The aroma of mint never fails to take Navjot Arora back to his childhood in Jalandhar, Punjab, when he'd spend mornings scouring his family garden for fresh mint leaves. Navjot would triumphantly bring his findings back to the kitchen, where he was allowed to grind the leaves with a pestle for the mint chutney?the most important condiment. He worked alongside his parents, marveling as they nimbly sliced tender goat meat, throwing it against the wall to test for doneness, and thoughtfully tasted spoonfuls of creamy curry from simmering pots.
Though Navjot would go on to study under master Indian chefs at the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels and work for top restaurants in New York, he never forgot the culinary lessons he learned in his family's kitchen. At Chutney Masala, he still hand grinds fresh herbs and spices to bring out their intricate flavors, adding them to sauces lauded by reporters from the New York Times as "superbly complex." The expert chef then folds free-range meat, wild seafood, and local produce into a variety of contemporary and traditional Indian dishes, from spicy lamb curries to fragrant biryani rice.
Navjot's dining room is nearly as intriguing as the flavors in his dishes, with brick walls speckled with photographs from India's mid-19th century Raj era and rustic antique accents. A mounted deer head overlooks the rows of wooden tabletops and cushy green booths, sometimes sneezing when a waft of cumin floats to his nostrils.
The chefs at Kulcha Corner fire up a traditional clay oven, in which specialty Kulcha, or Indian-style flatbreads—concocted from flour, salt, yogurt, and milk—bake until golden brown. Servers ferry trays of tandoori kebabs and hot vegetarian curries to tables, where diners can revel in the entrees’ spiciness. The oblong eatery invites patrons to relax at tables for four and gaze toward an HDTV positioned near the back of the venue. Glossily stained wainscoting underscores sconces that emit vectors of romantic yellow light, and a deep-red back wall reminds guests of what would happen if a lipstick truck crashed into a wall.
Aromatic spices perfume the air at Khaja Haleem & Grill as diners sit down to platters of freshly prepared, authentic North Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Hefty portions of biryanis and tandoor-cooked meats and veggies feature marinated chicken, minced mutton, or goat. Vegetarians find their wheelhouse in the selection of six veggie entrees, including fried okra and spicy soup. Seven styles of naan come stuffed with garlic, jalapeños, cheese, or smaller pieces of naan.
Canteen Indian Bistro draws in customers with a lengthy menu of traditional dishes prepared with halal meats, from the chicken malai kebab to lamb chops. The restaurant's BYOB policy allows customers to dine in and supply their own beer or wine, and its carry-out service allows guests to enjoy a meal provided they supply their own home to eat it in.
Village Indian Cuisine’s traditional Indian cuisine stuffs a menu with simmering curries, fresh-baked naan, and meaty tandoori dishes. Diners start feasts off right with appetizers including lamb sholay—tender meat grilled with vinegar and salt seasoning. Naan bread accompanies entrees to the table, helpful for scooping up morsels in a plain, butter, or garlic flatbread embrace. Succulent meat dishes include lamb vindaloo, with chunks of slow-simmered boneless lamb and potatoes in spicy onion curry sauce and tandoori half chicken, marinated in spices and roasted in a traditional clay oven. Indian culinary traditions are rife with delectable vegetarian options, as well, such as aloo gobi palak—potatoes, cauliflower, and spinach in savory herbs and spices. Adventurous diners can explore the Village Special Biryani, a mix of basmati rice, lamb, goat, eggs, shrimp, and labyrinthine flavor palates. To add Indian authenticity to liquid meal elements, opt for an imported Indian beer or sample the wines from the full bar.
Scientists believe that spicy food might be responsible for both global warming and the Indian Ocean’s once-teeming depths of mango chutney being replaced by salt water. Experience man-made heat with today's Groupon: for $12, you get $25 worth of Indian fare and drinks at Chore Bazaar in Jersey City.