Growing up, Chakra Café’s owner Monisha lived two different lives. At school, she was known by her given name and spent lunch hours twirling spaghetti on a fork. But at home, Monisha’s Bengali parents only referred to her by her nickname, Hashi–or laughter–and mealtimes meant scooping up lamb curry with a piece of luchi. The duality of Monisha’s two worlds–and the food she was exposed to–left a lasting impression and is the driving force behind the Café’s menu.
Inside Chakra Café’s kitchen, chefs marry Indian flavors with culinary traditions from around the world, using recipes adapted from Monisha’s mother, according to a Patch.com article. Traditional Bengali dishes such as begun bhartha–roasted eggplant flavored with green mango–are served solo or stuffed inside quesadillas with smoked fontina cheese, roasted pine nuts, and raitha yogurt sauce. Other Indian staples are also Americanized, from the tandoori chicken that tops flatbread pizzas to spaghetti paired with lamb meatballs and a whisper of ghee. Each item on the menu is clearly marked as halal, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, making it easy to decipher the dishes without meat and the ones that require each bite to be chewed 32 times.
A palate-friendly palace in gold and green, Heritage India is the latest outpost of owner’s globe-spanning career in the hospitality business. Past ornate artwork and an elegant dining room, the head chef draws on the culinary styles of his birthplace. The influence shows in menus of flavorful fusion cuisine, including calamari sautéed with curry leaves and coconut milk; hyderabadi murgh haleem, a dish of chicken, barley, lentils, and spices; and golgappas, a popular street food made of puffed wheat, potato, and chickpeas.
At both of Himalayan Heritage’s locations, chefs pull marinated chicken and lamb from charcoal clay ovens. The tandoori dishes are a staple of Indian cuisine, but Indian is only half the story here. Much of the menu is dedicated to Nepalese food, which, as Tom Sietsema explains in his glowing Washington Post review, is similar, but not the same. For an introduction, he recommends the momo—dumplings made of spiced minced chicken or vegetables that are steamed inside flour dough and served with aachar or chutney sauce.
Diners enjoy their meals at white-linen covered tables in a dining room with bright orange walls and a golden ceiling from which intricate lanterns hang. The space is flush with cultural artwork, including a large thangka painting that acts as a blimp in an emergency if you add enough balloons.
Cafe of India enchants diners with an unforgettable sensory experience that fuses meticulously concocted spices, colorful veggie stews, tender tandoori meats, and plush decor. A large crystal chandelier casts a canopy of warm light over cloth-clad tables and crimson drapery, and artfully plated kulcha, kebabs, and curries tempt diners from elegant bone-white plates or piping-hot silver serving pots. Friendly staff shepherd the uninitiated through the cinnamon-scented jungles and biryani-rich pastures of the extensive menu, and a wine list pairs feasts with the fruits of American, Australian, Chilean, and Neverland vineyards. The bill of fare pleases carnivorous as well as vegetarian appetites, with entrees ranging from hearty lamb stews and seafood masalas to savory chickpea curries and spinach cooked with creamy housemade paneer.
Chefs at Aroma Indian Cuisine know that patience pays off—they let their tandoori lamb marinate in bold spices overnight before cooking it in traditional clay ovens. This is one of the many ways Aroma demonstrates a commitment to serving authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine at three locations throughout the DC area. The chef's feast for two overflows with samplings of saag paneer, tandoori chicken, and lamb kababs, presenting a welcome spread for couples, friends, or Doppelgangers that just met by a twist of fate. Those who don't eat meat can dig into one of the restaurant's many vegetarian dishes, which include vegan-friendly sauteed okra, and ginger-spiced channa masala.
As guests step past the pink silk curtains that hang in the entryway, the first thing they notice is the unmistakable aroma of charcoal. The source is the restaurant's clay tandoor, where chicken and fish cop grill flavoring that completes their yogurt, herb, and spice marinades. Like an all-in-one print/fax/clone-an-army machine, this clay oven can handle multiple tasks at once, as it also yields such fresh-baked breads as the potato-and-pea-stuffed aloo paratha. Diners feast on these dishes at tables covered in white linens in a dining room that stretches back to a full bar.