BHOJ Indian Restaurant presents a bounty of dishes from across India, including tandoor-baked meats and a wide selection of vegetarian curries and biryanis. Chefs stuff crispy lamb samosa appetizers with spiced ground lamb and green peas, and their papri chaat’s spicy beans and chopped onions come with a selection of chutneys. The egg curry entrée flaunts hard-boiled eggs cooked in a mild herb-and-curry sauce, and the tandoor-marinated shrimp sizzles after a session in the traditional clay oven. The kitchen’s dedication to healthy dining is reflected in their decision to cook with cholesterol-free corn oil, as well as in their vegetarian dishes such as chana masala: chickpeas cooked North Indian–style with herbs and spices. The dining room’s décor reflects the bold simplicity of the Indian flag, with bright green accents peaking out from beneath crisp, white tablecloths. An orange buffet stands before a green wall, which strikes against the three remaining white walls and their colorful, yet sparse paintings.
Though Mantra Head Chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on the menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern decor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between the dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for Cody Kendall of the Star-Ledger.
Tandoori Chef's tangerine walls and vibrant paintings warm diners ensconced at red-linen-topped tables, where they await steaming platters of the aromatic Indian cuisine from the bustling kitchen. Inside, chefs whip up a diverse repertoire of Northern Indian curry, tandoori, and rice dishes brimming with spice-laden veggies, chicken, shrimp, and lamb. A private dining area fills up to 30 bellies, and catering services bring the kitchen's nourishing warmth to party-goers or ravenous sasquatches grown too tall to fit through the front door.
Tradition meets innovation at Diwani Indian Restaurant. Some dishes are absolute classics, and the chef is determined to soar past other restaurants' takes on tradition. For instance, every entrée emerging from the clay oven, or tandoor, is consciously designed to be a juicy and vividly flavorful alternative to what Diwani's chef has diagnosed as the sub-par tandoori cuisine found at many establishments. Other chef favorites include fried vegetable fritters and chickpeas prepared with cumin and pomegranate seeds, which rapidly sprout into a tree diners can take home in a to-go pot. And then there are the menu's completely unexpected dishes, like venison and wild boar chops. But what all the dishes have in common is that each is made to order, with heat levels that can raised upon request.
By November, the crisp autumn air takes on a blustery winter chill, and cumbersome winter coats begin to take the place of stylish fall jackets. This change in fashion goes hand in hand with the change in seasons and with the philosophy of Mausam Indian Cuisine. The restaurant’s name means “seasons” in Hindi, and Mausam’s elegant three-story space boasts a restaurant, a lounge, and two versatile banquet halls, ready to change to accommodate a client’s request for any and every kind of event. Mausam’s staff can adapt table settings from simple and elegant pearl-white cloths with minimal accoutrements to bold colors with bountiful bouquets at every turn. Eager to please, the staff will even trade in the house specialty, Indian food, for any cuisine the client wishes to bring themselves, such as Mexican, Italian, or Lunchables.
Patrons simply looking for a low-key dinner out can head to the restaurant for traditional Indian favorites, such as chicken tikka masala, spicy goat curry, and plenty of vegetarian options laced with fragrant Indian spices. Red and white wines and a dozen kinds of domestic and imported beers wash away the last morsels of dessert, such as black-and-white cream puffs or orange-pineapple ice cream.
Gary and Isabel MacGurn met in an ashram in southern India. They had both traveled there to perform seva—an act of selfless service—by cooking in the community center’s kitchen for thousands of hungry mouths. They quickly bonded over a mutual love for chutney and dosa, and after returning stateside the couple teamed up to sell their gourmet chutneys to upscale Hampton markets. When demand inevitably spiked, they decided to open some restaurants of their own. Today, Hampton Chutney Co.’s menu includes sourdough crepe dosas, pancake-style uttapam, and traditional sandwiches inspired by the MacGurns’ time in India. A popular—though less conventional—option is the breakfast dosa, whose combination of eggs and vegetables wakes the mind up faster than a pot of coffee in the face. All entrees arrive, of course, with a selection of chutneys.