Inside Maharaja Indian Restaurant, the air is heady with the scents of traditional Tandoor-grilled Indian meats and flavorful curries, all served in a dining room done in striking hues of royal blue and canary. It's easy to feel like you've been whisked away to somewhere in Bombay, but if you look outside, you can see sweeping views of Rhode Island's Narragansett Beach. The restaurant occupies an upper floor of the Village Inn, a stone's throw from the shoreline. Beach views provide a temporary distraction, but the menu commands most of the attention, with spicy lamb vindaloo, Halal goat biryani, vegan channa masala, and ten different types of naan bread.
Rooftop120 welcomes visitors into a high-class cosmopolitan atmosphere of year-round rooftop seating, potent martinis, fresh oysters, and seasonal dishes that showcase a variety of culinary styles. The bill of fare promises beers, wines, and cocktails paired with fresh ahi tuna, truffle-tinged fries, heirloom-tomato salads, and other small plates made from local produce that earned accolades from the Hartford Advocate as one of the best new bars, restaurants, and outdoor-dining destinations of 2012. Live bands or piano music set a soundtrack for nights out on the town, and sports packages keep fans informed of the latest on-field exploits and product endorsements from their favorite athletes. The seasonal menu and adaptable space keep guests comfortable and satisfied throughout the year, as they gather around the crackling fire pit and dine on butternut-squash soup in colder months or sip refreshing cocktails on the open-air patio in the summer.
When asked what inspired her to open Genie's Hookah Lounge, Farahnaz Shobeiri recalls the parties her grandfather used to host in Iran. “Whenever he had parties, he had hookah. People came to talk about family and politics and also to just enjoy themselves.” Now directing her own festive space, Shobeiri hopes to not only foster a similarly laid-back, convivial atmosphere but also to share her Persian heritage with others.
On Friday and Saturday, belly dancers sway to the sounds of Middle Eastern music, and tarot-card readers divine fortunes amid thick persian rugs and plush couches heaped with pillows and tinier, plusher couches. Friends can pass around handmade Egyptian hookahs filled with coconut-shell coals and dozens of different flavors, including tobacco-free herbal molasses. The lounge also boasts a high-end air-filtration system, which means that the smell of smoke or wandering cologne salesmen never overpowers the aromas of spiced meats and fresh bread from the kitchen.
Though Genie's Hookah Lounge doesn’t serve alcohol, people are welcome to bring their own wine and beer, and servers pour pure pomegranate juice and herbal teas directly into mouths via a funnel. Shobeiri hopes that the atmosphere encourages people to relax and linger over their meals. “We do everything from the heart here,” she says. "Everyone comes here to be happy.”
A night of dinner, drinks, and dancing doesn't always have to involve three different destinations. At Shish Restaurant & Lounge, visitors can do all three, seamlessly. While they cozy up on a leather sofa, the wait staff ferries Middle-Eastern cuisine such as small plates of baba ghanoush and grape leaves as well as flatbreads decorated with lamb, hallumi, and olives. From the bar, servers transport nine signature cocktails, flutes of seven types of champagne, and draft and bottled beers to lounging diners as they watch other cut a rug on the giant dance floor. Whether visiting on swing-dance Wednesdays, Latin Thursdays, or DJ-party Fridays, there is always something to watch.
India Restaurant's chefs modify iconic South Asian staples to eliminate excess fat, cholesterol, and calories while still ensuring that the dishes are delicious enough to win various accolades. The chefs craft each authentic dish with locally sourced seafood and produce, and they avoid frying any dish, eschew butter entirely, and only cook with canola oil. Yet their nacho-like papri chaat appetizer has been called "truly addictive" by the Providence Phoenix, which also called the restaurant’s biryani “a veritable feast for the senses.” To make their cuisine even more inclusive, the chefs prepare an array of vegan-friendly and gluten-free dishes.
The decor strives to be similarly accommodating, presenting diners with numerous seating options, each with a distinctive ambience. A projection screen playing subtitled Bollywood films dominates the main dining area, smaller tables surround each of the three roaring fireplaces, and more than 200 flickering candles line the bar area. During the warmer months, the garden courtyard tempts patrons with its swings for seats, lush gardens, and bubbling water fountains. The sidewalk seating allows guests to dine alongside their dogs and pet lobsters; a doggie menu offers hamburger-and-rice dishes and yogurt pops for canine companions.
Traditional belly dancers drift throughout the space on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the restaurant's global jazz ensemble entertains diners with its contemporary melodic stylings.
Under the ownership of Federal Hill native Christopher Conti, Blush Winebar pours half and full glasses from hundreds of red, white, and sparkling libations. The upscale watering hole offers more than 100 wines by the glass, each with its own distinct flavor notes and secret cheese crush. A champagne bar highlights the bubbly beverage with glasses, full bottles, and three-flute samplers as well as a selection of champagne-based cocktails, such as the Blush Boom Boom, a mixture of Moët champagne, pomegranate liqueur, Grand Marnier, and orange juice. Executive chef Jacen Scungio blends fresh, local ingredients to create the flatbread pizzas, sliders, and handmade pastas that populate the wine bar’s tapas menu and keep hungry imbibers from trying to stomp their wines back into grapes.