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.
Gateway of India's authentic ambiance houses fragrant aromas from a wide selection of classic Indian cuisine. Tantalizing appetizers such as the vegetable pakora summon appetites with veggies battered in lightly seasoned lentil flour, and the kebab sampler dispenses spears of chicken, lamb, and fish—provided they're not touring as an alternative-country trio. Delicious flats of naan bread sop up sauces and act as makeshift bibs bursting with flavors of garlic, coconut and cherries, or unleavened whole-wheat grains. Gnaw on entrees such as the lamb korma—decadent pieces of spiced lamb swimming in onion, cashew, and almond cream sauce—or nibble the palak paneer, a dish of homemade Indian cheese and spinach. A selection of classic dishes such as chicken tikka masala and goat biryani with rice challenge exotic combinations such as lobster curry to freestyle Bollywood dance-offs.
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.
Kinara dishes up an authentic Indian menu in a casual, BYOB restaurant. Pre-meal nibblers such as the chicken and coconut mulligatawny soup ($4.25) pair well with tandoor-oven–baked traditional naan ($2) or a chicken-tikka-stuffed variation ($4). Like a DeLorean hot-rodded with a flux capacitor, Kinara’s entree selections span various meat and veggie dimensions. The rice casserole vegetable biryani ($13.95) and the spicy hara bhara kabab ($13.95) cater to herbivore diets, and almond curry-infused chicken korma ($14.95), lamb curry delicacy roghan josh ($15.95), and spicy crustacean classic shrimp vindaloo ($16) please meat eaters of all stripes.
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.