Kokum takes its name from a berry that's specific to South India, a nod to the regional cuisine that stands out as this restaurant's specialty. The recently opened space may be new, but the cooking traditions are time honored, drawing specific inspiration from India's Kerala region. Favorites include spicy chicken masala kalumbu and vegetarian-friendly theeyal, which features a mix of green bananas, yam, and coconut. Top off your meal with one of the bar's craft cocktails, which include the signature Kokum, a mingling of vermouth, pineapple juice, and lime. The dining room keeps things simple, with exposed light bulbs and natural wood accents alongside paintings of boats with hulls colorful enough to rival the stains on the sauce chef's apron. Kokum is a member of the Fine Indian Dining Group.
Upon stepping up to the counter at Masala Kraft Cafe—two-time winner of a Best of Westchester award, diners feast their eyes on a host of vegetarian options bathed in traditional Indian spices and herbs. Owner Bela Mehta strives to serve the kind of quick, healthy food that is found on every corner in Mumbai, the city from which she hails. The entirely vegetarian menu features the Masala Kraft sandwich, a homemade veggie cutlet and cilantro chutney on grilled focaccia, and palak with onion kulcha, an authentic Indian spinach curry served with stuffed bread. One of their most popular delicacies is the dosa—crispy rice crepes wrapped around fillings such as spiced mashed potatoes—a street-food staple whose folded shape allows diners to eat on the go or burst into an epic Bollywood dance routine without spilling.
Chefs at Neha Palace grind traditional indian spices themselves before sprinkling them over lamb cooked in curry sauce and skewers of minced chicken. During lunch hours, chefs prepare meals at buffet tables, hiding shrimp bites in piles of long-grain basmati rice and ladling tomato sauce over platefuls of cottage cheese or the mouth of any patron who yawns too loudly. A small collection of Indian-Chinese fusion meals includes egg fried rice and chicken noodles.
In Royal Palace's spacious banquet-hall-style dining room, diners pore over a lengthy menu of Punjabi cuisine that draws fragrant flavors from the tandoori oven and aromatic simmered sauces. Paneer tikka masala features cubes of cheese under spiced tomato cream sauce, and a similar tomato sauce, with butter instead of cream, flavors hunks of tandoori chicken in a chicken makhani dish. At tables draped in salmon-colored tablecloths, patrons tear into tender chunks of lamb vindaloo, accented with vinegar-based masala and red chilis, or seafood specialties including fish madras curry. Crimson valances frame the windows, balanced by elephant statues, which occasionally snag bites of paneer when diners aren't looking.
It was a fateful day for Santhosh Kochuparambil when the chef at his restaurant didn't show up for work one morning. Unwilling to turn away hungry customers, Santhosh rolled up his sleeves and began cooking the dishes himself. From that day fourth, Santhosh continued to work in the kitchen, developing a knack with the saucepan and a skill with spices. After graduating from culinary school, Santhosh took on jobs in top kitchens across India, eventually leaving his native home for restaurants in Russia and New York.
Today, Santhosh brings his years of culinary experience to his own restaurant—Karavalli Regional Cuisine of India. Deep in its kitchen, the skilled chef stirs pots of spicy curries and bakes lamb, seafood, and breads in a traditional tandoori oven. He whips up his authentic Indian dishes using only fresh herbs and fiery spices, eschewing pre-made sauces or counterfeit magic beans. When discussing his dishes with reporters from The Saratogian, Santosh maintained, "after you eat, you feel something. Your taste buds are up. Once you start eating Indian food, then you like it. Plus, the spices are very good for the health".
Inside Rani Mahal is something of a cultural adventure, with vivid Indian artwork lining watermelon-hued walls. The elegant, well-lit dining room sits visitors at white-clothed tables, where they dig into such traditional Indian dishes as lamb tikka: cubes of lamb marinated in yogurt, garlic, and spices, and roasted in a clay oven. Rani Mahal also curates a vast spread of vegetarian options, such as palak paneer, which pairs homemade cheese cubes with lightly spiced spinach gravy.