The menu at Masala Jack's traditional curry house is a savory bouquet of fragrant, time-honored Indian classics supplemented by vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Diners ease into delicious culinary waters with a variety of appetizers, which include the samosa chole—a pastry-encased potato phenom flanked by garbanzo beans ($3.99)—and the classic garlic naan, which emerges hot from a clay oven before receiving a college education and sprinklings of freshly chopped garlic and cilantro ($1.99). Cool lassi (starting at $1.99), available in strawberry, mango, sweet, or salty flavors, serves as a healing balm for taste buds on a joyful return journey from the spicy, onion-laden battlegrounds of the karahi lamb ($9.99) or chicken ($8.99).
At Namaste Kitchen, Chef Laxmi Gauchan showcases Tibetan specialties, such as steamed momos, or dumplings, stuffed with freshly ground lamb. Her kitchen grants diners the chance to sample North Indian and Nepali food, as well as a broad swath of Asian delicacies. In addition to familiar dishes such as baingan bartha and saag paneer, diners can explore more obscure dishes, such as gye tukh, a traditional tibetan noodle soup.
Named for the Sanskrit salutation for love and friendship, the restaurant strives to embody its namesake by fostering a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Walls are swathed in burnt oranges and browns, and windows are draped in strings of lights that rearrange themselves to spell out each new patron’s name.
Namaste Nepal takes its name and warm ambiance from the reverent Indian greeting, "Namaste," but the piping-hot helpings on each plate transcend cultural and geographic labels. Chinese, Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese recipes contribute to the menu, filling a flavor spectrum that runs from pleasantly tangy to sizzling hot. Each dish is prepped to order using natural ingredients and often prompts speculation as to the size of the kitchen's spice cabinet. Notes of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron tantalize the nose, underlined with the scent of charcoal-roasted meat—chicken, lamb, fish, and shrimp—cooked in the tandoor and marinated in creamy yogurt sauce.
Careful combinations of these herbs and entrees lead to staples such as chicken tikka masala, as well as specialties such as boneless lamb with red chili sauce and tamarind. One of several vegetarian offerings, muttar paneer pairs housemade cheese with green peas, and four types of samosas entice diners to start meals by biting into crispy shells instead of by inconspicuously gnawing the tablecloth. Guests also can peruse well-stocked buffets at lunchtime and order group platters for catered events.
A giant mural of Buddha gazes upon diners at Bombay Dreams Restaurant, where chefs prepare both authentic and modern interpretations of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike can discover an appetite-quelling entree such as tender kadai lamb wallowing in spicy tomato gravy ($12.95) or the all-flora all-star chana masala, a roost of chickpeas twittering in an incubator of curry ($7.95). Like Midas visiting the YMCA, the chicken tikka masala ($11.95) swirls in a golden pool, and the palak paneer ($9.95) pairs cubes of cheese with curried spinach. With its vibrant red walls, sleek black chairs, and eclectic décor, this portal to the East provides a romantic ambiance for first dates and off-the-clock get-togethers between heroes and villains.
Born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, chef Pramal Nakarmi started cooking early in life and later immigrated to the United States, bringing along his passion for the various Nepalese, Chinese, and Northern Indian flavors that define Himalayan cuisine. He continued his culinary career in kitchens throughout Baltimore and Washington, DC, before ending up in Santa Rosa, where he founded Ganesha Restaurant.
Ganesha’s menu showcases recipes and cooking techniques from throughout the Himalayan region. In addition to forging nine curries with everything from cardamom and coconut to apricot and vinegar, the eatery’s chefs also steam dumplings and roast skewered chicken in a clay tandoor oven. Collectively, the entrees manage to highlight each culture's culinary contributions while acknowledging their geographic connections.
The restaurant's decor manages to mirror the menu's vibrant intensity, surrounding diners with bright orange-red walls lined with paintings and photos of the Himalayas and the surrounding areas. In contrast, the white linens draping the booths and tabletops stand out until servers arrive with bowls full of colorful and aromatic curries.