuisine draw passersby into Jewel of India’s brick-lined doorway, leading them toward tables topped with saffron-colored linens. Here, they can dive into more than 100 traditional Indian dishes, including crispy pakoras, spicy vindaloos, and seafood baked in a tandoor clay oven. Like the forecasts of an easily bribable weatherman, entrees can be ordered with one of five heat levels: mild, medium, spicy, X, or hot. Raisins stud many dishes, adding bursts of juicy sweetness to lamb makhani and vegetable biryani. Brimming with chicken tikka, boti kebabs, sautéed peppers, and fresh-baked naan, the Jewel of India specials can feed an entire family in the dining room or fuel an off-site party thanks to the restaurant’s catering service.
Chefs at Palace of Dosas work under the ahimsa theme of non-violence to the environment, other beings, and themselves when they fill their menu with vegetarian and vegan Southern Indian cuisine. They spread crepe batter over griddles to craft bases for their 20 different varieties of dosas. The long, thin paper dosas and the butter sada dosas are as rich as a millionaire or someone who got in on the ground floor of the industry that writes about millionaires. They also prepare utthappam, Indian-style pizza with rice and lentil-flour bases and onion and pea toppings. Yogurt-based mango lassis and madras coffee add to the comfort imparted by cushioned booths and a plant-rich dining room.
The heart of any Indian kitchen?the clay oven?is the main cooking source at Delhi Chaat. The oven (also known as a tandoor) reaches temperatures of 800-degrees, allowing it to quickly and perfectly cook morsels of chicken, lamb, and shrimp that have been marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and exotic spices. The result: sizzling entrees packed full of flavor. The oven also produces freshly-baked naan, roti, and other breads (more than 15 varieties, in fact), perfect for scooping up mouthfuls of curry or fanning the face of a spicy food-loving dining companion. When they aren't manning the oven, chefs stay busy simmering lentils and vegetables in creamy tomato sauce and cashew paste, or by concocting the restaurant's sweet desserts, including pastry balls drizzled in syrup and rice pudding peppered with raisins.
Part grocery store and part restaurant, Spices of India allows guests to enjoy the namesake country's cuisine at home or in the eatery's dining area. Under the guidance of founders Anil and Renu Malik, cooks prepare an array of piquant Indian dishes, served à la carte or buffet style.