Champions of adhering to traditional recipes and culinary practices, a father-and-son team serves as both the owners and head chefs of New Passage to India. Their kitchen staff whips up dishes native to a variety of Indian regions, granting diners a taste of the subcontinent without the paper cuts that come from eating maps. They handcraft ingredients such as house-made paneer cheese, garden-fresh mushrooms, and fresh lamb with pinches of hand-ground spices. Sensitive to varied tolerances of piquancy, the chefs customize the heat levels of many of their creations to individual preferences. Affable servers wend from table to table within the dining room’s deep-green walls and wooden columns.
The aromas of South Asian spices lure passersby into Abhiruchi India Cuisine, where they typically pause for a moment to savor the décor and read the descriptions of more than 100 Indian specialties. Halal and vegetarian options are both well represented on the lengthy menu, which features spicy curries and tandoori-baked entrees based on chicken, seafood, and lamb or goat. When they aren’t scooping tikka masala into trays for the lunch buffet or pilfering Marco Polo’s travelogues for new recipes, the restaurant’s chefs accommodate partygoers with catering services.
An epicurean underdog, Tabla holds its weight against nearby big-name chains and tourist traps with beautifully prepared dishes of superbly seasoned Indian fare. Start with the masala pappadum ($2), topped with onion salad, masalas, and chutneys, or sink forks into a fried samosa pastry to expose warm potatoes and chickpeas ($5). Muligatwany ($4) and garlicy rasam ($4) soups tempt spoon wielders. The expansive offering of entrees, broken down by chicken, seafood, lamb, and vegetarian dishes, are all Indian mainstays. The menu also features an impressive assortment of naan (starting at $2.50), tandoori ($14–$20), and Indo or Chinese platters ($7–$10). For dessert, try the chocolate samosa ($6), a volcanic treat served with vanilla ice cream, or the toffee pudding ($6).
For the last 26 years, Executive Chef Dominic Sarkar has traveled from Dubai to California preparing the meals he learned to cook back in India. At Raga, he prepares exquisite dishes from a vast menu of softly spiced curries and kebabs, each of which arrives at tables elegantly plated. The dining room matches the stylish arrangements of food, surrounding guests with exposed brick walls, cut glass chandeliers overhead, and stylish felt seating. At the back of the room, the kitchen's fourth wall is removed, so diners can watch Chef Sarkar's cooking techniques as well as observe his sous chefs Greco-Roman wrestling for the chance to help on a dish.
At the casual Khasiyat, owner Bhanu Chavda serves aromatic, vegetarian dishes from various parts of India, but most impressed the Orlando Weekly reviewer with her addictive Indian snacks that dominate much of the menu. Popular small bites include South Indian dosas, crisp and thin flour crepes filled with potato and onions and served alongside coconut chutney, and bhel poori, a tasty street food featuring puffed wheat, indian noodles, and diced potato and onions with a splash of chili. Patrons can also try North Indian dishes that feature rich sauces and Indian cottage cheese, such as paneer masala, or try a variety of flavors in a thali, or sampler plate.