The close-knit family culture that is so prevalent in India makes its way across the pond to India's, where the Kumar clan—mom and pop Suraj and Sudesh, son Raghu, and daughter Rozy—dish up flavorful curries, stews, and roasted meats created in the kitchen by nephew and chef Zeenat Bhanot. They work together to ply patrons with both meaty and vegetarian morsels scented with cardamom, ginger, and fenugreek.
Like the trail of raisins Marco Polo left to find his way back along the Silk Road, the bill of fare spans the subcontinent. South Indian mulligatawny soups and Goan chicken vindaloo mingle with Mughlai butter-based sauces and North Indian Khara Pasanda lamb. These fragrant dishes tantalize noses amid the dining area's impressive art collection of colorful paintings and gilded statues.
The fragrant aroma of freshly ground ginger and cinnamon wafts from Akbar’s Restaurant’s kitchen, mingling with the smoky scent of meats simmering in a traditional tandoori oven. Rife with spices, buttery marinades, and cream-based sauces, the eatery's Northern Indian cuisine nabbed the title of Best Indian Restaurant from City Paper’s Best of Baltimore 2010. In the dining room, romance sparks amid classical Indian music and walls laden with traditional art and lists of pun-free pickup lines.
The scents of saffron, cinnamon, and coriander lure diners into Shangri-La, where cooks fashion south-Asian fare from housemade yogurt and organic, locally grown produce. Inside a tandoori clay oven, red-hot coals seal in the flavors of traditional naan bread, jumbo shrimp, tender lamb chops, and marinated chicken breasts while sloughing off fat and cholesterol. The kitchen also specializes in Nepalese dishes such as cho-e-la, a boneless duck hugged with herbs and kissed by the tandoori oven’s flames. Handcrafted desserts such as ice cream and rice pudding pair sweetness with smoothness, like a jazz record manufactured from hard candy.
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.
Nestled inside Petworth, this neighborhood gem houses an atmosphere swirling with pleasantries and pixie dust. Diners say the ambience and cuisine quality are reminiscent of downtown or Chinatown, only with more reasonable pricing and less bustle and dragon attacks. Attentive servers promptly deliver well-portioned plates like devastating rhymes in a rap battle. Menu options lean toward the Indian side of the edible fence with an infusion of American flair in their preparation.