The Maharaja's chefs rely on recipes from an era when art and cooking received the royal patronage of great Mughal emperors. Compiled over three generations of research, the menu of traditional Indian cuisine has been modernized to pair with a lavish dining space, that, according to the The Boston Foodie, "is an elegant room floating above Harvard Square with all of the amenities of a perfect dining experience." Ornately detailed wooden chairs surround The Maharaja's sturdy tables, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the weekly hopscotch tournaments in Harvard Square. Furthermore, a collection of statues—which took three attempts to import from India—watch over the restaurant's guests.
Garlic naan emanates nostril-piquing aromas of fresh garlic and coriander as chefs roast cubes of lamb and bone-in chicken in a tandoor oven that burns hotter than a feverish dragon. Sidestepping meats entirely, the house-made paneer, eggplant, and chickpeas bump elbows with green peas, raisins, and sautéed cashews. Servings of kulfi faluda can sate sweet teeth with scoops of pistachio-flavored ice cream and sweet noodles.
Tamarind Bay – Coastal Indian Kitchen may occupy an unassuming gray-brick building, but upon entering the dining room, patrons’ senses are captivated by the exotic aromas of coastal India. The air is heady with the scents of curry, ginger, and mint wafting from clay tandoor ovens, sizzling kebabs, and bubbling pots of saag paneer.
The owners call on their Indian roots—and their experience at Tamarind Bay's other venue in Harvard Square—to foster a dining experience that spotlights fresh seafood recipes from coastal cities, including Manglorean lobster simmered in South Indian spices and mahi-mahi pickled in a zesty sauce from Goa. The seasonal menu also boasts a variety of vegan and vegetarian alternatives. Scallion aloo infuses baby potatoes with cumin and curry and bhindi methi spices up okra with fenugreek and tomato sauce.
The pungent scent of spice-laden Indian cuisine and naan plucked straight from the tandoor fills the air of Haveli Restaurant's white-and-gold dining room. Dining pairs and quartets can opt for the Sea Food Lovers dinner's steaming plates of fish pakora, fish masal, shrimp jalfrazi, and dal makhni, and the Tandoori Lovers dinner's spicy meats cooked in clay ovens heated by hugs from the titular tandoori lovers. The Meat Lovers dinner culls tender selections such as chicken tikka masala, while the Veggie Lovers dinner represents India's meatless mastery through a trio of vegetarian curries and vegetable biryani. Patrons cool border disputes between spicy and sour taste bud factions with beverages including soft drinks, fruit juices, and mango or rose lassis.
Tradition is a powerful force at Passage to India. Running 25 years strong, the Zagat-rated eatery embraces the culinary techniques developed over millennia across the Indian subcontinent. Chefs draw on time-honored cooking methods such as slow-roasting chicken, lamb, and shrimp inside a coal-heated clay tandoor ovens—a practice that speaks to the restaurant's refusal to cut corners when preparing their menu of familiar Indian comfort foods.
The chefs make their own cheese in-house for dishes such as the Bengali staple, Rasgulla—cheese balls soaked in syrup—or the northern Matter Paneer blended with peas and spices. At the same time, they create crepe-like dosas filled with potatoes, herbs and spices to show their appreciation for southern Indian cuisine.
This dedication to the vibrant and varied flavors of Indian cuisine is evident throughout Passage to India's décor. The salmon-pink booths and mahogany chairs complement the wall art, a melange of bold swaths of crimson and saffron-yellow hues. Overhead, ceiling fans waft fresh air throughout the room and dangling pendant lamps gently light each of the tables.
The friendly staff at Shalimar Gourmet Food & Spices tempts customers with an extensive inventory of fresh produce, prepared meals, certified organic and gluten-free fare, and ingredients for preparing authentic Indian dishes at home. Bulk Tilda basmati rice ($5.99 for 2 lbs.) creates a fluffy bed for unforgettable meals, and green cardamom ($6.99 for 200 g) adds exotic flavor to dishes or an unusual flavor to a bag of M&Ms. Create an easy meal with a can of Ashoka aloo mutter curry ($1.99), or heat up a jumbo Punjabi frozen samosa ($5.49 for a 22 oz. package) for a quick, warm snack.
Situated at the core of Davis Square, Diva Indian Bistro brims with the aromas of a menu that borrows from the culinary traditions of regions from Bangalore to Bombay. Beneath a bubbly goldenrod ceiling that looks like a collection of soft-lit skylights, patrons settle onto plump black benches to munch samosas and peruse offerings of lamb, seafood, beef, and tandoori dishes soaked in the warmth of the traditional clay oven. Saffron- and cardamom-scented basmati rice stars in biryani dishes, and dosas, a type of crepe crafted from rice and lentils, enclose chicken or veggie fillings alongside coconut chutney and lentil soup. The wall behind Diva’s bar mimics the ceiling’s rectangular bubble pattern in white, with a long row of blue glass bottles bisecting the surface. High black and chrome chairs slide up to the brushed-silver bar, where patrons murmur over cocktails and ice clicks occasionally like a tap dancer having a nice dream.