Named one of the top 10 South Bay ethnic restaurants by the Daily Breeze, Al Watan has served up authentic Indian and Pakistani fare for more than 25 years. Much of the menu is cooked in a traditional clay oven, bringing intense heat to meaty specialties such as the tandoori chicken, expertly spiced to the rich orange hue of a dying sun ($6.99). Lamb, goat, and beef are also offered, cooked in a variety of regional spices and sauces. The naan, also cooked in the clay oven, includes plain ($1), garlic ($1.99), and butter ($2.25) varieties to mop up the savory leavings of the entrees. An extensive vegetable selection ensures that noncarnivores will find something to put in their bellies. Tongues stung by spice can seek succor in the cool sanctuary of the lassis or mango shakes ($2 each).
The founders of Annapurna Southbay chose to name their restaurant after a Sanskrit title for the goddess of the harvest, and it's easy to see why they chose that name for the Annapurna special dosa. Measuring four feet in length and spanning almost an entire table, this is just one example of the chefs' dedication to hearty, bountiful meals. Most of the menu focuses on cuisine from India's four southern states— Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, and Karnataka—uniting the coconut, tamarind, and dried red chilies that characterize so many of the region's dishes. These ingredients add their distinctive flavor and spice to orders of tandoor-roasted chicken, fiery lamb curry, and slow-cooked lentils.
Echoing the restaurant's pastoral inspiration, the dining room boasts a verdant, leaf-like wall pattern above the line of burgundy-hued booths. Blooming flowers adorn the buffet area, and stone tiles from the backyard quarry line a wall near the storefront windows.
Ocean Tava crafts definitive Indian dishes from a subcontinentally rich palette of flavors, serving zesty curries and tender kebabs in a swanky setting. To engage fried-pastry receptors, diners can start with potato- and green-pea-stuffed vegetable samosas ($4.95) and wash away any straggling morsels with freshly-brewed masala tea ($3.95). The menu highlights India's famed meatless cuisine, offering vegetarian entrees such as bengan bharta, a baked eggplant dish ($12.95), and saag paneer, spinach smothered with cubes of homemade cheese flavored with fenugreek ($13.95). Ravenous carnivores can sink their pearly whites into the tandoori mixed platter, an assortment of tandoori chicken, seekh kebab (minced meat), chicken tikka, and salmon, fired in a traditional clay inferno ($19.95).
The chefs at Annapurna meld a variety of authentic herbs and spices with veggie-laden entrees to craft a menu of savory Indian eats. The cheese dosa Annapurna special stuffs its pillowed crepe with a hearty blend of marinated mozzarella cheese, tomato, and cilantro ($8.95), dueling the succulent flavors of the Hyderabadi baingan ka bharta curry—fresh eggplant from the clay oven with an armful of chopped onions, diced tomatoes, and a special spice blend ($9.95). Batter-fried pieces of cauliflower bask in a garlic sauce with tomato accents in the gobi manchurian ($10.95), finishing off appetites with orders of the garlic naan ($3) or two vegetable samosas that barely manage to contain a potato-and-mixed-vegetable mélange within its crispy crusts ($4.50). A cultural immersion from "hello" to "holla back," Annapurna keeps guests cozy with a dining room TV broadcasting a range of Bollywood movies and sports.