Featured as one of the Best New Dining Spots of 2010 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Lehja lays out a bountiful menu of traditional Indian dishes, sprinkled with a dash of contemporary flair, paired with a well-appointed wine list. Ignite your taste buds with the Fire Cracker chicken tikka, slathered in a ghost chili marinade and painted with haunted mango kewra ($9), and then repel culinary vampires with an order of garlic naan ($4). Lehja teases tongues with a sampling of the gastronomic masterpieces from the 28 best Indian states, including aam-anardana ka gosht––succulent lamb morsels sautéed with pomegranate seeds, mango, and scallions ($19)––and the classic chicken tikka masala––roasted chicken-breast chunks snorkeling in a sea of creamy tomato sauce ($16). Lehja's meaty menu also includes a septuplet of dishes designed for herbivores and herbivoyeurs, such as the paneer-asparagus lababdaar—a dish accented by bell peppers and a coriander-seed tomato sauce ($16)—and the dal of the day––a regional stewed-lentil delicacy ($12).
Under the trained eyes of the chefs at BanZara Restaurant, tender pieces of lamb absorb the piquant spices in lamb khorma’s coconut gravy, while marinated chicken chunks cook over a charcoal griddle before being dunked into delicious sauce for a tikka dish. The culinary team also pulls from Indo-Chinese recipes, combining eggs with flavored chicken and cooking deep-fried dumplings with traditional Indo-Chinese spices. In addition to dinners, the chefs also craft a lunch buffet of new dishes every day of the week, which diners can sample while ensconced in the eatery’s leather booths or, if they ask very nicely, straight from the chef’s ladle.
Avtar Singh Rathore has been in the restaurant business for more than 17 years and when he opened Taj Indian Cuisine, he wanted to be sure he was preparing his native Punjabi dishes faithfully. Not one to shy away from a challenge, he decided to build his own clay oven in which to cook his tandoori specialties and naan breads.
Today, Rathore’s menu features 16 different tandoori breads that range from a sweet kabuli naan with coconut, almonds, and raisins to a savory paneer kulcha stuffed with onions, housemade cheese, and fresh herbs. His other specialties include chicken and lamb kebabs that are marinated overnight and curries that are prepared with halal meats. The chef can customize any of these curries according to your preferred level of spiciness and the color currently featured on your mood ring. Rathore also has other restaurants in the Richmond area.
Inside this elegant eatery, undulating mirror segments reflect glimpses of signature kebab and kahari plates precariously stacked along the waiter's arm. Below small ceiling lights arranged like a constellation, tables are festooned with traditional clay-oven tandoori and masala dishes—but this is a small part of Noorani's ample repertoire, which ranges from Indian and Pakistani fare to a completely separate menu of traditional Chinese dishes. The staff prepares fresh fish and chicken coated in zesty sichuan, ginger soy, and orange sauces over noodles or tender rice. Guests, meanwhile, can load plates with cuisine from the 15-item daily lunch buffet and question regulars about Noorani Kabab House's live entertainment. The merriment syllabus presents comedy nights, concerts, and some guy who used a single chopstick to eat a bowl of hot-and-sour soup.
Like the tail feathers of its peacock mascot, Narmada Vineyards is best described by the colors on display at the 51-acre winery. Foremost is the verdant green of the vines, contrasted with the purple grapes and clear blue of the neighboring lake. Then there are the wines themselves, ranging in hue from deep burgundy to bright peach. And finally, there's the metallic sheen of the winery's numerous awards, an avalanche of gold from contests such as the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Of course, a winery can't thrive on looks alone. Combining a background in chemistry with her discerning taste, winemaker Sudha Patil concocts a range of reds, whites, and dessert wines that pair readily with food. The majority of the winery's ingredients are grown on the property, with the remainder sourced from Virginian growers. These handcrafted vintages, producing a modest 3,000 cases per year, are poured inside a rustic tasting room decorated with leather couches, hardwood furniture, and large windows.
Henrico County's first Indian restaurant, India K' Raja, has been locally owned and operated by the Sappal family since 1995. Since then, they have been voted one of Richmond's best restaurants several times in publications such as Richmond Magazine, Style Weekly, Richmond Times Dispatch, and Richmond.com. in no small part due to their unpretentious dining experience with classic Indian cuisine. The menu features an array of unique selections hard to find anywhere else. Chef and owner Tony Sappal gladly takes for your personal favorites, even if they are not offered on the menu.
Kebab & Biryani's menu draws dishes from all over India, from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to the coastal provinces of Andhra and Chettinadu in the south. Fresh cilantro, fried onions, and yogurt marinades accent lamb, vegetable, or chicken biryanis from Hyderabad. Other south Indian specialties include dosa, or thin rice crepes, topped with paneer cheese, spiced potato, and chilies. For a fusion touch, chefs also populate plates with Indo-Chinese entrees such as sautéed chili fish or Hakka-style noodles.